Blending Multiple Cultural Holidays and Religions in Your Household

For many households, Christmas isn’t the only December celebration planned. The month plays host to myriad religious and cultural holidays for people living around the world. There’s Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, and Our Lady of Guadalupe — just to name a few.

When people with various ethnic and religious backgrounds become united as a family, it’s not uncommon to honor more than one holiday in the home.

Ways to Celebrate Together

The key to a healthy, enjoyable holiday season is seamlessly integrating traditions while respecting everyone’s individual beliefs. For children, this melange of cultural and religious activities is a learning experience. Remind everyone in the household to be mindful of each person’s beliefs and to follow their hearts when it comes to which activities they feel comfortable participating in during the holidays.

“Most teenagers who come from interfaith families where there has been double observance feel that they have a legacy of two religions, that both Christianity and Judaism are part of their birthright and cultural heritage,” notes Sylvia Barack Fishman, professor of Contemporary Jewish Life in the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis University, in an article for Jewish Woman Magazine. “Having many different religious options is seen as a benign and delightful aspect of living in America, in an open society.”

Barack Fishman says that religious beliefs and cultural holidays should be presented to children via education, peers, and parents.

  • First, teach your children the facts behind specific holidays and religious beliefs. Utilize books, videos, and visits with local clergy persons.
  • Allow your kids to associate with peers who also share your family’s religious identities. If children want to join a local group at a house of worship, encourage that option.
  • Finally, parents should be supportive of the child’s journey. It takes time for them to come to their own conclusions and acceptance of having multiple faiths and holidays recognized in their home.

To unite the various celebrations, play up common themes. For example, many celebrations focus on the beauty of light, having a family feast, and exchanging gifts. Light candles, plan a special family dinner, and rejoice in the season by giving and receiving presents as a family.

When to Step Back and Observe

Help your children learn the art of patience and mindfulness during religious rituals. In some cultures, it’s inappropriate for children, or people not of the practicing faith, to participate in certain parts of the celebration. Remind your children that these observances aren’t meant to exclude them, but rather to keep the traditions intact.

The Anti-Defamation League urges parents and educators to be sensitive and avoid assumptions about how a child wants to participate in a holiday. For example, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, don’t be surprised if your child wants to color a picture of Santa or a Christmas tree.

How are you explaining multiple faiths or cultural holidays being celebrated in your home to your children? Share your best tips for educating children in the comments below.

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