Wife Who Loves Christmas Trappings Concerns Husband

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Dear Miriam,

My wife and I are Jewish, but she loves Christmas. Not the religious part of it, obviously, but she loves eggnog and candy canes, looking at lights, even listening to carols. Should I try to convince her to give up these December habits, or should I go along with it?

Signed,

Merry in Marriage

Dear Marriage,

Imagine that “Christmas” in your question was replaced with, say, “romantic comedies” or “cheesecake.” Would you try to talk your wife out of her preferences? I hope not. It’s wonderful when couples share their interests, but it’s not necessary, and it’s not usually a path to relationship success when one spouse wants to talk the other one out of what he or she likes.

This isn’t a question of your family’s religious practice, so the stakes are low. If you don’t like candy canes and eggnog, say no thanks. If the carols, totally reasonably, are not your thing, ask her to wear headphones. If she wants to go to a Christmas party, just like any other social engagement, you have to negotiate as a couple whether you do these things together or separate. Don’t tell her the lights aren’t pretty, though. We all know they are, and that they add a lot of joy to the literal and figurative darkness.

I’ve answered lots of questions from parents about how much Christmas to allow their Jewish kids to experience. My answer is usually to let the kids do whatever they are interested in outside their home, and to draw clear distinctions between our traditions and other people’s traditions that we can still enjoy. At the same time, I encourage parents to be sure their Jewish lives are being appropriately nurtured at home. A lot of parents’ concerns about Christmas comes down to jealousy and identify formation, but since your wife’s identity is presumably formed, you can confidently just let this go.

You can roll your eyes at your wife, if you must, but  do so with kindness and, if possible, in private.

Consider what foods and leisure activities you enjoy that she doesn’t, and the ways in which she, hopefully, humors you. If all your December outings start to be focused on Christmas, you can ask her to diversify, or you can suggest an alternate activity. Until that happens, though, just accept this as part of the person you love, and also, realistically, part of what it means to live in a dominant culture in December.

It’s at most a month out of the year that you have to deal with this, so do your best. Even though, for the record, eggnog is disgusting (and candy canes are delightful).

Be well,

Miriam

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