Image Credity: Flickr / Andy Hay
I was raised in a very Catholic family. We went to church every week, I attended Catholic school, I received all of my sacraments, knew all of the prayers, and celebrated all of the religious holidays. Christmas was always one of my favorites.
My family did not go overboard with Christmas. The holiday in our house was focused on the religious celebration with Santa and his Elves being more of an afterthought. We had a few decorations and a modest tree but the focus was family and giving, not going overboard with shopping and spending money on things we did not need.
After leaving home for college, Christmas became a day that I enjoyed spending with family. I exchanged gifts with friends but rarely decorated. As a busy college student I did not have the time or the money. I met my husband several years after graduating from college and had not really gotten back on the Christmas train. In fact, I was not a practicing Catholic at that point. So it was no big deal to me that my boyfriend was Muslim and opposed to celebrating Christmas. I would go to my family’s for dinner and that was the extent of Christmas for much of the 90’s and into early 2000.
Fast forward a few years. In 2009, my husband and I were blessed with a daughter. Since she was born in March, Christmas was the furthest thing from my mind. However, the weeks flew by and pretty soon December was upon us. And suddenly, I had an urge to celebrate Christmas. I knew my husband would be completely against any sort of formal Christmas celebration in our home and I was ok with that. I was never thrilled with the “Christmas threw up in our house” decorating scheme anyway. But I did want to start some sort of Christmas tradition with my daughter at home. After all, she is half of me and I celebrate Christmas with my family.
Even though our daughter was only 9 months old, my husband made it clear that we would not be comfortable bringing Christmas into our home…ever. If I wanted to celebrate at my parent’s house, that was fine. But there would be no Christmas spirit at our house.
I let this ride for the first year, because after all, our daughter was only 9 months old and would not remember this holiday anyway. But by December 2010, I was getting more and more excited about things like Christmas lights (on other people’s houses), setting up a small nativity scene, and telling my daughter stories about why we celebrate Christmas. She is going to grow up in the United States where Christmas is shoved in our faces starting in October. Even if I wanted to completely avoid this particular holiday, there is no way to do it. Now that my daughter is 2 ½ I really want her to understand the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. She sees the commercialism of it all around her and I have no intention of letting her grow up believing that Christmas is a holiday about “stuff.”
So how do I do that and without discouraging my husband’s religious and cultural beliefs?
There is no easy answer. If we celebrate Christmas in our home, even a little, I am basically trampling on my husband’s beliefs. On the flip side, by not allowing me to bring a little bit of Christmas into our home, my husband is asking me to deny my faith and the traditions I was raised with.
Image Credit: Flickr / proforged
For now, I will respect my husband’s strong wishes and keep Christmas at my parents’ house. They can give our daughter gifts and they will decorate their home modestly per the usual. We will have a family dinner there as well. But, I am adding a small nativity scene to our seasonal table this year in our own home. I want our daughter to understand what Christmas is truly about and having a small nativity scene to aid me in storytelling will be wonderful. I don’t think I am forcing my daughter to choose between being Catholic or Muslim by doing this. I am simply bringing a new awareness to her as it relates to a holiday that is celebrated with gusto by most Americans.
In the near future though, my husband and I need to have a discussion about religious holidays in more depth. Neither of us should have to completely abandon our beliefs and the faith we grew up with. Although we are allowing our daughter to follow her own spiritual path, I feel it is important for her to know and understand the importance of both my husband’s faith and traditions as well as my own.
We are not the first couple to encounter a holiday dilemma like this. And we certainly will not be the last. I would love to hear from others.
How you were able to compromise when it came to celebrating religious holidays?
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