Updates: Inter-Faithed Responds (Again)

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today, we hear from “Inter-Faithed” who first wrote in asking advice about how to navigate her mixed-faith relationship (she’s Jewish, her then-boyfriend is Catholic). She updated us once before and now has as a new update.

Since it’s been a while and things have progressed, I thought I’d send in another update. We got engaged in March of this year, after dating for almost two years. We have continued to keep the channels of communication open since we first discussed it, about what we both want for ourselves and our children in terms of religion (plus the usual stuff, like where we want to live).

My fiancé and I both believe that there is more than one “right” answer, more than one way to get to heaven (or whatever you believe the good afterlife is), and that it is most important to be good people.
We each believe what we believe, with no intention of changing religions, but also with no deep-seated beliefs that the other is wrong or going to hell. However, he also knows that being Jewish is also a culture and that it’s important to me to be able to pass down the observances, which are faith and culture intertwined. (In return I will take his last name when we marry, as will our future children, so we can each pass some of our history on to the children. For those who were trying to keep score, this is a big deal for us since I was a diehard for the hyphenate camp before.)

His parents were understandably concerned about being left out, but we talked with them about our plans for our future kids- for example, we said we would try to go visit his family for Christmas as much as we can (living 1000 miles from them makes this difficult to do every year), as that is a big family gathering for them. But I remain convinced (despite the many commenters who argued to the contrary) that visiting grandma’s Christmas tree is different from having one in your own living room and so that is one concession I am not willing to make. I realize that everyone has their own comfort level, but for me personally, that’s the line.

I’m sure things will pop up for which none of us realize how strongly we feel until the children and situations are real instead of hypothetical. Planning the wedding, as you predicted, has been a good chance to test those waters, but we have navigated it well. When we get married in February, it will be with the blessing of all four parents, in the presence of our family and close friends, officiated by both a Rabbi and a Catholic Deacon.

It is difficult to explain in the small space of a letter your entire religious philosophy and parenting method, a fact which commenters seemed to forget. My first letters stirred up some pretty strong reactions, as well as some very insightful comments. I am thankful to those who offered advice. Even some of the harshest dissenters helped prepare us for the concerns his parents would later have, so we could refine our stance on the big issues before they put us on the spot.

Wendy, your advice was very helpful. I have really enjoyed seeing snippets of how you have dealt with similar issues now that you have Jackson rather than “hypothetical child.” Thanks so much! -Inter-faithed

Best wishes to you and your fiancé for a long and happy life together. Sounds like you’re off to a good start and both have loving and understanding families who can help you along your path.


If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    Oh, why not just get a tree? Seriously, what’s the big deal?

    Does anybody out there even remember what the tree has to do with Christianity other than the name? Seriously? I have no idea. And I was raised Lutheran… I seem to recall that it like stems from Germany and some long ago tradition or something. Oh, wait, come to think of it, I believe the tree is actually a pagan relic stolen by Christianity in a desperate stab make it more interesting to the masses back in the day. (Seriously.)

    I love Christmas trees. In fact, that’s about the only traditional trapping I like. I put one up every year, and I am about as far from being a Christian as you can get.

    Honestly, if you expect him to have a Menorah in your home — which, frankly, is about as religious an icon as you can get, but NOT a Christmas tree… Than you are not true in your commitment to compromise, but a hypocrite.

    1. We were never allowed a Christmas tree when I was young because supposedly there is a passage in the bible that strictly forbids bringing a tree into your house and “adorning it with gold and silver”. I don’t remember where the passage is, so I can’t verify it, but, overall- yes, it’s not a Christian thing.

      They are also my favorite Christmas decoration… Which I think might stem from especially liking what I wasn’t allowed to have, maybe? Haha

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Why not trim it in orange and blue then? 😉 Think a Mad Men Mid century Christmas Tree…

      2. Christmas trees are a holdover from pagan times. Tree worship (as a symbol of eternal life, because trees live so long) goes back to Egypt, but was also a part of northern european pagan cultures. Some attribute the Christmas tree to Martin Luther, but it likely goes back much farther. Even the celebration of Christmas in midwinter comes about by superimposing the holiday over the pagan midwinter celebration of the Yule (which should properly be on the solstice.) It was a way of helping european cultures accept Christianity, by keeping some of the older traditions. So much of what we hold dear about Christmas already involves cultural appropriation, compromise and intermingling. That’s why I’m often taken aback by people’s rigidity about traditions. As an atheist, I still like the idea of Christmas – why not one more reason to share love and joy? Happy Anything to Anyone. Not that this necessarily happens at my family gatherings. Sigh.

    2. My very Sikh grandmother still won’t let us take the Christmas tree down this year because she thinks it’s pretty. She doesn’t really get why the tree has to be a seasonal thing (esp since ours is plastic).

    3. temperance says:

      Did you miss the part where she agreed to take his last name if they handled the holidays in the way that honored her Jewish faith and culture? She’s Jewish, and her kids will also be Jewish. They reached a compromise on what mattered most to each of them, and the Christmas tree lost out in the agreement.

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        I miss nothing. It’s still laughably hypocritical.

        How secure is your faith if you can’t have a pine tree in the house for a couple of weeks a year? Seriously… It’s amazing the things people cling to. They zip around in airplanes and chat on iphones yet still live their lives like frightened peasants did back when there was no knowledge or science. Or progress…

      2. feelingroovy says:

        I know it sounds petty, but it’s not about being insecure in one’s faith; it’s about being a member of a small, somewhat marginalized culture and wanting to preserve it. We have a really unique, fascinating, quirky culture that even many secular Jews want to maintain. Heck, I was raised by two atheists that insisted on sending me to Hebrew school so I’d understand our cultural identity. I’m an atheist, too, but I still feel a sense of obligation when it comes to keeping Jewish traditions.

        And don’t forget Jewish guilt. My mom would find a way to remind me of the Holocaust if I ever had a Christmas tree in my living room.

      3. So preservation of a culture means a 100% adherence to that culture?

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        I love that someone raised this point. I wish more people understood that it doesn’t have to be that way.

      5. 6napkinburger says:

        But it isn’t 100% adherence to that culture. If it was, there’d be no going to grandma’s to celebrate christmas, no going to church with him, and certainly no deacon officiating the wedding. It’s just that she doesn’t want a christmas tree. Compromise doesn’t mean always splitting the baby (half a christmas tree? a hanukah bush? A tree and a menorah?) — it can (and should) mean alternating absolute decisions done in an equitable manner that suit them.

    4. ele4phant says:

      But…it sounds like they have decided to raise their children primarily within the Jewish faith, not some hybrid, on Saturday we’ll go to temple and on Sunday to mass fashion. They are going to be a Jewish household. One that acknowledges and respects Christian traditions and Christian relatives who practice them, but within the four walls of their home, it is not Christian. So no, its not hypocritical to have a menorah but no Christmas tree because this is what they’ve both signed off on.

      And it sounds like they’ve had long laborious discussions about how they will be raising any future children, and he’s fine with it, or else he wouldn’t be still agreeing to marry her in a month. If he isn’t okay with it, well its on him for sticking around because it appears she’s been quite clear about what kind of future she wants for her family and what dealbreakers there are.

      And frankly, I know that Christmas trees were really a pagan symbol that the Church co-opted to convert all those Germanic tribes – and therefore has no tie to the biblical birth of Jesus, its a Christian symbol. Maybe a secular one, but one intimately related to an important Christian holiday. And seeing they are going to have a Jewish (and not a secular Jewish) household, I think its understandable she doesn’t feel comfortable having one in her home.

      1. I completely agree with this. She’s Jewish, so she doesn’t want a Christmas tree, and that is her right. And like you said, the guy is fine with it, it can’t bother him too much because he still wants to marry her, so why are we jumping all over this LW? To each their own.

