Passover and Easter can be special for families because they are steeped in traditions that are important and meaningful to both Christians and Jews. Families travel from afar to be together, favourite foods are served, and many kids love the stories and religious rituals.
So, given the significance of these religious occasions, you can imagine how being in an interfaith family could create confusion. Which stories do we tell the kids? Is this a happy celebration about our liberation from slavery? Or is this a sad holiday to remember the suffering as Jesus died on the cross? Are we OK to eat brisket at the Friday seder or do we avoid eating meat? Are we searching for Easter eggs or afikomen?
As a result, sometimes it seems as if these religious traditions are in direct opposition of each other. For this reason, many parents think it's better (or at least easier) to avoid the confusion and conflict. Many bi-religious couples decide that once kids come into the picture, they'd rather avoid these issues and instead just pick one parent's faith to celebrate.
As a spiritual person myself, the idea of keeping this part of one's identity hidden from your children just doesn't sit right with me. And as an expert on parenting and child development, I can say with authority that children who have parents of different religions can have even more enriching religious holiday experiences than children in single religious families, if handled properly.
Think of it this way: you are exposing them more deeply to two religions, and the more educated they are about these religions, and the more you as a parent model how people of different faiths can get along, the more your children will thrive in today's multi-faith society.
So, this weekend, if you are representing both partners' religious traditions for the first time, here are some suggestions to guide you through this process hassle free.
Explain to your child that there are many religions in the world. For example, you could say, "Mommy's family believes in the Catholic faith and Dad's family is Jewish. Other people are Presbyterian, Lutheran, Muslim, Seventh-Day Adventist, etc."
Explain that lots of people have different ideas about faith and what is true. Reinforce that people can love one another and have different ideas and beliefs about a lot of things, including religion.
A child will eventually decide what they believe when they're older. Yes, it will take time. Often people don't know what they believe until they are adults, but the learning is fun. Set a positive tone of inclusion and curiosity.
Discuss with your own families (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) that you would like your children to know about both families' religions and that you want to give them the best of both experiences. That means requesting some small accommodations in the family rituals.
If there is a conflict with timing of the seder and getting to Friday's stations of the cross ceremony, you may have to alternate years, knowing that you wish you could to be at both. Your family may be disappointed, but they should be understanding of your predicament.
There is no reason why kids can't search for both Easter eggs as well as afikomen (the more fun, the better!) and families can be flexible about the timing because these are home activities.
Discuss the commonality of the religions in this regard and ask your kids if they notice any other similarities between the ways faiths celebrate. This is a great way to build a bridge between religions instead of building walls and increasing divides.
If you are from a bi-religious/interfaith home and you have tips for parents about what has been helpful for your family, please share in the comments elow!
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