My husband’s religion has basically the same roots as mine. He is Orthodox (Christian, not Jewish Orthodox), so his religious traditions are somewhat similar to Catholic. I grew up Presbyterian. We are pretty flexible and accepting of each other’s beliefs. I never thought that we’d have religious differences–but it turns out there were a few surprises like these:
- All of our holidays, including Christmas and even some New Year traditions, occur on different dates. Plus, my husband’s country celebrates a new and old New Year’s, as well as a new and old New Year. It gets confusing–but it’s always interesting! Also we have to leave the Christmas tree up for a REALLY long time (as one of the New Year’s celebrated in his country is a few weeks after January 1.)
- We don’t know a single holiday song in each other’s languages. I listen to my favorite Christmas albums, but my husband doesn’t even know the song “Jingle Bells”! Also, I no longer sing hymns in church on Christmas Eve every year–my husband would go, but it doesn’t have the same meaning for him. It’s ok though–instead, we spend the evening as a family at home, which is also warm and wonderful!
- I can’t baptize my children in the church I attend. He wants his children baptized in a church of his religion in his language. There is one church like that in the US! We baptized our first child there, as we lived close at the time. But now the church is far away, so 2 of our 3 children are still not baptized. I am not comfortable with that.
Even though the right answer isn’t always clear, I am so glad that my children get to grow up knowing that even deep aspects of life differ everywhere–religion, culture, and traditions.
But these are just the minor details–we LOVE learning–and teaching our children–about holiday traditions in each other’s countries. So do our children. I will never forget the pleasure on my husband’s face the first time he saw the boys and me putting cookies and milk out for Santa.
Holiday traditions are meaningful and a great bonding experience for families. My husband and I were lucky that we both felt pretty flexible about religion, and that our religious beliefs are similar. If he would have tried to force me to change, attend his church services, or force our children to attend those rather than mine, I would have refused–he would also have refused if I insisted on doing things “my way.” We have exposed our children to both, and for us, that has worked well–though it doesn’t always feel natural, logical, or easy!
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