      2. i think that for this particular family, it just isnt going to be so simply cut and dry, and that is where the problems are going to arise. that household wont be a jewish household- its going to be a household of mixed faiths. this isnt like a jewish family who knows people of other faiths and participates in their gatherings, this is a whole family of multiple faiths- and unless you subscribe to the “our way is better” attitude, the kids are probably going to want to know why they cant celebrate christmas at their own house with grandma. why they cant put up a tree in their house when grandma sends them their presents if they cant go that year, ect… that is the only reason that this is going to be so much more complicated.. its hard to do the “our house is X faith and only X faith” when there are close family members (like your own father) who do other things, you know?

      3. camorzilla says:

        You make it sound like there have never been families with different faiths before. The grandparents live 1000 miles away, not down the street.The children will most likely just associate Christmas trees with the grandparents and menorahs with home. It’s not really that complicated.

      4. eh, i mean, its its that simple, then it’ll work. i just dont think that the celebrations with people the kids hold so dearly to them (dad and his entire side of the family) can be banished from their own house without some sort of understanding that the other religion/celebrations are “wrong” somehow. imagine that from a kids perspective.

      5. 6napkinburger says:

        It’s less “Wrongness” and more “not what we are.”

        Sure, when it comes down to it, Dad’s family believes Jesus died for their sins, while the kids won’t believe that that is true. So to some extent, there is no way that the kids won’t think that
        Grandma, the catholic, is “wrong” in her beliefs, with “wrong” being “not accurate/true.”

        But you can’t simultaneously believe Jesus was G-d’s son who died for your sins, while also believing he was not G-d’s son and that the messiah hasn’t come yet. So while technically i guess it is a multi-faith house, they won’t be “multifaith” children — the couple has decided that they are going to teach them the jewish set of beliefs — some (but not all) of which are mutually exclusive with catholicism.

        But they’ve also decided to raise the kids as full members of the jewish culture and community as well. And being a full part of one culture doesn’t mean that you can’t understand, appreciate and participate in other cultures — and it doesn’t mean that you can’t be partial members of those as well.

        The kids will understand : grandma has a tree because she’s a full fledge member of the catholic culture and trees are part of that; we don’t have a tree because we’re jewish, and jews don’t have christmas trees. But we go and celebrate those traditions because we’re family and family means sharing traditions and decorating the tree and eating christmas dinner is part of the tradition of this family.

        None of that mandates a tree in the house.

      6. Skyblossom says:

        I don’t think it will be too difficult to explain to the kids. As long as they aren’t telling the kids Grandma is just wrong. As long as they say this is what we believe and these are our traditions and Grandma has different beliefs and traditions and they don’t say Grandma is wrong in her beliefs they will be fine.

      7. “But we go and celebrate those traditions because we’re family and family means sharing traditions and decorating the tree and eating christmas dinner is part of the tradition of this family.”

        that is the way to do it. thats going to be the key to all of this- balancing being a jew, raising jewish children ect, with being a whole family of other faiths.

      8. painted_lady says:

        So, so, SO agree with this. I was raised in a Christian household, at least culturally, and both sets of grandparents are Christian. I got to spend time with Jewish friends growing up, including going to their holiday meals, and they came to mine. It was great – I certainly developed a love for latkes, if nothing else.

        But if I was asked, “Do you celebrate Hanukkah?” I’d have said no. It isn’t my holiday. I love it (I tried to con my mom into buying a menorah one year because I thought they were so pretty), but it isn’t “mine.” I can sing the dreidel song, I used to know a couple others (it was over twenty years ago – give me a break), and I will dive headfirst into a Jewish pot roast so fast it’ll be like I disapparated. But am I Jewish? No. Nor would my Jewish friends have said they celebrated Christmas. Because they didn’t. But oh my god, as kids, we were always SO STOKED to get to celebrate some of both holidays together. No judgement, no sense of superiority, just “OH MY GOD IS THAT A MUSICAL SNOWMAN FORK OVER THE CANDY CANES HERE HAVE SOME MATZOH BRICKLE MOM SHOW HER THE MENORAH WHEEEEEE!” So much fun.

    5. Yeah, I don’t really get how that’s a hard line for the LW. Christmas trees are associated with the Christian holiday but they’re not even remotely religious. Most of my Jewish do have Christmas trees (or Hanukkah trees that they decorate with stars and menorahs and such).

      1. 6napkinburger says:

        For many jews, having a christmas tree in the house is the ultimate sign of assimilation and an indicator of the demise of the jewish culture. I wish I could have a tree — I love christmas, I love tinsel and holly, and carols and candycanes, and penguins with santa hats, but i can’t because- for me and for a lot of jews, though clearly not all — being jewish and having a jewish home MEANS that you don’t have a christmas tree. regardless of the pagan origins, the secularized nature of the holiday, or any of that.

        It really is as simple as that: Jews don’t have christmas trees. I am a jew, so I don’t have a christmas tree. It’d be a dealbreaker for me too, while I can imagine being ok with all the other compromises above.

        (Except for me, I couldn’t have the deacon officiate my wedding. He could be there and bless us or something, but I wouldn’t be ok with him as a co-officiant, but that’s a personal thing).

      2. Thanks for this clear explanation! The lw’s Christmas tree issue was really confusing me ….
        Btw lw, don’t worry about visiting your mil too much , kids will be a great excuse to skip that often…

  2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

    At any rate, this only proves my long standing belief that the root of all religion is DIVISION because it certainly keeps more people apart than it brings them together… And certainly causes more problems than it resolves.

    1. lets_be_honest says:

      Idk. I sometimes think people are just so dumb and unreasonable. My siblings and I were all raised Catholic, went to Catholic elementary school, mass on Sundays, etc. When we went to a public high school, it was the first time I was really exposed on a regular basis to other religions, and I loved learning about them. My brother has studied so many at this point I couldn’t name them all. I have so many Jewish friends whose (very religious) families have invited me and my daughter to their services and Passover dinners. These people have been so welcoming to teach us what they practice, and happy to hear about how we practice. Its great for me, and even more so for my daughter. I love that she’s exposed to other religions. I don’t get why people think that just because they are X, they can’t even know about Z.

  3. so, i was brought up very religiously, and i will tell you the one thing i wish that my parents had done: dont isolate your kids. dont isolate them with your thoughts, your actions, your gut reactions, innuendos, … anything. i really do believe that there is a way to have a jewish household and raise your children jewish, while also being a whole family with people of other faiths. i really believe it can happen, but the division that BGM speaks of above happens, and its really how some identify in their religion- the us vs. them mentality. so, for instance, we werent allowed to celebrate christmas either, but we did occasionally go my one uncle’s house, and of course people out in the world would wish us a merry christmas. my father explicitly let us know that we were not “celebrating” anything at my uncles because we dont “celebrate” christmas. my father told me to tell people who wished me a merry christmas to “enjoy your holiday”- because it was THEIR holiday, not mine. all it taught me was that i was isolated from those people. i couldnt even partake in their celebrations, no matter what i believed. i was different. ect, and there was a divide that was created. i dont even think that you have to so clearly spell it out like my dad did to make this happen.. kids pick up on way more stuff then people give them credit for, so check yourself for how to act, speak, ect around your kids concerning faith- an all-inclusive, all-respectful, active participation in others religous/cultural is the way to do it. i actually remember now my one mom’s friends, who are jewish, would invite us to all of their big celebrations- it was wonderful! i had such good times with them, doing all the different jewish traditions and eating the different food and really feeling like i was a part of it, not just a spectator who wouldnt participate because it was somehow something offensive to do. i was a kid in both instances, and i can tell you there is a difference.

    also, i really hope you have given honest thought to the fact that your children might not want to be jewish. every parent who raises their children within a religion needs to have those thoughts, but i feel like you need to even a little more, because your kids will be actively involved in other peoples religions (which is a good thing!). but please do give that thought. maybe it will never happen, maybe they will want to have their fathers religion, maybe they will want none- but thinking that through and coming to terms with the very real possibility that it could happen is a good thing… and on that note, i do hope you will eventually give your kids a choice. nothing, i dont think, should be forced on anyone, and there is no quicker way to make a kid hate something then to force it on them..

