Having the opportunity to be stationed back home in South Carolina where my husband and I both grew up has been such a blessing. Our extended families live close enough to visit for a day trip if we’d like, and we don’t have to dedicate the entire holiday season to spending time at their houses. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I love spending time with them over the holidays, but there is something to be said about enjoying Christmas morning at your own home with your spouse and kids opening presents and sitting around the Christmas tree. THAT is a tradition we haven’t seen in quite some time as we were stationed across the United States.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas soon approaching my husband and I have been discussing how we are going to spend the holidays. You would think after almost 10 years of marriage determining which side of the family we’re going to visit with would be easy, but the truth is … it isn’t. For us, it’s always been a difficult decision.
We have four sets of extended family who live close to one another. That’s a lot of folks to visit in a short period of time, and honestly, not manageable. Talk about having to make some tough choices and feeling like no matter what you are letting someone down.
I remember discussing in our premarital counseling the importance of acknowledging each other’s traditions and deciding once married what traditions we would keep and which we would toss. Well, that’s easier said than done because traditions are passed down, so even if you chose to ditch them, your parents didn’t and often times there’s an expectation for you to continue them.
Creating Holiday Plans that Work for YOU
As if all this isn’t enough, our family dynamics have changed which has also affected the way we want to spend our holidays. (Hello kids and moving across the United States.) As a result, my husband and I still revisit our plans and have made adjustments over the years as it’s been a trial and error experience.
As newlyweds we tried to please everyone by going to each of our host family member’s home (as in 4 families in one day). We achieved 3 out of 4, but were exhausted, ate very little, missed the football game and by the time we arrived the faces we really wanted to see were gone.
Then we tried alternating sides each year for a holiday (i.e. if we spent Thanksgiving with my family we would spend Christmas with my in-laws). This was also unsuccessful.
Finally we came to the conclusion that we can’t please everyone and we honestly had to decide what would work best for our family dynamic — both extended and immediate — and pray that our parent’s respect and understand our decision.
Other Factors to Consider
This year adds yet another new factor to consider. Before, our time was limited since we were visiting from out of town. As a result, we decided to spend time with just our maternal sides of the family. However now that we are back home we have more time to visit extended family, and we are excited to add our paternal side back into the mix.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that the plans you make and how you spend the holidays creates a legacy for your children. Some of our traditions were inherited and some we have incorporated. How will your children remember their Thanksgiving and Christmas experience? What will make the time special for them, for you and for your family as a whole?
As I have grown older and matured in life, one thing I’ve recognized is the importance and deep appreciation for family that didn’t always exist.
Making the Final Decision
Making a choice is not always easy. I recommend putting forth more energy in determining what will work best for you and your spouse to help keep peace in your marriage, and less in trying to please everyone else. Remember the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas is about giving thanks and celebrating the life of Jesus Christ — if you hold onto this, your decision will be with purpose.
Remain open and honest, and if something isn’t working for you communicate with your partner and don’t be afraid to make a change. Remember you’re not the first couple to have to make tough choices — your parents and extended family have walked in your same shoes once they got married and started a family of their own. And overall, your love and relationships with family should be built upon every day of the year, not just weighted on how you choose to spend the holidays.