Dear Tell All: My wife and I have different religious backgrounds, and it always causes problems around the holidays. I'm Jewish and she's Catholic, though neither one of us is observant. We don't go to church or synagogue or send our kids to any kind of religious school. On the other hand, we do celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, both wanting to continue traditions from our childhoods.
Here's where the trouble comes. I sense that my wife doesn't take Hanukkah very seriously. It tends to get short shrift in our December celebrations, with my wife maintaining an ironic distance from the various rituals. There's a slight sense of "this is silly" as I light the menorah and recite the blessings in Hebrew. The kids find it hilarious to hear their dad speaking in a strange language, which I don't do any other time during the year. My wife doesn't help by giggling along with them.
When I've talked to her about this, she rolls her eyes and calls me crazy. But then she turns around and accuses me of not taking Christmas seriously enough.
In my mind, I take it more seriously than she takes Hanukkah. I fully participated in the Santa Claus ruse when the kids were younger. I sing Christmas carols, build gingerbread houses, trim the tree, dig chocolates out of the Advent calendar, hang the stockings and watch every seasonal movie from The Bishop's Wife to Christmas in Connecticut. I've also mastered all the arcane gift-giving rules that stem from her family's Christmas tradition. And yet my wife still accuses me of holding my nose around Christmas.
Do you see any way of ending our annual December religious war?
Dear Mr. Maccabee: I think both you and your wife need to pay heed to an important seasonal message, which turns out to be nondenominational: peace. Throw yourself into each other's traditions, which you obligated yourselves to respect when you got married. If you do so with no irony or resentment, I can guarantee you happy holidays.u
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