    1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

      Wow. That’s an one intense childhood, Katie. So divisive. Needlessly so. It just makes me sad.

      1. ha- my boss recently told me i should write a book about it. and, i thought about it, and i do probably have enough batshit crazy to fill up a book.. lol

    2. so i was just re-reading the original letter, and LW actually wrote “They would just know its a nice holiday, fun to celebrate, fun to see family, but not their holiday.”

      now im sad. BGM wins. damn it.

    3. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

      I totally agree with not forcing your religion on your kids. My mom is (very) catholic and I’m sure would have forced it on us kids if not for my dad being atheist. Yes, they are still happily married but there were a lot of issues regarding religion (that I didn’t know about until I was older). They made the rule that we weren’t allowed to be baptized as babies and would go to church until we were old enough to make the decision for ourselves. I think it was a really good way to go about it.

      Oh, and my dad always made an awesome breakfast on sunday morning while my mom was at church and I love that, it’s my fave part of visiting home.

  4. I have a lot of opinions about this letter, and at first I wasn’t going to share them because I can tell the LW seems kind of abraded by it all. But then I realized that she wrote in twice after her first letter, so…

    I just found the whole thing very standoffish, which I hope was directed toward us and not her boyfriend. The keeping count of who gets what (name change vs. kids’ religion), drawing a “line” about Christmas trees. The main thing I found weird was the comment about how far away his family is. I mean, you’re going to visit them at some point during the year anyway, right? I’ve lived more than 1,000 miles from my family for years, and it’s never really been that much of a problem to see them for the holidays (and I do not make a lot of money). Just made me think the LW was being hopeful that the distance would get in the way…

    1. I also felt the lw wasn’t really asking for comments but I’m just curious how she is going to deal with what her kids want. Yes you and your fiance might have agreed on the ways you want to raise them but children have hopes and desires of their own. What if they ask for a tree?
      As a child of first generation immigrants, my parents had no idea what to do when their kids wanted a Christmas tree or even wanted to speak English at home.
      I recognize that only so much can go into a letter but I think some of the stronger reactions are a response to how inflexible the letters’ tone seemed.

  5. I don’t understand why the LW is so threatened by a Christmas tree. She does realize you can put Jewish decorations on it and make it blue and white, right? I mean really, that’s the line? Literally, that is the line? Like she would call off her engagement if her fiance wanted to put up a tree? She sounds unhinged and quite controlling. All of her letters past and present have reeked of “my way or the highway” and an inability to compromise. Oh but how kind of her to allow a visit to the grandparents during the Holidays (when permitted, they live 1000 miles away afterall). And she’s taking his last name so what a great compromise in exchange for abolishing all hints of his religious beliefs around the house. I’m more shocked by the fact that she is so incredibly threatened by a tree. Did she see the movie Gremlins when she was little and have some kind of deep rooted traumatization. I have the feeling her kids are going to go through a seriously rebellious teenage phase later in life if she’s really this controlling and uptight.

    LW, my advice to you is to stop being so uptight. It doesn’t sound like your fiance is on board with your way or the highway mentality. You say yourself, he has no intention of changing his religion, which is no doubt what you’d prefer. But you have to try and meet halfway. Saying you will change your last name but the kids will be raised Jewish and he can visit his parents (when possible) isn’t that much of a compromise. And seriously, a Christmas tree is not a threat to your religious beliefs or values.

    1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

      What worries me, and I have seen this happen before is that she will become more and more inflexible as the years go on and there will (surprise, surprise) be more and more reasons NOT to spent Christmas with her husband’s family… (“it’s too far!” “tickets are so expensive!” “we did that three years ago…”) Honestly? It’s been my experience that inter-faith marriages work best when NOBODY even wants to go to church or temple or whatever, much less goes…

      1. I agree with you. If she is starting out this far to her side of things, I can’t imagine this moving in a happy direction as the years progress. I fear her inflexibility will wear on her husband, and eventually her kids as well.

      2. feelingroovy says:

        For what it’s worth, in her original letter she did say she had always imagined herself marrying a Jewish man. She just fell in love with a goy 🙂

        But yeah, you’ve definitely voiced a fair concern. In her original letter, she also indicated that she had recently become more religious. Judaism could continue becoming more important to her, resulting in what you’ve suggested.

      3. Avatar photo lemongrass says:

        I think in general people become more entrenched in their religions as they get older so yes, this LW is likely to become less likely to compromise and therefore causing deeper problems.

      4. lets_be_honest says:

        Very recently, my dad told me that one of the reasons he left my mother (aside from another woman which was reason #1), is that my mother refused to budge on holidays. They both were raised catholic, so there was no disagreement there, but my mom would never go to my dad’s parents (who lived far) for Christmas. She always wanted to go to her parents (who lived close). I definitely agree with you that this could be where its headed, and its not a good idea.

        Re your 2nd point- If neither people even practice their religion, I wouldn’t exactly call it an inter-faith marriage. Its really just two people who grew up in different households and don’t participate in either religion now. I have many friends like this. Guy raised Jewish, girl raised catholic and they say they will raise their kid with both. It makes no sense to me. Neither of them practice at all. Neither of them introduce parts of their religion to the kid.

    2. feelingroovy says:

      It’s not as petty as it seems. When you’re a part of a dwindling culture with a pretty intense history of adversity, you feel an obligation to maintain your traditions.

      1. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Eh, either compromise, or don’t.

        Look, if your traditions are so damn important to you that you feel the need to banish all others from your household (including those of your spouse) perhaps you should instead just marry somebody within your own faith and spare everybody (ESPECIALLY YOUR KIDS) the headaches… And mark my word, with her attitude? There will be PLENTY of headaches to go around…

      2. Avatar photo shanshantastic says:

        I totally agree with this. 3+ years ago, I decided I wanted to convert to Judaism (long story), so I started seeing a Conservative rabbi in the area. He asked me if I was seeing anyone, and when I told him I was dating a Christian (my now-husband) he told me that at a certain point in the process I would have to choose my relationship or my conversion — they would not knowingly create a divided household through conversion, so I would have to stop or Brian would have to join me. We talked about it several times over a few weeks, and decided that I wouldn’t continue converting. I have my beliefs and he has his, and we will give our children the freedom that we had to explore and decide what path (if any) is right for them.

        Oh – we’re mostly secular at this point, and I agree that it probably saves a whole lot of arguments.

      3. See but who says she can’t keep her own traditions and teach those while her husband does the same? Having a mix of both doesn’t take anything away from either- if anything it would show the consistencies of religion, and that family would have double the reasons to party. I literally can’t think of negatives to doing that- both parties of the marriage are “heard” and represented, kids get exposure to lots of culture and religion, both parents get to pass on traditions/culture, and again, even more reasons to have parties.

      4. FWIW – I was always really jealous of the kids that got Christmas and Hanukkah presents growing up. And they didn’t seem f-ed up at all… I mean how hard is it to explain that Mom and Dad both believe in the Old Testament but only Dad believes in the New?

      5. feelingroovy says:

        You might have me sold on this double-the-parties business…

      6. any excuse, right?

        haha, but really, as a jew, you celebrate x, y, z holidays. another side of your family celebrates a, b, c holidays. as a jew, wouldnt you want to share your holidays with your family, jew or not? my mom’s jewish friends included us for many years on their traditional parties- it was a time of family, friends, and food for them that they shared with us. it was awesome! so then, as the other side of the family, wouldnt you invite your family, jewish or not, to your a, b, c holidays? that, for the other side, is the time of family, friends and food- so of course they want to share that with those who they love… and- the beauty of all of this is that you dont even have to have a religion at all to participate! participation and inclusion of the social aspects of religion does **nothing** to take away from the religion you live and breath and practice on a day to day basis.

