Let us seek to be intentional about doing for others, even if it means changing our normal plans or creating new ones to make our spouse or spouse's family feel valuable. Finding ways to celebrate His birth while creating memories is a win-win for all involved.
Being a newlywed comes with much excitement. Suddenly, the two worlds of each person become merged. From deciding who’s responsible for which chores to deciding which church to attend or when they will start to have children, decisions are now made together. This includes navigating the holiday season. I learned early on in my marriage that how the holidays are handled can become a source of contempt, especially when the husband and wife’s families do not live within reasonable proximity of one another. There are multiple relatives to visit, or there are pre-made traditions set by each family that contradict one another. I cannot count how many times in my marriage of fifteen years there has been a conflict over which family to visit or which traditions should be included within our home. Yet, through intentional working together, newlyweds can work together to blend and create new traditions that will last a lifetime.
With this in mind, here are four tips for navigating Christmas as a newlywed couple:
1. Share from the heart.
The first key to blending Christmas traditions is to openly share what was significant to you as a child. Perhaps, it was opening a gift on Christmas Eve or attending a candlelight church service, or baking cookies. Those special memories don’t have to be lost when we say, “I do.” Instead, we give our spouse a peek into what our world looked like growing up and seek to instill those same fun traditions. Recently, I had the opportunity to see this while visiting a couple that had only been married a year.
In their living room was a 5-foot tree that was full of unique trinkets and memories. Compared to the rest of the décor of the home, the tree appeared rather out of place. Yet, both the husband and wife were excited to share that this tree was the tree the husband had used for Christmas since he was five years old! This was no regular tree but an opportunity to pass on memories to even their future children! What I loved about this moment is that the wife didn’t look at the tree with disdain or irritation for not getting to choose her own tree for her new family. Instead, she embraced his culture and what made him feel valued. I believe that her choice to do so honored his family tradition and showed him that she cared in a tangible way! In her own way she said, “If it matters to you, it matters to me.” This is real love.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
2. Create a holiday rotation amongst each family.
One source of contention for newlyweds is deciding which family (the bride or groom’s) to celebrate with during the holiday season. In an ideal world, the timing and location would work out nicely for each person to enjoy all multiple family outings. However, this is not always practical. We can see this very clearly with military families. Oftentimes, for a military family to celebrate Christmas with their family entails at least a day of travel, needing to take off from work, and working out various details in advance. In these times, unless the bride and groom are from the same area seeing one person’s family will automatically not allow them to see another. For instance, in my own family, my parents and my husband’s family live over sixteen hours away from one another.
One way to navigate this is to create a rotation amongst the families. One can alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas amongst the different families each year. For example, some couples spend every even year with the bride’s family for Christmas and every odd year with the husband's. In this way, no one can be caught off guard or feel slighted when they aren’t visited for the holidays. If this method is chosen, however, we must be flexible enough to switch the rotation in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Overall, if our spouse has been forced to go years without spending the holiday with their family, it is only fair that we afford them the opportunity. This gives us the opportunity to be unselfish and allow them this special moment, even if it means sacrificing our personal desires. Remember, one spouse’s family is not more important than the other.
Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:4
3. Create new memories.
One way to blend traditions is to have your own Christmas celebration. This can be in addition to whatever you have planned with others. My husband and I have done this on Christmases Eve by finding new recipes and calling our families to learn how to make family classics. This has created very special moments and given us something to look forward to doing together every holiday. This private celebration can even include going to your favorite restaurant, having a yearly vacation, or doing whatever you feel represents your new family the best. The key is creating new memories that you and your spouse can remember. Be creative and find things that you both enjoy that will remind you of Christ and your love for one another. No matter what you choose to do, remember these can evolve over time and be something passed on to your children as well.
4. Prioritize your spouse.
No matter what happens for Christmas, prioritize your spouse and their needs. Unfortunately, when in-laws are involved it can feel like a tug of war to know how to celebrate. However, at the early stages of marriage, it's very important to set the standard of your spouse being first place. Yes, having a great time with others is valuable but not at the expense of having discord within your home. You can make a choice to put your spouse first by listening to what matters to them, not looking at their traditions with disdain, and recognizing that your most important relationship is the one held with your spouse. Failing to take your spouse into consideration during the holidays will lead to bitterness and set the tone for holidays to come.
Remember, it's okay to say “no” to others for the sake of peace and the health of your relationship. Those who truly love you and are mature will come to understand that your marriage is your priority. This is a great opportunity to practice doing what God commands in Genesis to become one with your spouse (Genesis 2:24). I have found that couples that do not set firm boundaries for in-laws have more issues in the long run. Be sure to speak with your spouse about what holiday plans will work for each year and what will not. Although this may cause frustration for others in your family circle, it will be the best for your home in the long run.
No matter what, let’s remember that the holiday season is not supposed to be all about us and our needs. Instead, the holiday season is a time for us to remember what Jesus has done for us. Let us seek to be intentional about doing for others, even if it means changing our normal plans or creating new ones to make our spouse or spouse's family feel valuable. Finding ways to celebrate His birth while creating memories is a win-win for all involved.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Prostock-Studio
Victoria Riollano is an author, blogger, and speaker. As a mother of six, military spouse, Psychology professor and minister’s wife, Victoria has learned the art of balancing family and accomplishing God’s ultimate purpose for her life. Recently, Victoria released her book, The Victory Walk: A 21 Day Devotional on Living A Victorious Life. Her ultimate desire is to empower women to live a life of victory, hope, and love. She believes that with Christ we can live a life that is ALWAYS winning. You can learn more about her ministry at victoryspeaks.org.