married life // splitting the holidays

Image from Design Mom.

I am loving this Married Life column more and more, because you guys are just so smart. It’s wonderful to have such awesome readers as a sounding board for some of these relationship issues that sometimes people just don’t talk about! So let’s get into it some more.

How do you and your partner deal with the holidays? It gets tricky, doesn’t it? Especially if you both have families that want you to be there to celebrate with them. There are so many factors — do you live in the same town as both or either of your families (or are you across the country, like we have been)? Do the two families even live in the same state? Do your families have traditions that are important to you to carry on? Or maybe one or the other family doesn’t even really celebrate the holidays.

I suppose my opinion is that when two people get married, the holidays are theirs to choose what to do with. So I guess the bottom line is that you and your spouse are on the same page with where to go and what to make a priority. For the last two Thanksgivings before this one, Mr. Lovely and I stayed in NYC, once celebrating with friends and once just by ourselves. And while we missed our families, I really enjoyed both of those holidays. This year we had Thanksgiving in September with his family in Denver, because everybody happened to be in town at the same time. For Christmas, my family has some pretty major traditions, so we usually end up there. We are kind of feeling things out as we go, and that’s the best we can do.

What I do know for sure is that it’s just plain painful when traditions change, especially for schmaltzy old sentimentals like me. But there’s no way around that. People grow up, get married, have babies, and need to start making their own traditions. I mean, how else does a tradition get started than to just start? But I think that’s why families get so tricky around the holidays — everyone just wants to hang on to the traditions that they know.

So what about you? Where do you head for the holidays, and how do you deal with two sets of family? Are you starting any new traditions? xoxo


10 comments

  1. Callie on said:

    Ooh this subject can be tricky! We’ve started doing combined Christmases with both families which has been great. My family is in Northern Michigan so my in-laws drive up and stay close by. I will say this makes planning much less stressful, but next year I think we might just stay home and start out own traditions.

  2. estelle on said:

    oh man. to so much of this.

    Yes: I suppose my opinion is that when two people get married, the holidays are theirs to choose what to do with.

    Yes: But I think that’s why families get so tricky around the holidays — everyone just wants to hang on to the traditions that they know.

    my husband and i have been, unfortunately, dealing with issues regarding this for the past three years (even before we were married) and… it’s very stressful. i, like you, hold very tight to my own traditions with my family but am totally willing to make new ones. not everyone is quite as flexible or understanding and it sometimes feels like a contest we can never win. and that doesn’t make the holidays fun. it makes it… too much of a pain. sigh.

    i guess the only way that can be dealt with this is honesty and understanding. unfortunately, the couple can’t be the only ones that make decisions with both of those qualities either.

    great post though. this comes up so much, and you are so level headed about it and i agree with you 100 percent.

    hope you have a great holiday! i read your blog every day but rarely comment. it always makes me smile!

  3. Lauren on said:

    I totes agree that once you’re married it’s up to you to make your own decisions and traditions. Fortunately, both sides of our family are local and in town. This can be good and bad, as it’s so convenient, you’re expected to show up to everything. However, with our own little one finally here, we’re focused on starting our own traditions, and our parents are way more willing to do combined events. Everyone wants to see little ones, and it’s so nice to only go to one place!

  4. Yelle on said:

    I struggle with this as well :( It’s a little easier 90% of the time because I was raised Christian and my fiance was raised Jewish so we typically don’t have to share those holidays. But Thanksgiving is always hard, it seems we are alternating years now. But it tears me up because I hate missing out on my family’s food!

  5. Such a good point about making your own traditions. And I know what you mean about searching to get the right balance.

    We’ve started bundling all our families together (mine, my husband’s parents, his sister’s family, her husband’s parents and sister). It’s not always easy (my parents live in Italy, and the rest of us in the UK) but we make it work. We’re lucky that our parents get on and want to be one happy family.

    That said, this year my husband and I will be on a plane for Australia… so I guess we’re not all that great at keeping traditions once we’ve made them ;)

    x Elena @ Randomly Happy

  6. Stacey on said:

    This Christmas is going to be difficult, I got engaged this year and not quite sure what to do. I only just moved out of home, so every Christmas it’s always been waking up at home with my mum and brother, but now I will be with my fiance. I still want to go to my family for lunch, and then I guess we will go to his for dinner. I kind of wish we could just spend the day together though.
    Hope you have a great Christmas!

  7. Elaine Costa on said:

    I have been married 42 years. I remember the first year of “trading off” holidays, it almost killed me to miss out on my own family’s traditional get-togethers. But, a nice thing happened–I came to really treasure his family and their traditions, too. If everyone just gives a little, for the good of the family, it can be done.

  8. It really is tricky! My husband and I are from two separate states — Tennessee and Louisiana — and we live in Texas, so we’ve split the holidays, going to one family for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas most years. So far, it’s worked out pretty well, but I can see it becoming more challenging as we get older and introduce children into the mix. The good thing is we can still drive to see our families, and that’s a nice thing.

  9. I think splitting holidays is honestly one of the trickiest things about being married. Both of our families live in our same state, so we’re kind of expected to be everywhere. It can make things stressful, and I imagine it will only get worse after we have our first baby next year. But, hubby and I have decided that once the baby is in the picture we’ll have the leverage to get everyone to come to our house! ;)

  10. Megan on said:

    At first my husband and I thought we’d just switch back and forth every year. But because we all our families live in the same city, what actually happened is that we wound up going to ALL the celebrations. 2 thanksgivings in one day. 2 Christmas eves, 2 Christmas Days. It was nuts.
    After that first year we sat down and really decided who’s family traditions really were most important for us. For example, Thanksgiving is a huge deal in my husbands family. 80+ people and it’s the only time that we ever see some of his relatives. Christmas day is a big deal in my family.
    So, now we always do Thanksgiving with his family. Always Christmas Eve with his family and always Christmas day with my family. Trading years just confused everyone, and we are much happier with a set assignment for each family.

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