      7. Well, that’s the thing. It doesn’t hurt traditions to participate in other ones.

      8. Well on the up side some people are joining Judaism and Kabbalah nowadays ! Even Wendy, to name one. I support the lw’s decision to not have a tree or visit the mil every year. The children can make the tree decision for their homes in the future. Not sure how much her husband will like her stances as the years go by though… As I commented earlier there are excuses to not visit ad visiting will be a hassle, and probably not lw’s fave thing (unless I am projecting here, but if you ban Christmas trees from your house is there true joy when watching your husbands parents do their catholic thing, knowing that they are disappointed and worried about being left out ?) wonder how important it is to the man to visit his mom, and how he will like never having a tree in his home for the rest of his life. I’m not christian or that into decorating but for me it would be weird to know I could never have one since I always had one as a kid even though we weren’t Christian then either

    3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      My family isn’t Jewish, but we had a Hanukkah tree in our informal living room for a bunch of years (the traditional Christmas tree was in the formal living room). It was a huge fake white tree with a bunch of glittery blue and silver ornaments on it, with a Star of David as the tree topper.

      I don’t get why she can’t have a menorah on her mantel and a tree in the living room corner. Embrace both faiths, celebrate both faiths.

  6. Eh honestly, I think your kids are probably going to do their own thing/whatever they want to do. Sure, you can make them attend services with you, celebrate certain holidays with you… but at the end of the day, and especially when they turn 18, they’re going to make that decision for themselves. You may be happy, you may be sad… but it happens.

    1. SpaceySteph says:

      But is this not true regardless of whether their parents have the same religion or different?
      I mean all 3 of the children in my family were raised the same religion with the same enforcement of participation and while I am on the more religious side, my brother hasn’t seen the inside of a house of worship since he turned 18.

  7. What’s the big deal about Christmas trees? I don’t see anything wrong with a Jewish mother in a Jewish household saying “No thanks” to a Christmas tree. Whom do you think she’s depriving? Plenty of Jewish kids grow up without Christmas trees and they’re fine. Is it about the husband? Because it sounds like he agreed to forget about the damn tree. Sheesh. Also – I’m not Jewish so forgive me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that there is a major cultural aspect in addition to the religious stuff. So even if the kids don’t want to be “forced” into a religion, they will probably still want to learn about and participate in their heritage.

    1. ill answer this, because i was “deprived” of christmas trees, and it IS a cultural thing- but its an american cultural thing. like i said above, its a point of isolation. imagine being the only jewish kid in school, or the only jewish kid in your group of friends, or something like that. and, the christmas tree is ironically like the #1 symbol of the american winter holidays, religious connotations or not. so, i will say that yes, i felt HUGELY left out, weird, different, isolated, ect because i wasnt allowed to have christmas trees. and again, it had nothing to do with religion, it was just the fact that i was missing something that is so integral to american culture, and the american childhood, really.

      im not saying that its bad not to have one, but i totally, totally understand why her kids might really want one someday…

      1. That’s so sad! more and more I am so appreciative of my upbringing… I’m Christian but we got off in public school for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which I believe is a great way to appreciate religions beyond your own — first impression are 3 day weekends! Plus, the christian kids in the school (overwhelming majority of the student population) got jealous once bar/bat mitzvah time came around. That’s some serious fun for a tween.

        On the Christmas front… my jewish friends happily explained the 8-day versus 1-day present thing AND many got to pop the Santa bubble for all us goys and hold it over our heads for years in elementary school that we were idiots who believed a fat man came down a chimney. Stupid American Culture. Good times 🙂

      2. i fully support the celebration of more and different holidays. of the few i have been exposed too, they are all about getting the people you love together and eating a bunch of food. and, beyond that, they usually have nice stories behind them of remembrance or celebration from long ago times.

      3. anonymous says:

        I wanted to offer a different perspective. I am Jewish and we never had a tree. I never felt isolated or deprived by not having a tree and I grew up in the bible belt south where 90% of my friends were Christain and where my mom’s family was Catholic. I think you guys are being super harsh to the LW. A Christmas tree is a symbol that you are celebrating Christmas, a Christain holiday. I can totally understand why someone would not want to have that type of symbol in their home. To be honest, katie is the first person I have ever known who felt isolated by not having a tree. It really just wasn’t a big deal when I was growing up. I would hope that if the LW’s future hypothetical children really felt isolated and deprived by not having a tree, then she would change her mind. However, even if she sticks to her guns on this issue, I really think everyone will be ok in the long run.

      4. Eagle Eye says:

        Yeah, I definitely never felt isolated without a tree, it just wasn’t a big deal.

      5. Avatar photo flgirl711 says:

        Really? My best friend in college was Jewish and always felt a little left out while growing up and during college. She loved the Christmas traditions so I always got her a little stocking or a little something to make her feel included. Maybe it was just her though?

      6. That’s great that you never felt isolated. And it’s fine if the LW doesn’t want/need a tree. But it’s not just about her. It’s about her kids and her husband too.

        It may end of up being a non-issue. If her kids and husband never want a tree, then they don’t need to get one. But if they do, she should be willing to at least consider these things for sake of her husband and children.

      7. 6napkinburger says:

        My birthday is in passover most of the time. No birthday cake on your birthday? That sucked. I mean, I’d get one before or after passover to make up for it, but matza cake is just not the same. And believe me, I felt deprived. But you know what? That was my crappy luck for having a birthday on passover.

        I’m not sure why the fact that kids want something means they should have it. There are tons of parts of religions that no one “likes” doing at first, but you learn to do it because it is part of your religion and your culture and you do them. Learning to fast on Yom Kippur, no bread, going to services, if you are religious, observing the sabbath where you can’t watch tv, etc. — sure, adults do them because they “want” to. But kids need to learn to do the traditions and practices first and then as they get older, choose to do what they will do. (If a child says: Mom, I don’t believe in G-d and don’t want to go to services — fine, you deal with that; but if a kid says: Mom, I want to go play video games with Billy — you march them to services with the rest of the family).

        It’s great that some people are atheists, or only casually observe the cultural aspects of their heritage, but for others, it is a real religion and a culture that has rules, standards and obligations. Which is ok too.

      8. Interfaithed says:

        If my fiance wants a Christmas tree, he should really say something. I can’t read his mind and I can only ask him so many times if he’s sure he’s ok with it…

        Could he be lying? Sure. Could he not realize how important it is to him to hang “baby’s first ornament” on the tree until he has a baby? Sure. Can I spend every minute of the present wondering if those are or will become true? No.

        And as for the kids, I’m with 6napkin… they don’t get everything they want and it’s possible to grow up perfectly fine and well-adjusted having never had a Christmas tree or having had a Hanukkah bush or having a nativity scene next to your menorah. All these things are capable of making well adjusted children or truly screwed up children, for all kinds of reasons.

      9. Skyblossom says:

        I think the most important thing is that you and your fiance agree and you do. I don’t get why some people think your children’s lives will be harmed by not having a Christmas tree. Lots of Jewish children grow up without a Christmas tree and they are happy children. If they are able to celebrate their own holidays with other children and family who also celebrate those holidays they will be happy. I think the harm comes when the parents put down other religions and denigrate other religions and it doesn’t sound like you are doing that.

  8. Painted_lady says:

    I feel like LW and her fiancé are at least having more productive conversations. And they’ve reached a compromise that they can both deal with. Whether or not he can or should, we don’t really have any way of knowing. And honestly, neither does the LW. All she has to go on is what he says, and it sounds like he’s fine with it. Would I be fine with it? No. But I wouldn’t marry anyone whose religious beliefs varied a great deal from mine.

    And yeah, she may get more controlling in the future, and I’ve seen some of that happen. I’ve also seen the opposite happen, though – especially once people have kids. You learn, first off, that you really have so little control over your life and over your family, so “making” anyone do anything isn’t actually possible. And too, once there are a couple of little ones in the mix and life REALLY ges crazy, you start getting better at picking your battles. So most of the people I know relent about a lot of things they used to take a hard-line stance on, especially when they see their kids really have internalized the values instilled in them and won’t crumble at the slightest touch. The ones that don’t, of course, are the ones we remember because no one gives a shit about, “Mary asked Mommy if she could go to church with her friend Susie instead of temple, and Mommy told Mary yes.”

