Marriage is such a gift with so many great times together; however, now that two families are joined into one, it can be a challenge to balance holidays with family and friends. Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, may also be the most difficult time to balance each year. Why is that?
Because Christmas is often a sentimental time we remember from our childhood, oftentimes, we want to maintain our childhood traditions throughout our adulthoods as long as possible. One Christmas tradition many people have is seeing their family on Christmas. So, if you and your (future) spouse were born and raised in the same town, this balancing act might be much less tricky to manage; however, if you and your sweetie have families in different states (or countries!), it is not likely that you will be able to spend every Christmas with both of them. And, if you do, the other side of your family may become resentful. So, what is fair?
There are several ways to work through this, but each family has to do what works best for them. (Additionally, in this post, we focus on Christmas, but your vacation planning may really be for any holiday!) Here are a few ideas:
- One method is to switch between Thanksgiving and Christmas. One family is seen for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas and then the next year it switches.
- Some couples spend time with one family before and/or during Christmas and the other family during and/or after Christmas.
- Other couples travel to one family for Christmas on odd numbered years and the other family on even numbered years.
- In some cases, some couples stay home and let their families come to them. This is especially popular when there are grandchildren involved and the grandparents can travel with more ease than the young family.
On paper, all of these ideas have merit; yet, in reality, this planning process may bring out a lot of emotion for one or both parties involved. So, why post this now instead of closer to Christmas? Because late August/early September is when many people start making plans for Christmas vacation that year.
Other considerations are the personality types and histories of you and your beloved. Some people are minimally concerned about missing a Christmas with their family of origin; whereas, for other people it may be unbearable to think of not seeing their families on Christmas. In those cases, where one spouse cannot imagine missing a Christmas with his/her family, I would recommend finding creative ways to make it work.
If it is possible for both families to come where the couple lives, it can create an opportunity for both families to get to know each other better – also while allowing Christmas to be shared by all. This can be a great option in that the families can build unity together.
If there is a big family gathering in one person’s hometown, perhaps the other family could join in on the celebration. If mixing family time is not an option for various reasons, it may be best to try to split the holiday as best as you can. I’ve heard of families coming for a few days and then spending half of Christmas Day with their married children/siblings and the other family coming for the second half of Christmas day and staying for a few days after Christmas.
There are a number of ways to logistically balance it, but the important thing is that you really listen to your spouse and work out the wishes of both parties as best as possible. Since you and your spouse are (or will be) a new family, it will be important that the plans include the interests of both people. If compromise isn’t very probable, it may be that one person acquiesces and allows their significant other to go where he/she wants to go the first year as a gift to him/her.
Small changes deviating from traditions with which you have grown up are inevitable when you get married because you are sharing your life with someone who has completely different traditions. New traditions should be embraced, while preserving important childhood traditions of your own. For some, this may mean accepting a day as a holiday (with the festivities and trimmings), where you previously did not (e.g., New Year’s Day, Groundhog Day, Arbor Day, etc.) and don’t think it’s any big deal – but, it can be a big deal to your honey. If it’s no big deal to you, cherish his/her traditions and join in.
It is also important, during this planning process, that neither of you allow your families of origin to manipulate you. Some years things may not be as they wish them to be – but, if there is long-term compromise (e.g., alternating years), then patience on their part is required.
Additionally, there may be times when Skype (video conferencing) on Christmas Day can be done! Though not nearly as enjoyable as being within each other’s presence; it is a next best, much cheaper, alternative. Whether work doesn’t allow travel, finances are low, or maybe your spouse’s family is finally able to come for the first time in years – there may be seasons that are spent differently than expected. Find ways to make those seasons just as special as they would be otherwise.
A few years ago, Eric and I travelled to Idaho to visit his family for Christmas. It was the first Christmas I had ever spent away from my parents… and, being the traditionalist I am, I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it. As it turns out, we had an amazing time and I choked up when it was time to leave. Eric, knowing me and how close I am to my family, arranged for us to fly into an airport that was just a few hours away from my hometown, and we spent a few days with them, including New Years Day. It was a change in my “normal,” but it turned out to be one of the best Christmas seasons I’ve ever had. If you and your spouse will put each other’s needs and desires above your own (Philippians 2:3-4), balancing Christmas holidays does not have to be an annual conflict. Put each other first, and you will be amazed at how many compromises can be made. You may even stumble upon some new, exciting traditions along the way.
What holiday traditions do you look forward to each year?