How To Celebrate the Holidays When You Come From Different Traditions

Not that long ago, interfaith marriages and couples were unusual. However, since 2010, about 40 percent of American marriages have involved partners of different faiths. If you factor in unmarried couples, it’s safe to assume the percentage rises past 50 percent. While it’s clearly progress that people are trusting love to guide them as they connect, things can still get tricky during the holiday season.

There can be triumphs and challenges at any point, but at the end of the year, there are some big religious holidays, one after another. This means differences. It also means there’s more than ever to celebrate — if done so respectfully.

2 Big Ways To Celebrate the Holidays When You Come From Different Traditions

Communication is Key

Relationships can be a challenge — with or without religious differences. Therefore, it can be very helpful to begin but shifting your expectations. Both of you must accept that things are changing, and that can be a wonderful thing. Don’t cling to strict re-creations of the past. Rather, use this as an opportunity to learn and grow. Here are a few more thoughts on communication:

  • Keep the dialogue going: You don’t have to settle everything right away. You also have the freedom to adapt and adjust over time.
  • Be curious: Discover what that holidays mean to each other. Ask questions. Talk to relatives. Enrich your life by learning about other cultural traditions.
  • Agree to disagree: There will inevitably be differences that will not be resolved. Decide together which of them can be relegated to the “agree to disagree” pile.
  • Don’t take things personally: Once you’ve accepted the inevitability of some tension, the challenge is to remain respectful no matter what. You’ve already tackled so many obstacles in having a relationship with cultural differences. Trust that your bond is more than strong enough to handle holiday planning.

Create New Traditions

When interacting with in-laws and other extended family members, you’ll have to take it case-by-case as to how much improvisation is appropriate. However, in your home and with those who agree, all bets are off. Why not tap into your creativity and conjure up some unique blends of the rituals and history involved? Some suggestions:

  • Have a conversation about what is non-negotiable and what is flexible.
  • Whenever possible, blend and share both sets of traditions.
  • Plan for some alone time during the holiday season to ease the pressure and leave room for spontaneity.
  • Create entirely new traditions to try out.

On the last note, view yourselves as fortunate. You see, those who adhere to the same concepts year after year can fall into a rut. You, on the other hand, have a chance to tinker with the template. After all, once you start re-arranging holiday plans, the sky’s the limit. Here are a couple of prompts to get those creative juices flowing:

  • If you have kids, let them play a role in the planning and encourage them to invite friends over
  • Speaking of friends, ask yours to join you for some festivities; this can include neighbors, single friends, and of course, other multicultural couples
  • Think about changing things every year to keep the season fresh and exciting

But Never Downplay the Real-Life Stress

Not everyone has pleasant holiday memories. And some religious traditions can feel too deeply embedded to change in any way. If your plans feel like a minefield, meeting with a couples therapist can be incredibly helpful. There can be some underlying patterns, beliefs, and emotions that need to be identified and discussed. This is supposed to be a joyful time of year. Get the help you need to make sure it plays out that way.

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