Features Faith Special Issue

One house, two holidays

In the U.S., 39 percent of newlyweds between 2010 and 2014 married outside of their faith, according to the Pew Research Center. With this change, some students in mixed-faith families celebrate multiple holidays. Photo illustration by Jackie Cohen, Photo Editor

Growing up in a multifaith household can mean more than just receiving extra presents on holidays. For some students, being in a family with varying views on spirituality makes defining their own ideology difficult, but it can also provide unique insight.

Sophomore integrated educational studies major Jiva Jimmons said that finding a balance between her father’s Catholic and her mother’s Hindu beliefs grows more difficult as she gets older.

“When I was younger, I was just like, ‘I’m doing things, going to havans, celebrating Christmas,’ but now that I’m older, I feel like I have to pick a side. I still do both (Hinduism and Catholicism), but it doesn’t always feel right,” Jimmons said.

Thirty-nine percent of people who got married between 2010 and 2014 married outside of their faith, compared to 25 percent between 1970 and 1979, according to the Pew Research Center. As it becomes more common, some Chapman students said they celebrate more than one religious holiday.

For Jimmons, the best way to reconcile her family’s differing beliefs was to create her own religion by selecting pieces from each that resonated with her. She said she connects more with Hinduism because of its emphasis on karma and reincarnation, but “subconsciously” shifts her beliefs, depending on which family members she is around.

“I don’t know if it’s guilt. I don’t know what it is, but I feel bad sometimes, because some people do believe completely in one side or the other. By only believing in the parts I like, I feel like I’m discrediting their beliefs,” Jimmons said.

Other students have no problem combining their family’s religions.

Though it took sophomore public relations and advertising major Hadley Childress a while to come to terms with her Jewish and Christian beliefs, she now confidently identifies as both.

“(Growing up), everyone around me was very Christian, and I was the only Jewish kid. In my family, we had our own values and morals. I could choose my own spirituality as I got older, which was different than everyone around me,” Childress said.

Childress, whose mother is Jewish and father is Christian, said her parents celebrate both religion’s holidays.

“My mom loves Christmas because she grew up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood. She used to go to church because nobody else in her town was going to temple, and what else are you going to do on a Sunday in a small town in Massachusetts?” Childress said. “We make a point to celebrate both (Jewish and Christian) holidays, though, because it’s important for my mom to instill in us the values she learned from her traditions.”

Unlike Childress, Jimmons doesn’t always have an easy time accepting all aspects of her family’s religion.

“For Thanksgiving, we do a prayer, but I just stand there because I don’t really have an attachment to it. Like, ‘amen,’ whatever,” Jimmons said.

Although Jimmons and her father sometimes squabble over her less-than-enthusiastic embrace of Catholicism, she said her mother’s only concern is that she chooses to eat meat, unlike her other Hindu family members.

“I find it hard to not eat chicken in this day and world. I gotta feed myself. My mom’s friends went to India and talked to their guru because they ate McDonald’s fries not knowing McDonald’s uses beef products to cook them. But I’m like, ‘(expletive) that.’ I eat McDonald’s all the time, how many times do I have to go to India?” Jimmons said.

Some students have both parents and siblings who hold varying beliefs. Sophomore integrated educational studies major Nora Vartanian’s family includes a variety of religious beliefs, but she said they have no problem accepting each other’s views.

“I really appreciate that we can have conversations about religion, and that we are supportive of each other. We have our disagreements, but at the end of the day, we respect each other,” Vartanian said.

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