The December holidays bring up more questions and tension for many couples than any other time of year. Because of the proximity of Hanukkah and Christmas, we’re often forced to confront these holidays together rather than separately. We advise having a December holiday conversation with your partner well before the holidays and discussing issues that may be challenging. Read on to see how this year’s holidays will be different for 18Doors’ CEO, Jodi Bromberg.
Every year, my mom and dad host a Hanukkah party for their three adult children, their spouses, and their 11 grandchildren ranging from 1-and-a-half years old to 23 years old. There are 19 of us in total. Most of us aren’t Jewish; we’re a mashup of Jewish, Christian, and Catholic.
The Hanukkah party is festive, with potato latkes and chicken or brisket, a menorah made of Jerusalem stone, and a dessert spread rivaling a bar mitzvah Viennese table. After dinner, we exchange gifts, youngest to oldest, sprawled out in the living room, talking and laughing.
This year, we are rapidly approaching the anniversary of the pandemic lockdown, an anniversary none of us want to celebrate but all of us are going to be forced to reckon with. My dad was gravely ill last year from Covid-19, and though he’s now mostly recovered, the experience shook us all. The Hanukkah party probably isn’t happening this year.
What are we left with? On our saddest days, we are left with tears, and heartbreak. Hanukkah without our family gathering is like lox without bagels. It just shouldn’t be so. But on my most hopeful days, I think that maybe, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, there is an opportunity here to create something new, to have conversations about what the holidays and the traditions that we’ve created mean to us, and use those conversations as the basis of creating something new this year.
We hope these December holidays conversation starters help you get the conversation flowing with your significant other. Please note, there is a separate set of questions below for parents.
December Holidays Conversation Starters for Couples
- It can be helpful to start by each sharing how you each celebrated the winter holiday(s) growing up. What childhood memories do you have of celebrating the winter holiday(s)? What was the most meaningful, memorable and/or fun part of the holiday(s) for you? Did you see the holidays as religious, spiritual, cultural or something else?
- Take a minute to reflect on how you’d like to celebrate now that you’re an adult. Do you hope to replicate parts of the holiday experience you grew up with? What aspects and why? How important is it to you that your partner share in your holiday celebrations with you?
- Being in an interfaith relationship brings us joys and challenges. What is the most meaningful or fun thing about celebrating the winter holiday(s) that your partner grew up celebrating? What is challenging for you about it? What is it like celebrating your partner’s holiday(s) in your home verses celebrating at their parents,’ other relatives’ or friends’ homes?
- It can sometimes be difficult to manage family dynamics as an interfaith couple. How do you feel about talking to your parents and your partner’s parents about the decisions you and your partner are making about your own choices regarding holiday celebrations?
- Above, Jodi Bromberg reflects on how she won’t be celebrating with her family like usual this year because of the pandemic. Will your holiday celebration(s) be different this year because of the pandemic, and if so, how? How do you feel about this? Will you miss anything from past years, and if so, what?
- For Jewish and Christian couples: How do you feel about having a Christmas tree in your home? Do you think that your answer will be different if you have kids? What does a Christmas tree represent to you (e.g., a religious symbol, a fun memory from childhood with no religious significance, etc.) and why? Do you think that Hanukkah and Christmas can be celebrated together (“Chrismukkah”/a Jewish star on top of a Christmas tree/etc.) or should they be kept separate?
December Holidays Conversation Starters for Parents
- What do you remember most about the winter holiday(s) you celebrated growing up? What was the most meaningful, memorable, and/or fun part of the holiday(s) for you? Did you see the holidays as religious, spiritual, cultural, or something else?
- What do you hope to replicate of your experience now for your own family?
- What is the most meaningful or fun thing about celebrating the winter holiday(s) that your partner grew up celebrating? How do you feel about your child(ren) growing up celebrating your partner’s holiday(s)?
- Is it challenging for you to celebrate the winter holiday(s) that your partner grew up celebrating? How so? Is there a difference between you celebrating with your family in your home versus celebrating at your partner’s parents’ or other relatives’ homes? If you can’t be with your partner’s parents or other relatives this year because of the coronavirus, are you willing to have certain celebrations in your home this year (e.g., Christmas dinner) that you weren’t willing to have in your home previously?
- Above, Jodi Bromberg reflects on how she won’t be celebrating with her family as usual this year. Will your holiday celebration(s) be different this year because of the pandemic, and if so, how? How do you feel about this? Will you miss anything from past years, and if so, what? What will be the biggest challenge for you?
- For Jewish and Christian interfaith couples: If having a Christmas tree in your home, how do you feel about it? Was your answer different before you had kids? Why or why not? What does a Christmas tree represent to you (e.g., a religious symbol, a fun memory from childhood with no religious significance, etc.) and why?
- What about Santa Claus? How do you feel about exposing your children to Santa? Do you feel comfortable having your child(ren) sit on Santa’s lap in past or future years (not this season with coronavirus, of course)? What do you think about having Santa “come to your house” to bring Christmas gifts?
- Do you think that Hanukah and Christmas can be celebrated together (“Chrismukkah”/a Jewish star on top of a Christmas tree/etc.) or should they be kept totally separate?
- Are you comfortable with grandparents or other relatives sending your child(ren) Christmas gifts or gifts for other holidays that you may not celebrate in your home? If not, how do you express this to them?
- In general, how do you express your feelings about the holidays to family members who may have different opinions? How might you communicate your choices to your child(ren) now or when they are older?