Rosanne Levitt was the creator and director of the Interfaith Connection, a program of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, from 1986 to 2004.
Planning "Far Enough"
An outreach professional's response to What Will We Do About Christmas? (When the Grandparents Are Gone), by Suzanne Koven.
"What will we do about Christmas?" is one of the first questions that arises for interfaith couples when they begin talking about getting married. Or if not then, it arises when they have their first child. Suzanne and her husband talked about a "mutual vision of interfaith life." Everything felt decided, comfortable and secure. And many couples choose to do what Suzanne and her husband has done over the years--honoring her husband's family by being with them on Christmas. Being with their Christian grandparents does not compromise their children's Jewish home or Jewish identity unless the children look upon Christmas as their holiday.
But when their son (12) said, "What will we do about Christmas in the future after Baba (grandfather) is gone?" a number of issues surface. First, Suzanne missed an opportunity to pursue the conversation with her son. What is the question your son is asking? What was he thinking? Does the loss of Christmas represent for him the loss of both of his grandparents, the fear of the pain when the Christmas holiday season arrives without Baba and Nonna (grandmother) being there? Or does the question represent the loss he will feel of not celebrating Christmas filled with so many memories, as he has done his entire life? Does he have ideas of what the family should do at that time? Rather than trying to guess how your husband and son will feel when that time arrives, why not call a family gathering to discuss the future. Your husband will be able to state his needs, as will you and your children. Through discussion you will be able to fashion a changed-future mutual vision that will fit your family and the facts at hand.
Over time couples may sometimes need to revisit decisions made when first married. Suzanne said, "We hadn't planned far enough." Most couples deal with questions for the near future, not anticipating the far future. As situations and people change they need to be given an opportunity by their partner to revisit decisions. But revisiting decisions doesn't indicate that the couple wasn't honest with their partner or themselves in the original deliberations. In this instance Suzanne's and her husband's plan needs to be revisited because the situation will change.