Interfaith Families in the Holidays

by Jesse Galef

As if celebrating the holidays isn’t hectic enough for most people, we atheists have to decide which days to celebrate and how.  Thanksgiving and Veteran’s Day are easy ones – they’re good secular values.  I celebrate the secular version of Christmas – celebrating the spirit of giving – but I often have to explain my views to confused onlookers.

I can imagine it would be even tougher for an interfaith couple.  The Washington Post is hosting a forum to discuss the issue.

Perhaps your atheist husband wants that manger scene off the mantel. Your Hindu wife is uncomfortable with the Hebrew blessings before dinner. Your Muslim mother-in-law doesn’t want her grandkids sitting on Santa’s lap.

The holidays can be a minefield for interfaith couples, unearthing disparities that lay mercifully buried throughout the rest of the year. Because the tree isn’t just about the tree, of course. Like the menorah, or Iftar feasts at sundown during Ramadan, it’s about family and ritual, identity and culture.

Apparently 25% of married adults in America are married to someone of a different faith – a number that goes up to 37% if you count different protestant denominations.

Do you think it’s easier or harder when one of the pair is an atheist?  In that situation it’s not just a disagreement about which religion to believe, but a rejection of all religion.

What would you do?

About Jesse Galef

Jesse is a career atheist, and is currently Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance. Before that, he worked for the Secular Coalition for America and the American Humanist Association. He also blogs about science, philosophy, and rationality at Measure of Doubt with his sister Julia.
(The views expressed are not representing the Secular Student Alliance or any other organization.)