    LW, I would encourage you, that though you have limits and boundaries and lines – that, yes, do need to be drawn somewhere, and if where you draw them works for both of you, everyone else has no say in it – to remain flexible and willing to evolve. There are going to be, I think, more fuzzy lines and gray areas in raising kids in a mixed-faith household than you can possibly imagine, and certainly more than in households where people agree or convert. I don’t have kids, but I’m with them all day long, and trust me, the second you think you figure it out, that’s the moment you get blindsided with some new issue you never dreamed you would have. Learning where to evolve and where to stand firm is one of the toughest lessons you’ll never fully learn, and a step too far in either direction can either alienate your kids or leave you feeling walked on (and sometimes both!). And you’re going to screw up, but if you learn from your mistakes, then it’s not irreparable damage. So just…keep an open ear and an open mind.

  9. While I think it’s really important for LW and her fiancé to thoroughly discuss and sort out these issues before they get married, you have to be realistic too. I’m such a control freak but being married and a parent of two has made me realize there is so much shit you cannot possibly control or anticipate. Your marriage and children will be much happier if you’re flexible and open. You can plan all you want to, but people and life have a way of NOT going according to plan. And if the issue of whether or not to take his name or hyphenate is a big issue to you–well…let’s just say you’re going to learn a lot over the next few years 😉 Keep your lines of communication open with your fiancé as well as your heart and mind.

  10. Guy Friday says:

    Well, my wife and I did the same thing this LW did (we raise the kids Catholic, and she takes my last name), but you know what the difference is? My wife has never said “Well, we won’t have a menorah in the house for Chanukah.” We’re not going to pretend that Daddy is the odd man out in the family just because he wasn’t baptized.

    Speaking as a Jew, I’ve found it patently ridiculous over the course of this LW’s repeated updates how close-minded she is. Let me tell you something, LW: even if you’re able to pull a fast one on the people on this site who aren’t Jewish, you’re sure as hell not pulling one on me. You’re a hypocrite, plain and simple. I’ll reiterate what I said in your first post:

    Speaking as a Jew — and as someone who is actually going through the exact same thing as the OP with his fiancee [now wife], but in reverse — I’ve got to say that I resent the characterization of potentially allowing a Christmas tree or an Easter bunny as “compromis[ing] her religion.” Let’s be frank here: if she’s adopting the Orthodox viewpoint as her “religion”, she won’t be marrying a non-Jew; and if she’s adopting the Conservative or Reform or Reconstructionist viewpoint — and I say this as someone raised as a Conservative Jew — then she’s already “compromised” her faith, so to speak, based on what the Torah teaches is the proper way to practice one’s faith (though I want to be clear in stating that I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the Torah; I’m just saying we need to be honest about their positions, as they are.) I read this the exact same way that WatersEdge did, and I feel the same way: suggesting that you can’t raise your kids Jewish while at the same time still observing certain Catholic rituals is sending a very pointed message that there’s no room for tolerance or acceptance of other rituals and customs.

    So you actively practiced the Orthodox faith, but now you’re “downgrading” to Conservative synagogues because they’ll let you sit with your husband? A conservative synagogue where it is taught that women need not cover their heads? Where the only time men must cover their heads is when they’re in temple? Where it’s OK to drive a car or go to work or play video games on the Sabbath? Where umarried men and women can come in contact at shul? Mind you, I was raised Conservative, so I’m not suggesting that these are all moral sins, but you have been practicing the Orthodox faith, so all of this is. And, again, it’s a “compromise” to consider only MOST of the Torah as the law, as Conservative Jews do. It’s a “compromise” if you don’t keep 100% kosher, which is a big adjustment for a non-Jew to deal with (seriously, it’s SUPER expensive.) These are “compromises” you’ve already stated you’d make. But don’t you dare color eggs or hang a stocking, because that would be a bridge too far!

    You are a hypocrite. End of story. And your continued bickering with people about this only strengthens that characterization. If you actually love your fiancee, truly love him, you should find some way of acknowledging and respecting his faith before you start having kids. Because they WILL find out about his Catholicism, and they WILL ask questions, and the more taboo you make it the more likely they will be to convert. You don’t have to be weekly churchgoers, but how the hell hard is it to go with him to Christmas mass in support? How does it somehow bastardize your Judaism to let your children decorate Easter eggs? Sure, other Jews don’t do that, but you’ve already committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of Judaism by not marrying another Jew, so your moral lines in the sand look a bit stupid is all I’m saying.

    1. off topic- but how is going non-kosher more expensive? im curious. or did you mean going kosher is expensive?

      1. Guy Friday says:

        I meant that going kosher is expensive. Assuming you can actually find a kosher place to buy groceries from, things like meat tend to be WAY more expensive. And it eliminates virtually every restaurant, since technically speaking you can’t even eat food prepared on the same surface as non-kosher food unless you’ve boiled away any hint of non-kosherness (for lack of a better term). Add in the different plates, silverware, serving bowls, cooking utensils, pots and pans, and in some people’s opinion glasses (though that last one might be a bit of a stretch), and it really adds up.

        Again, I don’t keep kosher myself. But you either do it or you don’t do it; you can’t really be “halfway kosher.”

    2. Eagle Eye says:

      Yes! Much like the OP I have been pretty adamant from the get-go that I fully intend to raise my kids Jewish to my boyfriend (whose not Jewish, not really anything).

      But he LOVES Christmas, so we’ll definitely have a Christmas tree for our future children (and sometimes if we can get our act together way before that too) and we’ll fully celebrate the holiday with his family. We do that now, and we light the candles for Hannukkah! My mom grew up just shy of Orthodox and married a nice Jewish boy and we STILL did Easter Egg Hunts as kids, because they’re fun!

      Also, I’ve made it extremely clear to him that he is in no way obligated to follow me to services, if he wants to come then that’s great, if he doesn’t then that’s no big deal either, religion is a funny thing and I would never be in a position where I was forcing him.

    3. Interfaithed says:

      I wrote in again because I find that there isn’t enough about interfaith couples out there and I thought my journey might help someone else, one day. I certainly didn’t write in to debate the finer points of Jewish commandments with you.
      But since you’d like to start that…
      Yes, you’re right, being conservative is making compromises about religion. But unless you regularly walk into conservative synagogues and yell about how they have already compromised their religion so they might as well just become atheists now, I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish there. Judaism carries with it many rules and I know only very few people who follow them all. But then there are the people who drove to my orthodox synagogue and conservatives and reform and cultural practitioners and every single one of those people looked at all the rules and decided where they would draw the line.

      You too looked at all the rules, including the so-called “ultimate sin” (despite that Jewish law does not actually rank sins as better or worse than others) and then decided to marry a Catholic, raise Catholic children, but light a menorah for a minor Jewish holiday at Hanukkah? Ok, there’s your line. And I have mine.

      1. Guy Friday says:

        With all due respect, I fail to see how you can seriously look at your situation and say you thought that your journey might help someone else. I mean, really? What journey? You demanded the kids be raised Jewish, and you’ve effectively said you don’t want to even acknowledge your husband’s faith (even though his parents are still your child’s grandparents). Where, pray tell, is the journey in this? Where’s the great lesson for interfaith couples? That only one faith can dominate? I mean, to each their own, but if people take “lessons” from this, they’re probably not the lessons they should take in your standard interfaith marriage.

