Is your family celebrating more than one religious holiday this season? Coordinating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holiday celebrations may challenge multifaith families as they try to work out tight holiday schedules and intricate meal plans.
Use these six tips to help navigate the sometimes delicate situations that can arise for multifaith families around the holidays.
1. Celebrate in Order
Consider celebrating each religious holiday in order for each of your family's faiths. For example, in 2022, begin by celebrating the Advent season starting on November 27. Then, celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe (feast day) on December 12.
This year, traditions may overlap, with Hannukah spanning from December 18 through December 26. Yule celebrations will begin December 21, while Christmas is December 25, and the first day of Kwanzaa is December 26.
With some planning, you can devote attention to each of your family's faiths in the order they fall on the calendar.
2. Highlight a Different Religious Holiday Each Year
If enjoying holiday celebrations for each faith every year doesn't work well with your schedule, organize them yearly. For example, celebrate Christmas this year with your parents and then Kwanzaa or Hanukkah next year with your in-laws.
If you choose to go this route, it may make sense to schedule the celebrations for the holiday of your most elderly family member first.
3. Celebrate With Multifaith Foods
One of the most popular ways to get multifaith families together during the holiday season is by sharing your favorite holiday meals. Consider organizing a potluck where each family member can bring a dish or dessert particular to their own faith's holiday feasts.
However, remember that some religions may fast at certain times during the season, so ask about this when scheduling. Other religions prohibit eating certain foods, so ask family members to label food to let everyone know what they can and cannot eat.
For smaller extended families, consider having each family host one course of a meal on a specific date. The family might have appetizers and drinks at one home, dinner at another and desserts at a third. Each course could reflect the holiday foods of the faith of that household.
4. Create a Holiday Display or Scrapbook
Holiday celebrations and family traditions go hand in hand. Many older generations will carry fond memories of happy times celebrating their faith throughout the years.
If your family doesn't share the same faith as that of your parents or grandparents, ask older family members to share photos, family memories and recipes from the holiday celebrations of their youth. Encourage them to create a scrapbook or table display for one of your holiday meals. This is a creative way to connect with grandchildren and teach them about their family's rich heritage of faiths and customs.
5. Host a Holiday Sing-a-Long or Story Reading
In addition to food and photos, music and stories can help bring people together through the holidays. Consider hosting a night for the family to gather and sing the songs of your faith or share a favorite story. If your family includes young children of a religion different from yours, look for picture books of favorite stories from your religion.
6. Respect Boundaries
The holiday season is a good time to remind yourself to respect the boundaries of family members who may not share your faith. Don't compare religious feasts, traditions or beliefs — instead, think of the season as an opportunity to share and celebrate. At this time of year, focus on the joy that brings you together instead of your differences.
Not all families want to (or can) come together for different holiday celebrations. Still, you can look for other ways to create new family traditions that members of all faiths can enjoy together. This might mean sledding, snowman-building or leaf-raking followed by hot chocolate and cookies. Depending on the weather, the ages of your family members and your location, this annual outing could become a long-standing family tradition.
Focus on Joy
Balancing multiple holiday celebrations as a multifaith family involves looking for opportunities to come together over food, music and festivities throughout the holiday season. Celebrate them in order, or highlight one faith's holiday each year. Every year, encourage older family members to share photos and memories of previous celebrations.
The holidays offer a time to come together and create new, inclusive family traditions. Use these simple ideas to help all family members of different faiths feel included throughout the holidays.