When I first got married, I expected the holidays to be just like they were when I was at home, with some minor modifications, of course. Growing up, one of my mom’s greatest strengths is that she made wonderful holiday memories through consistent family traditions. I loved each one.
Fast forward a few years to married life. Each year I ended up feeling frustrated and a little sad because so many of these traditions just didn’t happen. It’s not that we didn’t try. They just didn’t fit well with my new life, our new schedule, and the personalities of different family members as they came along.
And of course, in my plans I had failed to remember that I was marrying someone from a totally different background with some ideas of his own about some traditions. Hanging stockings, for instance. I knew that OF COURSE you hang them on Christmas Eve. And for the children, you take a picture of them hanging their stocking in the same pose every year. OF COURSE. What? You don’t know that? Well, my new husband didn’t either. He knew that OF COURSE you hang them when you put up the tree so that you can enjoy them all month. It’s silly to have conflict about things like this, but I bet I am not the only one with a similar newlywed story.
My problem is that I naively had expectations about the holidays that were completely unrealistic. If I could give a bit of advice to newlyweds at Christmas, it would be this. Let go of all your expectations. Decorating, activities, food, gifts, all of it. Consider your new family a clean slate, a new, autonomous entity. Prepare for the holidays to be not just a little different than you are used to, but radically transformed. And above all, communicate with your husband. What family traditions and expectations does he have? Would he like to incorporate any of these into your new family? Are there any that he would like to let go? How much does he want to be involved in shopping, wrapping, cooking? Tell him the same things about you. Decide together how you will celebrate, just you and him.
Treasure memories and traditions. Make a photo album, write about them, enjoy the memories. Keep the traditions that work for you and your new little family, but don’t be a slave to them. Don’t let your happiness depend on them. Realize that you are a new and separate family, and the holidays at your house might look a lot like they did when you were at home, or they might look completely and totally different. If they change, embrace different. Understand that you are establishing your own home and your own traditions. Sometimes traditions are made intentionally, and sometimes they evolve. It’s OK if the family traditions of the past don’t work for you. Let those expectations go and you will be free to celebrate in the way that fits you and your husband the best. Enjoy Jesus. Enjoy each other. And however you decide to celebrate, enjoy the season!