This Christmas will be my first Christmas as a married person. Myself and my husband have still not decided where we will spend it but we are getting pressure from both families as to where we should be spending Christmas day.
For some families, who is seated at their Christmas table on Christmas day is of utmost importance, for others they are happy to go with the flow. In nearly every marriage you will find, whatever your respective family’s attitudes to certain things, they will be different.
For many couples the Christmas Day dilemma is one of the first litmus tests you might face where you have to dig your heels in. You both come from different families, but now you and your husband are a new family. You have to start your own traditions, you need to set that precedent and make it clear from the start of your marriage that your spouse comes first.
So the first thing to do is sit down with your husband and talk about what you actually want: do you want to alternate each year with family or do you want to do your own thing? Do you want to do Christmas Day in one house and St Stephen’s day in another? This is your decision to make as a couple, it’s all part of the importance of ‘leaving and cleaving’ you have left your family and now this is your family. Once you have made your decision you need to communicate it to your respective families in a loving way. Be prepared, you might be met with some protests like “but darling, we have been doing X tradition for the last 30 years”.
Sometimes parents can try to emotionally blackmail us without even realising that they are doing it. Be gracious and thankful for the many years of happy memories and traditions, but now is the time for you to make new ones.
Of course as you discuss this with your husband you might find that you have a different expectation of what should happen at Christmas. This is where the all-important ‘C’ word comes in: compromise. Try to meet in the middle and come to a place where you are not just happy but excited about your plans for your first Christmas together. Perhaps he wants to follow the tradition of having Christmas in the wife’s family house first but is conflicted about not being in his family’s house for the first time in his life. The reality is, it is a big change, being married now means you have to be selfless. Avoid the temptation of comparing how things were done when you were growing up in an effort to ‘prove’ your family’s Christmas was better.
Sure you might have exchanged presents in a different way or ate dinner at a different time, so decide what traditions you want to keep for yourselves and what ones you want to start anew.
Once you make a decision you have to stand firm, you might have to go as far to explain to your parents that you are a new family now, and this is just one of many new traditions and decisions you will make together and you hope they understand and respect that. In a way this sets a precedent for so many things to come so it is important to communicate, compromise and most of all enjoy Christmas together.