I want to take a few minutes to talk with those who are struggling over what to do about the upcoming holiday season. Many people have been led to observe the Biblical feast days. Some of these believers may be in a marriage where their spouse does not agree. This can lead to conflict because of the pressure to follow holiday traditions which one spouse believes are no longer appropriate while the other believes these are not only appropriate but also testify of Yeshua. These traditions may include others such as family, friends, or the couple’s former church group, too.
When the topic of attending comes up, a Torah observant person may feel pushed to participate in things like: making handmade Christmas cards; decorating houses or churches; gifts or cookies made for prisoners, soldiers, the local shelter, retirement home, or hospital; cookie exchanges; caroling; dinners, parties, and gatherings; gift exchanges. All these are things a Torah observant person may find objectionable.
What can couples do?
Here are some ideas:
1) How about having a one-for-one exchange?
For every event the non-Christmas observing spouse agrees to go to, the Christmas-observing spouse would need to do something for them in exchange. The non-Christmas activity should NOT be something in the distant future, such as “I will go to that dinner party, if you agree to celebrate Passover with me.” Spring feasts are too distant and may lead to future conflict if the non-Torah spouse becomes unwilling to fulfill their end of the bargain. OR, if for some reason their job or other circumstance prevents them from being able to fulfill their side of the deal.
Instead, an exchange of item-for-item at this time of year: For example, If you go to the church cookie party, you could bring Hanukkah cookies to the event. If it is a cookie decorating party, bring snowflake cookies or Hanukkah cookies to decorate. You could discuss with the other decorators how Yeshua was in the Temple court on Chanukah DECLARING himself THE Living Water from which ALL who are thirsty come and drink. This could even lead in to how ALL biblical Feast Days pertain to Him.
What about starting a new tradition with those same friends? If you go to the event, how about creating a “Snowman Supper” after January first? Waiting until after the first, you are out of the typical holiday season, removing a lot of the pressure for gift giving, and the Christmas table-talk. You could serve homemade breads, soups, and other warm, wintery foods. Plus decorate the table with snowmen and snowballs, serve snowflake-shaped Pizelles for dessert sprinkled with “snow” (powdered sugar!), or an adorable snowman cake.
Do you find yourself agreeing to go to the fancy company dinner? In exchange your spouse could sit one evening with you to make Hanukkah cards at home which you deliver to a local Jewish home? Or hospital for Jewish patients? If you plan ahead to make plenty of Hanukkah cards, you could send some of these to the event where church members make Christmas cards for the prisoners & soldiers – not everyone in prison or the military is Christian. You also might enjoy sitting with the group making cards, and make Hanukkah cards right there along with them! It would open doors to discussing the history of Hanukkah – the story of the restoration and rededication of the Temple.
If the church or group balk at the idea of accepting your hand-made Hanukkah cards, saying they only want Christmas cards because they are trying to teach about Yeshua, I have a helpful hint for that, too. Your reply could easily and kindly be, “I thought maybe this would help you get the foot in the door. What a blessed way to impress upon the Torah observant people that you respect how much they love the Old Testament. Then we can go back and teach them about Christ as time goes on! I LOVE to share new ways to get Christ’s foot in the door!” What can they say to that! You are helping in the evangelistic effort that may end up helping spread His Word!
2) I would suggest that if you decide to go to any party at all, an adult dinner party is the best option to choose for your attendance. Why? Because it is ADULTS. The likelihood of there being things such as Santa are slimmer than if children are attending.
Also, you can steer the conversation toward common topics: business, the world (although politics ought to be avoided because you are trying to avoid conflict!), books you have read, movies, or your latest accomplishments. There are so many subjects which can be shared that steer away from the holiday – so much flexibility!
3) As the month goes on, continue to choose from your spouse’s Christmas list of events those LEAST tense or stressful (AKA offensive) to you and your beliefs.
While attending, maybe openly and kindly discuss Hanukkah and the other feasts you have celebrated, using ideas we mention above. Remember to only do this IF you can without causing conflict. The people your spouse works with or knows in church may not understand exactly why you are so "different." Please, steer away from any condemnation of Christmas at this time. From experience, I can attest to the fact that this never ends well!!! People are very attached to holiday traditions at this time and this is NOT the best time to address someone with how everything they are doing is “wrong” or “sin.”
4) I understand how difficult it is to push aside SOME of the traditions this time of year because they are so obvious. Like going to that dinner party – you may find you have to sit and stare at all the decor around you. The restaurant or venue will be decked to the hilt with all the trappings of the season. Trees, lights, mistletoe, ornaments, greenery, and more – this can be very difficult to ignore. Yet, let’s look at it this way: if you are traveling, get delayed on the road and need to eat food – won’t you need to stop SOMEWHERE to eat? Yes. For that, won’t you need to ignore all those things that surround you and accomplish the task? Look at the dinner party as a similar thing.
I believe the most difficult part may be the constant Christmas music – it will be playing all night & will NOT be all Christmas hymns. You will be hearing about sleigh bells ringing, Santa Claus, Snowmen, snowfall, chestnuts, and such. These songs are a big difficulty for me, especially while eating. So many preach “Jesus is the reason for the season!” While at the same time singing about grandma getting run over by a reindeer!
How can you tune this out? If you have ever had a young child take lessons to play an instrument, you are probably already very good at TUNING IT OUT! Think of that Christmas music from the perspective of your young child’s practice time that very first day!
Tuning it out will help you relax a bit so that you don’t end up having the music make a knot in your tummy resulting in not enjoying dinner at all.
For number 5, I want you to consider doing this:
5) Ask yourself: What was the defining thing for you “quitting Christmas?” Does your spouse TRULY understand that part of your heart? I ask this because I have learned that I don't always say things the best way for Jim to hear them. I think I have expressed it well, yet we have a glitch. I may need to rephrase things. You may believe you explained it so that they understand, but this may be a time to ask them why THEY think you gave it up. They may think that you simply “hate” all the “nonsense” that goes along with it: Santa, materialism, and lack of focus on the Saviour.
Give them a chance to explain their understanding of your feelings, and then gently discuss any reasons that weren’t clear for your not celebrating.
It may take time to work out a plan together, and a lot of patience on both parts. You also may not be comfortable with temporarily finding a middle ground, but for now, it may be the best option for your family and your marriage. Please remember to do all of this in prayer as well as prayers together. Ask Yahweh’s wisdom and discernment, as well as His blessing upon all your efforts.
The key for us as believers is: PLEASE do not allow a strong belief and desire to follow Yahweh bring up in your heart a venomous bite that causes lashing out or angrily expressing your new beliefs. Instead try, with all gentleness of heart, to explain you are trying to avoid what the Bible describes as sin. Yeshua did not want us to sin – how many times in scripture did he heal people and then command, “Now go and sin no more!” Try to explain this to your spouse with all the love of Yeshua overflowing from your heart.
I will say, of all the battles we fight against Egypt, I think CHRISTMAS is one of the toughest - it pulls on SO MANY of our hearts and our memories, especially childhood memories. . . A dear friend recently said to me, “That is EXACTLY the reason that everything about this holiday bothers me so deeply…It is a HUGE PULL ON MY SOUL to return to Egypt.” JUST LIKE Egypt pulled on the hearts of the Hebrews in the Exodus.
My prayer is that you can try standing your ground, yet also try to enjoy your spouse’s love and company. May you be able to impress upon them the depth of your commitment to both Yahweh and your marriage.
Blessings and Shalom.
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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