Chanukah comes early this year and Christmas and Kwanzaa are not far behind. If you are one half of an interfaith couple or family, it can be helpful to check in with each other about your vision for the holidays. This doesn’t have to be too arduous if you keep in mind one of my favorite sayings: All feelings are okay its what we do with our feelings that matters.
The more we can learn about each others’ inner worlds the more connected we will feel with each other. Psychologist John Gottman calls this knowing our partner’s inner psychological terrain: love maps.
What’s your interfaith love map?
For our purposes, an interfaith love map includes sharing the childhood memories that you cherish the most. Is it the different kinds of cookies your mom baked well in advance of Christmas? Taking turns with your siblings to light the menorah or kinara each night?
Do you have special memories about the holidays you celebrate?
Talk with your partner about these special times so they knows what is important to you. Find a quiet time to sit together and be truly open to learning about each other. The key is to listen and with the goal of mutual understanding only. Don’t worry about reaching an ultimate solution or answer right away. Once you feel truly heard by each other then you can start problem solving. Below are a few more ideas to get you started creating your interfaith love map:
- Read or talk about the meaning and the history of your partner’s holiday along with the symbols and rituals that accompany it. If you notice you have a visceral reaction, try to examine this yourself before you talk it over with your partner. Exploring your own feelings first will make your conversation less reactive.
- Break down how you will celebrate together. For example, will you give presents each night of Chanukah? Will you have a tree, hang flags and decorate your home? Should you go to church or stay home? Are your extended family going to be included? If yes, what will that look like?
- Think about and discuss the rituals that you already share as a couple or family. Together, you can find ways to establish new traditions that encompass what means the most to each of you.
- Finally, let family members know that you have made decisions that are best for you and your family. Explain to them how and where you plan to celebrate the holidays so they are not surprised. Should they have a problem with what you have determined, stand firm and let them know that you love them but this is what is right for your family.
For more hands on help incorporating both faiths, check out The Interfaith Families Project Of Greater Washington.