Dear Dr. Jann: I have remarried recently and the first holiday we are going to celebrate together as a blended family is Easter. Problem is, I’m Jewish and my husband is Christian. Neither of us is devout, but our orientation is completely different. It doesn’t really bother us, but we are wondering how to present these two different approaches to the children. Any ideas?
Dr. Jann: When you blend something, say as in a recipe, for example, the individual ingredients are often lost, and I have found that one of the key components to successfully combining families is to acknowledge each family member’s individuality. That means celebrate your differences. Some would think that marrying outside of the faith in which you were raised might present a problem—however, it’s also an opportunity to teach your children tolerance and acceptance.
Since there was no conversion which would ask one of you to give up the faith in which you were raised, you might want to present your beliefs to the children using an educational approach, acknowledging the holidays linked to both faiths with an explanation as to why they are celebrated. Granted, Jewish and Christian faiths are diametrically opposed views, however they can be explained historically, and there is a rich history in both.
You and your husband are living proof that the two faiths can co-exist, therefore, that’s the way I would suggest you present it, emphasizing accepting each other’s attitudes out of respect. “We have different upbringings, but we love each other and respect each other’s right to believe as we do.”
Many believe that “Easter time” is also an acknowledgement of the beginning of Spring — of new beginnings, which might also be a way to approach the holiday if you do not want to discuss the religious implications. Plus, depending on the age of the children in question, the Easter Bunny is neither Jewish or Christian…
Bottom line, create the family you want. The key to turning your stepfamily into a bonusfamily is to reinforce the similarities and not the differences. Set a positive example of acceptance and you have offered your children a lesson first hand that they can use not just in your home, but in every aspect of their lives.