According to a recent study for the Council on Contemporary families by David McClendon of the University of Texas at Austin, “there has been an especially dramatic increase in the proportion of couples where both partners maintain their own separate religious beliefs and practices. The proportion of marriages that remain interfaith has almost doubled, from a little more than 20 percent in the 1960s to around 40 percent by the first decade of this century.”
With the upcoming holidays of Easter for the Christians and Passover for the Jews, many grandchildren will be celebrating both holidays. More interfaith families with separate religions mean that more in-laws will find that their grandchildren are being raised differently from the way they anticipated. Grandparents can hold a grudge against their children for marrying outside of the religion, but that does little to educate their grandchildren about the beauty and worth of their own traditions. While this is painful for parents, if they want their grandchildren to respect their own beliefs, they must show respect for the other religion.
Already, many churches celebrate Passover, because its message of deliverance from slavery is universal. The Black-Jewish seder, the Irish-Jewish seder, are staples of the season. For many Jews and some Christians, however, the theme of literal resurrection is antithetical to their theology. That being said, many Jews are not religious; they identify as cultural Jews. And many Christians celebrate Easter even though they don’t believe in Christian theology.
Grandparents are wise to focus on sharing the joys they find in their own traditions rather than criticizing their children’s choices. Recognizing their children’s efforts to honor both sets of parents and both religions helps facilitate understanding.
All of us are learning to cope with a religious landscape that is changing. Change is hard to accept and to manage. Therefore, we need to be forgiving of each other. When family members appreciate each other’s efforts to please and accommodate, holidays go more smoothly.