When my husband and I got together, we could have looked at our situation as a challenge that could end disastrously. But instead we chose to embrace it and go along for the ride. See, my husband is Jewish and I was raised Catholic. Obviously, neither of us is particularly observant since we ended up in an interfaith marriage, however, each still had some traditions that neither of us wanted to forego, so no one converted.
Cut to a few years later and the birth of our son. We had some tough decisions to make, all the while worrying a bit about the potential backlash from our respective families. Ultimately we decided on all of it and none of it at all. Our baby would not be baptized, nor would he be bar-mitzvahed – unless he one day decided that one of those options was right for him. My husband and I decided to raise our son with the culture and traditions from both of our religions, so that he can understand what both of his parents grew up with. As I mentioned, neither of us is very devout, so there would not be an ongoing debate about Jesus in our home. But we do both love and embrace certain customs that we feel are important for our child to understand. And when it comes to teaching him values, we are confident that we can do so without having to adhere to the rules of any one ideology. The “Golden Rule” would be sacred in our household – that was always a given in our minds.
The holidays are an interesting time of year because they give us the opportunity to celebrate everything. We made sure that we registered for a menorah when we were getting married, and so it proudly makes an appearance every Hanukkah, often right next to the Christmas tree. We also had a little fun last year when we bought our new tree-topper: the Star of David.
Adam and I do not see our different backgrounds as an issue. We see them as an opportunity for lively discussion and even more reasons to be festive. I enjoy learning about aspects of Judaism that I had never previously known. And I am slowly chipping away at Adam’s dislike of Christmas music year by year with my trusty Christmas playlist. He no longer puts up much of a fight once Thanksgiving arrives, although I do my best to keep the particularly annoying carols off the radio – most of the time.
As my husband lit the menorah candles this year, he explained the story of the Maccabees to our toddler. On the few nights that he had to be out of the house for work, I saw it as my responsibility not to let the tradition go. So I lit the candles for him. I even attempted the prayers that accompany the lighting, albeit in very poor Hebrew. I have no doubt that Adam’s ancestors were rolling over in their graves as the Italian girl from Jersey mangled their tradition. But I thought it was better to struggle through it than not do it at all, especially since I knew Adam would appreciate it. My son was watching, and I do not want him to think that he should value one custom over another.
Soon we will go to my aunt’s house to celebrate Christmas – which, in my family, means getting everyone together to share a big, delicious meal, to laugh, and to exchange a few gifts.
While Judaism and Catholicism in our home do not mean what they mean in other people’s homes, they are still a part of our lives. Having family as the focus of our holiday season, and the traditions that we’ve enjoyed for years, makes our interfaith experience all the more special.