My husband, Ken, and I have always joked that we’re the most diverse couple in the world. I am equal parts Polish and Mexican and was raised Jewish in Eugene, Oregon. Ken is Filipino and Japanese, and he was raised Catholic in New York. Our kids are exotic-looking and ... confused.
We often pretend like we’re an outlier, but the reality is that we’re not. Living in New York, we have met so many other families with similar backgrounds. We're actually a pretty popular mix! We like to think that our kids are extremely unique, but we are finding more and more that there are plenty of other kids with our special mix of heritages.
So what can mixed-race, mixed-religion couples do to increase love and decrease tension around the holidays? Use these five tips as your guide to a perfect holiday.
Keep the focus on the positive. For our kids, we have done all we can to prevent an association between the holidays and stress. Instead, all they think about is fun family traditions and presents. And most importantly, they get twice as many presents as their friends who only get to celebrate one religious holiday!
Make more of an effort to celebrate your spouse’s traditions. While our marriage has by no means been a playbook for eliminating religious stress, making an effort to recognize each other’s faith has really helped things. A few years ago, I asked Ken to make latkes, and he did! While they were pretty terrible, I really appreciated it. This year, I got our kids Advent calendars. I still don’t understand exactly what they represent (neither does Ken), but he appreciated the gesture.
Plan special non-holiday-related outings. It’s so easy to get ultra-focused on the holidays, and taking a step back can help alleviate any building tension. A dinner date or any outing will do. For example, this past weekend Ken and I went on a lunch date to Marta for some of New York's finest pizza and celebrated togetherness. Just pizza and dessert, no over-the-top holiday menu, fancy attire, or anything. Of course, as soon as the date was over, it was back to checking off the present to-do list and holiday planning. It's also important during this time of year to brave the cold and go out and about with your kids. Plan trips to the museum or take a walk with some hot chocolate in hand!
Focus on other stressors and knock things off your to-do list. Traveling, cold weather, and credit card bills can make religious stress seem minimal. Don't let them take control over your mood! Stay organized and plan ahead -- you will feel oh-so-much better.
Focus on inclusion, not exclusion. When it comes down to it, all religions are basically about the same things: love, faith, belief, family, and support. Same morals, same ethics, same values. So ultimately the important parts are all the same. Make your time together as a family about BEING together, and not about a specific religion.
These are my tips for a happy holiday season. Good luck to all my fellow multicultured, multireligious, multigeneration families, and happy holidays!