        Look, I don’t care if you raise your kids Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, or Scientologist. That’s not my point. But suggesting that you’re willing to compromise on the level of devotion of your faith because it makes it easier for your husband while at the same time suggesting that you can’t let him put up a tree or decorate Easter Eggs because it’s somehow a grievous thing makes you look hypocritical and silly. I’m sorry, but it just does. You don’t have to believe me, and you can live your life however you want, but it’s not like I’m coming at this from out of nowhere. I’m writing from the position of the spouse whose faith isn’t being used, and I can tell you that no matter how many times we say we’re comfortable with our faith being the second-hand one, it’s never going to be true. That’s why I’m incredibly grateful that my wife agrees that my Judaism will be important to the children even if it’s not the faith we’re raising them in.

        And, by the way, if you really thought my example of expressing my Judaism around my children would be lighting a menorah on Chanukah, you’re kidding yourself. I’m talking about fasting on Yom Kippur or Tisha B’Av, or eating non-leavened items during Passover.

      2. Interfaithed says:

        I said “No Christmas tree in the house when the kids are young” and my fiance said “ok.” So your point is that I should assume my fiance is lying to me because you wouldn’t have been ok with the similar situation. Just like your wife has different comfort level for other religious items in your home than I do, maybe my fiance has a different level of attachment to Christmas trees than you do to Yom Kippur.

        Futhermore, while her prohibiting a menorah or forcing you to eat cake on Passover would actually be breaking a core responsibility of observing those holidays, me saying no to a Christmas tree (which others have tried to point out is a pagan symbol anyways) is not exactly comparable. I get that a lot of people have a unique emotional attachment to Christmas trees but that is not the same thing as it being a vital part of observing a religion. It’s what we would call a “nice to have.”
        A better example might be, what will I do during Lent? And the answer to that is that I plan for the whole family to not eat meat on Fridays and we will explain to the kids why. Forcing him to eat a cheeseburger on a friday in Lent is unconscionable and making delicious steaks for the rest of the family while he is stuck with a piece of tilapia is not very nice. But does that mean I’m going to tote the whole family to Ash Wednesday services? No.

      3. Guy Friday says:

        A better example might be, what will I do during Lent? And the answer to that is that I plan for the whole family to not eat meat on Fridays and we will explain to the kids why. Forcing him to eat a cheeseburger on a friday in Lent is unconscionable and making delicious steaks for the rest of the family while he is stuck with a piece of tilapia is not very nice. But does that mean I’m going to tote the whole family to Ash Wednesday services? No.

        And I think that anyone that would ask you to take your kids to Ash Wednesday services in your situation would be wrong. But, to be fair, you recognize that this is the first comment you’ve made in all 3 of your letters to Wendy or responses to the threads in which you’ve shown an intent to include your husband’s faith in the day-to-day practices of raising your children? I’m not saying that to be mean; I’m saying, sincerely, that that’s the first time I’ve seen you say that. I can’t speak for other people, but what you just said above, interfaithed, is all I was looking for you to say: that you’re going to incorporate the meaningful aspects of his faith into your family’s life. Your Lent example is a great one; it allows your husband to openly practice his faith while not demanding that others join in it (well, I guess maybe a little because your kids aren’t eating meat that night anyway, but that doesn’t really rise to the level of “forced religious participation” 🙂 ) But that’s what I was referring to when I was talking about “compromise;” it’s about raising them in one faith while not completely shutting out the other. I’m glad you’re going to do that, and thank you for the good example.

      4. WGFS.

      5. Interfaithed says:

        You’re right. It seemed like a long story to put in my update. I tried to write this update several times without going on for hours and since Christmas tree is what people seized on last time, I tried to address that.
        There are so many more little things that will come up that either of us can anticipate, I’m sure you know that more than anyone. I can only hope that we will follow the same method we have been- discuss what we each want and find the solution that works for both of us.

      6. 6napkinburger says:

        Plus forcing him to eat a cheeseburger would kind of undermine the rest of your points. :-).

      7. Guy Friday says:

        Well played. I hadn’t even caught that, really 🙂

  11. I am in a somewhat similar situation – I am Jewish (more culturally than anything else) and my fiance is a non-practicing Catholic. Given how little we both practice our religions, we’ve had more discussions about the topic than I thought we would. Judaism is important to me in terms of its culture and its traditions; but I never went to hebrew school and I was never Bat Mitzvahed. And honestly, that’s something I regret. I feel like somewhat of an “outcast” from all communities – I feel like I’m not “fully” Jewish because I didn’t share in that right of passage, and I am likewise outcast from the Christian community (not that I have any desire to join it – but it is noticeable when you don’t believe or celebrate what most people believe or celebrate).

    That being said, I am allowing a Christmas tree in our home. I’m fine having the tree, decorating it, picking out decorations – but (and I’m sure this is what people are going to disagree with me for) I plan on making it clear to our children that we are celebrating Christmas with their father but it is not THEIR holiday. I’m not trying to be divisive and I’m not trying to shut my fiance out. First of all – Judaism passes down through the mother, so the children will not be “both.” Second of all, I have a fear (perhaps irrational) of Judaism and Hannukah being overshadowed by Christmas. I remember as a child noticing that everyone celebrated a holiday that I didn’t, that they got a tree and lights and a bunch of huge presents, and it was hard not to be jealous of that. And, perhaps selfishly, I don’t want my children to ignore the Jewish holidays, to ignore Hannukah, because “their” other holiday is so much better. Maybe that’s wrong – but it’s how I feel.

    My compromise is that we can have a Christmas tree. I (along with my fiance) will get my children can get some reasonable Christmas presents (not a massive amount, since they will have already received Hannukah presents) and we can make a Christmas dinner (if we’re not with my fiance’s family). But I want them to know that they’re Jewish and that we celebrate Christmas because it’s my fiance’s tradition and he’s important to us and we love him and not because it’s their holiday or a part of their religion.

  12. Frankly, LW, you sound very rigid, which concerns me. I’m a Christian and I’m married to an atheist. While we don’t have children yet, one of the things I’ve discovered is that to make an interfaith relationship work, both people MUST be very flexible. You have to be willing to respect your SO’s faith and even take part in the other person’s religious practices, even if they’re not your own. For example, when we spend Christmas Eve with my family, we usually attend a midnight service. My husband goes along with a good attitude, enjoys the music, but doesn’t take part in the Eucharist or anything like that. When we spend Christmas with his non-religious family, we don’t go to church, we don’t listen to religious Christmas music, and his parents give us presents from “Satan” (an inside joke derived from a misspelling of Santa). I’m perfectly fine with all that. I can have a good time and partake in the celebration without feeling like it encroaches on my religion.

    Your husband’s faith is not a dirty little secret that your kids need to be shielded from. Isn’t better to expose your kids to Catholicism (as well as other religions) from a young age so they can learn to respect other religions and co-exist with people who have different beliefs? I’m not saying you have to teach them everything about Catholicism. But it would be a great learning experience, for example, to let them attend mass once or twice when they are of an appropriate age. When they are little, you can celebrate Christmas with the in-laws or expose them to various holiday traditions (music, movies, baking cookies, etc.). You can definitely raise them to identify as Jewish without banishing all signs of Christianity, Catholicism, or other religions from your household.

    1. Presents from Satan lol

  13. Avatar photo flgirl711 says:

    I’m sorry but I find this all the to be really selfish and inflexible. You can’t possible enter a marriage this way and expect it to be successful. Marriage is all about compromise. Her tone of the all the letters seem to get more selfish, stubborn and inflexible. I think its great that her and her fiance have had many conversations about this and that she is willing to change her last name from hyphenating it but big deal? That’s one thing out of a million things “since us commenters are keeping score”. Marriage isn’t a game. Don’t keep score!

    If you don’t want a tree in the house, why not outside? Decorate a tree on a porch or deck. Make the menorah the main focus inside but compromise! You can’t hide his religion. You need to still talk about his life too. It’s not fair and your future children will be better off. I was exposed to so many religions as a kid and I grew up in a spiritual environment. I went to churches, mosques and temples and it was great for me. I appreciate religion now and I hate how people act like THIS over it. Divisive, mean, shoving it down throats of others. Their way or the highway. It’s not right.

