Holiday Survival Guide: Sharing Holidays As A New Family

Holidays tend to bring out the best…and worst in people. They are more stressful during the first year of marriage, when multiple families are learning how to share their traditions, beliefs, and holiday cheer. One celebration seems to morph into another, until we hit New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Here are four steps that will help any new married couple, not only survive the holiday season, but enjoy it as well.

Step one: talk about your holiday plans, in advance, with your spouse. Agree on where you will go and when, and how you will handle gift giving. Now that you share a bank account, it is important to make sure you are in agreement on your gifting budget. Remember this: when you were single, you celebrated with only one family, yours. Now you are a part of two families with very different identities and holiday styles; the best way to make this great is to make a plan – and stick to it – together.

Just because you are used to celebrating the holidays one way, doesn’t mean there isn’t room to bring some new traditions into your life. Step two: talk about the holiday traditions you love with your spouse. Is there something that makes the holiday extra special for you? Tell your spouse. That is what he/she is there for! Make sure to ask about his/her favorite traditions and decide together how you will integrate them into your new family life.

Just because you are married does not mean you can’t bring the way you are used to celebrating holidays into your home. Here’s a perfect example. A client of mine married someone not that long ago. Her grandmother made brisket one way and that was the “taste and smell of a holiday” for her. His mother makes it a completely different way. Both are excellent and should be integrated into their lifestyle; but maybe one version is for when company comes over, a minor holiday, or for a special snow day; while her version is for major holidays. This way, both traditions are a part of the new home, but integrated differently so everyone wins (not that there is a brisket competition).

Once a couple has talked through their holiday feelings, it is much easier to agree on a plan and follow it through. Remember, the first year of marriage is difficult. Two lives are coming together and that means two sets of values, two sets of ideas, and two types of brisket! John Lennon once said, “when we are in love, we open up to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.” As we grow together, all that we know, and all that we learn, becomes a part of our excitement and our acceptance.

Acceptance leads to the creation of our own new traditions. This is the fourth and final step. Making your own traditions helps cement your new marriage. It creates something that is yours alone, (although you can certainly share it), and brings two people even closer. Perhaps that means eating the same meal, at the same table, in the same restaurant as you did on your first date. Maybe it means cooking the first meal you cooked together, or travelling to the first place you went to together. Regardless of what your new traditions are, they will become sentimental over time. They will endear you more toward each other, and the holidays, and create magical memories that last a lifetime.

Feel free to include family and friends in your holiday traditions. This can bring you back to the feelings you had at your wedding party. This is celebrating yet again, how special being with the people that matter most to you is. Want to keep this private? I have one client who watches their wedding video every Christmas Day, so that they can remember how they felt on their wedding day. The point is, that regardless of how you, as a couple, decide to celebrate the holidays, they need to be special for both of you.

Since I have been a fairy godmother for many brides and grooms, and brought many families together, I can tell you that, from my experience, the couples that create their own special memories are the ones that tend to be the most excited about the holiday season each year. In the spirit of that excitement, my wish for you, and everyone around me, is a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season filled with special traditions from the past, present, and those which will become elements of your future.