When you live with people outside of your family, it’s highly likely that they’re going to have different traditions. Even if you’re the same religion, you’re bound to have some differences about decorations and celebrations. For example, my cousins and I, who are all of the same faith, have drastically different ways of acknowledging holidays! Before moving in, it’s smart to make sure that different religions or observances levels won’t cause conflict in an apartment. Does one roommate have specific dietary restrictions? If so, would she want separate dishes or refrigerator space? And would you be okay with a bacon-free kitchen?
But sometimes these differences don’t arise until certain times of the year, such as the Chanukah/Christmas/Diwaali/Kwaanza/Winter solstice season. Are your roommates okay with a Christmas tree and a menorah? How about a Nativity scene on the hall table or a Wiccan altar in the corner? How extravagant can decorations be without feeling like you’re overtly pushing your religion or traditions down your roommate’s throat? If you start feeling that a line has been crossed, don’t let it sour your and everyone else’s holiday spirit but talk it over with your roommates. Usually, the best solution is to keep the overtly religious decorations in your own room and have a more general holiday look in the common areas.
I live in an interfaith apartment, meaning that in my house we have roommates who celebrate Christmas and roommates who celebrate Chanukah. Last year, we lit the menorah each of the eight nights, and while, of course, the prayers were not mandatory for our non-Jewish roommates, it was nice to have a festive spirit in the house. We used the celebrations as a reason to skip out on homework and bond with Chanukah treats like potato pancakes and chocolate. We hosted both a Chanukah latke party and a Christmas party complete with candy canes, holiday lights, and red-and-green everything, items that certainly were not in my house growing up.
Last year marked my first holiday season with non-Jewish roommates, and I really enjoyed learning about my roommates’ different holiday traditions. We decorated to remind each one of home and overall enjoyed the seasonal spirit twice as much than with just one holiday. There was nothing overtly religious about tiny LED lights nor even a festive Chanukah candelabra, and the tolerance and acceptance we had for each other’s beliefs and religions made us closer.