    From my personal experience, I was a nanny during college for one family and my parents’ are still neighbors to the same family, she was Catholic and he was Jewish. The kids celebrated both holidays, Christmas/Easter and Hanukkah/Passover etc. and are now great teens who still celebrate both and thoroughly enjoy both holidays. They have both traditions and cultures but they COMPROMISE! They are a great, fantastic, happy family. The kids were never confused and they never “half assed” their religious celebrations. Geesh, this LW seems to have issues that I just don’t get.

  14. I’m not Jewish, so maybe this comment is ignorant, and I apologize if it is, but what’s with the idea that children who are part-Jewish and part-non-Jewish should not view Christmas as “their” holiday if their non-Jewish parent celebrates it? I mean, if Dad is a Catholic and Mom is Jewish, aren’t the Catholic holidays just as much “theirs” as the Jewish ones are? 50/50 and all that? Are you really raising your kids in an inter-faith household if you’re telling them that the other parent’s holidays aren’t “theirs”? Because to me that sounds like you’re raising them in a Jewish (or non-Jewish if it’s the other way around) household and marginalizing the parent of the other faith by essentially telling your kids “OK, kids, Daddy celebrates X holiday and we’ll do this to humor him and his silly beliefs, but this is not something that should matter to you so don’t pay it any mind.” It just seems to me that truly compromising would be to say “Kids, this is Mommy’s side of the family’s tradition and this is Daddy’s side of the family’s tradition and, as a product of us both, these are all “your” traditions.”

    1. Interfaithed says:

      For what it’s worth, in my old update I did say that we both decided to raise the kids a single religion rather than both and that my now-fiance agreed to that from the beginning. It’s interesting how many people want to convince me that we should raise them half and half, even though the first thing we decided is not to do that.

      1. Guy Friday says:

        Well, I’m certainly not suggesting you raise them “half-and-half”, as you put it. But there’s a difference between not RAISING them Catholic and not ACKNOWLEDGING the Catholic practices of your husband-to-be, a difference that you seem to be unwilling to distinguish here. You’re basically alienating the non-Jewish part of your mixed family by marginalizing their practices, whether you intend to or not, whether you even admit it to yourself or not.

      2. Interfaithed says:

        I mean did you grow up in the US. Is it possible to not recognize Christianity where it exists all around you? No. It isn’t.
        But I still think that there is a difference between celebrating these holidays within the walls of your Jewish home and saying “as Jews this is what we do” and celebrating with your Catholic relatives and saying “as Catholics this is what they do, and aren’t we lucky we get to celebrate with them?”
        Also I don’t see the point in taking a 5 year old to Christmas mass because the Catholic side of the family is going. Non-Jews get off school for Rosh Hashana and get to sleep in instead of going to synagogue. Jews get off school for Christmas and get to sleep in instead of going to church. Everyone gets a perk now and then.

      3. Guy Friday says:

        I’m guessing you live in the Northeast then, because when I moved out to the Midwest for grad school, we didn’t get off for the High Holidays, and it pissed me off 🙂

      4. Interfaithed says:

        I grew up in Fort Lauderdale, land of a million old Jews. I live in Texas now and I don’t think public schools here get off for the high holidays.
        That said, I went to UCF which is also full of Jews but we didn’t get off for the holidays and I had more than one professor give me crap about it. Including one who would under no circumstances give me a makeup test for the midterm and insisted that the final would count twice instead because that was his ‘policy.’

      5. yea, to me, this is the difference. you dont have to be “half and half” to still be an active part of your family. it doesnt have to be a “their” holiday vs. “our” holiday thing- it just doesnt have to be that way.

    2. 6napkinburger says:

      Two points on this:

      (1) they decided as a couple that they were going to raise the kids “as jewish” — not as mixed faith. Which means that they’ve already decided it won’t be 50/50; and that the christian holidays aren’t as much theirs as the jewish holidays.

      This stems from the fact that you cannot be (actively) both religions. You can’t simultaneously believe that Jesus is the messiah, and that the messiah has not come yet. So if you don’t believe that Jesus was all that special (u.e. that he was a nice guy, some good messages, sad death), then Christmas ISNT also your holiday — not the real christmas (virgin birth, something about a star leading kings to a manger)(Easter is a better example: Jews simply do not believe that Jesus was resurrected, so a holiday commemorating this wouldn’t be “theirs”).

      (2) As for secular christmas (tree, santa, etc.), perhaps the LW is not meeting him halfway, but that’s the deal they worked out. They agreed that they aren’t going to meet half way on this — the compromise is accepting an 80/20 split. There is no “rule of marriage” that all compromises must be 50/50 and that those who don’t on any given issue are hypocrits or manipulative. A successful compromise is where the parties feel that enough of their needs are met, and they have one here.

      Yes, she came into the negotiation unwilling to meet him halfway — and if he thought that was unfair, he could have walked away. But he didn’t. That doesn’t mean she is selfish and he is magnanomous. It means that she cared more about it then he did, and two rational adults figured out an equilbrium based on what they valued most. She didn’t win and he didn’t lose — they achieved a balance. That it isn’t 50/50 doesn’t mean it isn’t a fair compromise.

      1. Interfaithed says:

        For some reason, which I really fail to understand, the Christmas tree is this weird limbo where half of folks are insisting that a Christmas tree can be secular and its no big deal, while the other half is insisting that it’s a vital part of having Christmas and I am a tyrant and prohibiting him from celebrating Christmas.

        For those who think it should be “no big deal” to me, have you ever stopped to consider that it is already “no big deal” for him for the same reason? That to him, like many of you, it is not a religious symbol and he doesn’t care about it so much. It seems like many people for both of my updates think that saying “fine Christmas tree” is something I absolutely have to do for family harmony. But my fiance doesn’t seem to share your conviction.

      2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        God, is this REALLY that a complicated thing to grasp? Funny, how often the most devout have trouble grasping even the most basic constructs of logic… EXPLANATION: It’s no big deal as a religious icon. But it is a HUGE deal in that is one of the many traditions of your husbands life and upbringing… Ones you are rejecting about as casually as I discard a pair of worn out shoes I never even liked very much.

        Frankly, if having a Christmas tree in the house wasn’t important to him in the slightest — I remain curious as to why and how it comes up so much in conversation that you feel you have to draw a hard line in the sand about it.

        At any rate, it seems to me (and to many others on here) that your faith is all about you, you, you. And you are going about it in a rather clever way in that it’s all due to you horrible oppression as a people. Whatever. It’s all a convenient tool just to get exactly and only what you want. Bravo to you for finding a man willing to put up with that. You’d best start praying now in a big way that he never comes to resent it.

      3. 6napkinburger says:

        I don’t have a boyfriend and I have a hard line in the sand about it. Most jews have some idea of whether or not they’d be ok with a christmas tree in their house if they wound up falling in love with a non-jew — it’s a topic that comes up often in our lives. I’ve talked about it in hebrew school and in college jewish culture studies classes, I’ve talked about it with my friends and with my jewish boyfriends in the past. Having a christmas tree in your house can be a very strong, powerful, meaningful symbol of an assimiliation that many jews are not comfortable with — including both me and interfaith — a symbol that many are not willing to compromise about because it has that much meaning to them. If the other party feels equally strong about having a christmas tree, then its an issue. If not, there really isn’t one.

        Also, everyone’s faith is all about them them them, or at least it should be. Few things are more personal than someone’s belief system to that person. If your belief system includes adopting everyone else’s practices and tradition, then yay. If your belief system involves limiting one’s and one’s children’s participation in those practices and traditions to those of a delighted spectator, then that is a personal decision that people are entitled to make without being derided as selfish, manipulated and intolerant.

