One of the biggest concerns I had as a newlywed was the Holiday season. I knew that my husband had grown up with different traditions than I had. We would now have to juggle our different families and our visits. I expected that meshing holiday traditions wouldn’t be easy.
I had always been able to go to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving and know that I would have the homemade stuffing that had been passed down for no less than 4 generations. I knew that Christmas morning would mean Danish Pastries and English Toffee. I knew that most of us would fall asleep without even trying to stay up for the New Year. I did not know what my husband’s family would do for any of the holidays. I didn’t know what to expect. And it worried me.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who has felt this way. It’s new and scary and there are so many ways to further complicate matters. Children, distance between families, strong attachments to traditions, different beliefs or religions – all of these things can make meshing holiday traditions even harder. Below I’ll list a few ways we worked through this process to create our own Holidays and hopefully help some of you along the way.
Discuss the Traditions You Enjoy
It’s pretty hard to start meshing holiday traditions until you know what traditions you would like to carry on. For instance, I loved having that family recipe stuffing every Thanksgiving but I was totally unwilling to make it. Especially because I really like some good old Stove Top. My husband and his family all love and use Stove Top. I decided it was something I could give up. Danish pastries for Christmas morning however, HAD to stay. They ate different things for their Christmas breakfast so my husband doesn’t mind my taking over that aspect. (Probably because they are super ridiculously delicious!)
Defining the traditions that matter to you and having your spouse do the same makes meshing holiday traditions much easier. And if you hit an impasse, where you each really care about different traditions from your childhood, go on to the next suggestion.
Maybe you take turns doing things your way one year and your spouse’s the next or maybe you each get to pick activities and foods that are important to you each year and mash them together. (You could end up with some really interesting meals!) Perhaps you alternate holidays to be “in charge” of or to spend at each other’s family’s.
Compromise is a necessary part of marriage and it is no less important when meshing holiday traditions. It was hard for me the first time I didn’t go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was hard for me to not have the same food and same “feel” that I had always had. But it was good to get to see my new husband in his element with his family and their traditions. It was good to get to try new things and grow from new experiences. It also helped me have a little empathy for what it was like for my husband to go through my family traditions. You may feel a little lost at first but it will only benefit you if you try to have a good attitude.
Make New Traditions
This is my favorite suggestion because it’s what really takes the holidays from feeling like “your way” and “my way” to feeling like “our way.” This is where you start taking the best parts of everyone’s traditions and combining them with the things you want to do but never really have. We are always adding to this. We often drop things after trying them and realizing that we don’t actually enjoy it. For us, traditions usually have to be something fun and worthwhile but mostly simple to survive. Other people like more extravagant and complex traditions. Be you and decide to let things go if they don’t fit your lifestyle.
For instance, we spatchcocked a turkey a few years ago and decided that it was so wonderfully delicious (and not too hard) that we would make that our Thanksgiving turkey every year. Read all about it here. Had we tried it and it failed, definitely wouldn’t have been added to the list. It’s important to not cling so tightly to the way you’ve always done it that you miss out on chances to try something new and wonderful.
Heck, you could make a “tradition” out of trying new things every year!
Finally, chill. Seriously. Stop being so serious. Holidays are supposed to be fun. They are supposed to be filled with joy and laughter and relaxation. If you are stressed or anxious or feeling down and left out because things aren’t exactly the way you want them or think they should be, you will never be able to enjoy the holidays.
You will miss out because of your selfishness.
Don’t miss out.
Relax your standards if you must. I promise it’s not worth flipping out over the stockings being hung Christmas Eve vs December 1st. It’s not worth fighting over whether to serve turkey or ham or beef or lamb. (Hey nice rhyme there!) Relax and enjoy however things turn out. Enjoy time spent with family or friends or alone. Enjoy whatever the Holidays bring your way.
But most importantly, focus on the reasons behind the celebrations. Gratitude and Jesus Christ and fresh starts. Love and joy and giving and human kindness. Focus on those things and it will make meshing holiday traditions with your spouse easy, because you will feel much more Christlike toward them.
What other suggestions do you have? What are things you have tried to make meshing holiday traditions easier in your relationship? Comment below with your ideas!