      4. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Again, if having a lousy tree in the house so threatens your faith and is viewed as a grave sign of the most horrible and dreaded assimilation… An assimilation that one is so not comfortable with — I then fail to see how one can possibly justify building a life with somebody who is not jewish? I mean, forgive me, but how on earth can one be comfortable with that? I mean talk about assimilation…

      5. Eagle Eye says:

        No, it doesn’t threaten our faith, and FWIW with my non-Jewish bf I have a tree because its important to him and most everything else we do is Jewish (including our future children). However, I don’t particularly like having the tree, its pretty and all, but Christmas isn’t my holiday, Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, who, as a Jew, I do not believe in. That said, I mean, I certainly don’t sit around and pout when he hauls it into our house and we always have a great Christmas with his family. But the tree is a pretty loaded symbol for me, one that I’m still warming up to.

      6. ele4phant says:

        I don’t understand why you’re so skeptical that a tree isn’t really all that important to her fiance.

        Its clear it is important to YOU, and you would balk if your theoretical husband wanted to prohibit them, but lots my friends aren’t really into the “decoration” part of Christmas. But for them, they see decorating as kind of a chore, not a joy. I love it, but I remember my ex-boyfriend (a lapsed Catholic – so that sweet spot of secular Christian) didn’t want to be bothered with having to buy the tree, decorate the tree, take the tree down, and then clean up all the needles a month later. To him, it was enough to go to his parent’s house on Christmas and appreciate their tree. He didn’t give a flying F about whether or not a tree was going to hang out in his living room for a month, despite the fact many of his childhood Christmas memories included an opulent tree.

        And its not like she hasn’t made other concessions elsewhere in their relationship. Compromises don’t have to be a direct exchange. He apparently doesn’t care a lot about religion, she does. So he gives more on that end and she makes up for it by giving more to him on other compromises. One that I can think of immediately is taking his last name. For a lot of women that’s huge (and it was for her, initially). So you make compromises where it matters most, not necessarily as a one to one.

      7. Grilledcheesecalliope says:

        I guess the issue people are having is because of the emotional attachment people have to traditions especially childhood traditions. Maybe now your fiance is so in love with you that he is okay with giving up the practice of his faith in his own home. But as most people know people tend to become more religious and traditional as they get older, so he might not always feel that way. My boyfriend is Jewish – I’m not but the idea of telling my children that Chanukah is not “theirs” would never occur to me and i would resent him for asking me not to have a tree. I just think everyone is maybe correctly/maybe not foreseeing issues and resentment coming up because you have effectively banned his faith. I don’t think it’s fair to start a serious relationship with someone and then ask them to give up a bunch of stuff – it’s like doing it under duress.

      8. Skyblossom says:

        We were raised Catholic but my sister married a Methodist and is raising her kids as Methodists. She doesn’t teach them Catholic beliefs, only what the Methodist church teaches. It may not be as obvious as a Christian/Jewish difference but it is there. They do attend mass when they are at my parent’s house on a Sunday or for Christmas but otherwise they don’t attend mass, didn’t have a First Communion, don’t do Reconciliation and probably won’t do Last Rites. They have a different understanding of Christianity and that is fine. That is what their parents chose to teach. My kids are being raised Catholic but when we visit my husband’s family in England we don’t attend church at all because they don’t attend church. I think many families choose a faith and raise their children in that one faith while being surrounded by people of various faiths and people of no faith. As long as they don’t mock or put down or denigrate other faiths and remain respectful of those faiths and can even enjoy those faiths they do fine.

  15. Some of the responses here reek of ethnocentrism. “She should have a Christmas tree!!!” “Their kids are going to feel weird!!”

    Whether the future children are raised strictly Jewish or mixed-faith, it would not be the first time such a thing happened for either. And it won’t be the end of the world. And the LW and her fiancee sound intelligent enough to work through whatever issues might arise during the course of their marriage and future child-rearing.

    1. Interfaithed says:

      Thank you. I know we don’t have all the answers, but we had to start somewhere.

    2. bittergaymark says:

      That is fucking bullshit. If the situation were reversed and she was writing in about not letting her Jewish husband have a menorah in the house I’d have said the same exact thing. At any rate, I can’t wait for the update in a few years about how all they do now is fight over this. Bittergaymark, my word. It definitely WILL happen. I’ve seen it so many times before. And all because one partner’s ruthless egotism ensures this very same “my faith trumps all” fucking bullshit.

      So much needless drama. I am so happy that religions continue to so spread joy and enlightenment world over…

      1. Interfaithed says:

        Saying you think HE is being left out is different than saying you think the kids will be left out.
        If you say “Your kids will be missing out if you don’t let them have a Christmas tree” like its some rite of passage in America or necessary to a healthy childhood, then it is certainly ethnocentric.
        Not one person would ever say the same about a Jewish holiday observance.

        Did you grow up with Passover seders? Lighting a menorah? Gosh, do you feel terribly left out about it now? Doubt it.
        Christmas, try as you might, is not a secular holiday and a Christmas tree is not a secular symbol.

      2. Avatar photo bittergaymark says:

        Again, you are REALLY missing my point. None of this would matter if you were both Jewish. But your not. And you never will be. Look, all of my friends who grew up in inter-faith households all felt they missed out on whatever holiday wasn’t celebrated in their home as the other one was CONSTANTLY in their faces at family events. Be it cousins with x-mas trees or cousins with menorahs… whatever was glossed over and not at home was whatever they felt they missed.

        Interestingly, none of my friends who grew up with way now practice either faith. As one said to me a while back — “Religion? Me? Please? Why bother? Sure, I grew up Lutheran but the fact that my mother didn’t believe at all and was busy praying to her own imaginary friend made it all seem rather silly and pointless.” So be prepared for that in twenty or so years…

      3. Interfaithed says:

        And as people said above, it’s not like both parents having the same religion actually means their kids will grow up and still observe the faith they were raised with. Its one of those things children- any children- get to decide when they grow up.
        You do the best you can to give them the values and beliefs important to you and you hope for the best and expect the worst.
        Anyways, I suspect that your quoted friend’s parents didn’t explain things very well since unless his mother was not a monotheist, they actually were praying to the same “imaginary friend.”

      4. i really hope that you dont think people are saying that having a christmas tree is important to every child- they are important in this discussion because your children’s father and entire side of their family will be celebrating using one. that is why its significant.

        i know that i said it is an american cultural thing, and i stand by that- it is. but you do have know that within my childhood “celebrating” the holidays that we did, i also didnt have thousands of years of heritage and history behind me with my own culture- i didnt even have one. my crazy dad just made shit up as he went along. i wanted to belong, that was really the whole point. i think i would have gladly picked the menorah if it would have meant i would have had a family to get together and laugh and be with. thats really whats its all about anyway, no matter the religion or lack thereof. holidays were created and stay to this day as a time to rest, have special treats, and get to see your family and celebrate.

        so really this has nothing to do with any specific traditions or cultures or religions or whatever- take them all out of the equation. what we are looking at is two people who come from quite different backgrounds who need to figure out how to raise their kids so that they really can belong to both of their families. and like i said above, i really believe it can happen. i do.

  16. I just have to say that I very much respect how well you’ve handled this, both in terms of compromising, sticking to your guns, and also understanding many different perspectives. My initial thought after reading one of your earlier emails was, “is a tree a big deal?” (I’m an atheist, born to atheist parents who were raised Hindu, and I f*ing LOVE my Christmas tree), but after reading what you write just wanted to say how much I respect everything you’ve said. Congratulations on what I am sure will be a wonderful marriage (if how you’ve handled everything thus far is any indication).

  17. Well, this is why I don’t participate in any religion. And I’m glad my husband doesn’t observe any either.

  18. Honestly, if you are not willing to allow your partner celebrate his faith with your children, you should NOT procreate with him. Just DO NOT. It is unethical to put that kind of request on someone. It’s called denial and assimilation, like asking mixed race kids to pass. It’s WRONG to ask it. I say this as a jewish woman married to a Catholic (culturally) and agnostic (spiritually). It just is not ethical at all to ask his family to put away their faith when you come around. I’ve never understood why the hell so many of my fellow Jews of all people have such a difficult time understanding this!

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