Christmas at Home (Wait…whose home?)

This post is part of a series “Romance to Real Life” which focuses on some of the struggles Doug and I faced when we first got married. One of those rocky starts was deciding how we would celebrate the Christmas season.

I thought my parents were normal and that I had a normal upbringing until I got married, and then Doug informed me that as much as he loves them, my parents were not normal. What?

I don’t understand the way Doug and his family do certain things, so I guess that makes us even.

When we were engaged I read a book about marriage and an entire chapter of it was on holidays. It warned us that holidays could be tricky, but I thought we had it covered. After all, we had talked about it, and it sounded like we pretty much wanted to do the same things for Christmas.

Then we actually got married, and it was a wake-up call to learn that our ideas of Christmas were not the same at all. Honestly, I think I was holding on to my traditions a little too tightly and having too high expectations for Christmas Day.

Doug said Christmas decorations were tacky.

I wanted to have stockings.

He was used to having presents on Christmas Eve, and I wanted to do them on Christmas morning.

And so on.

It didn’t help that our first bare apartment didn’t reflect the season of joy and family togetherness: no tree and not even a good couch. We tried going back to our parents’ homes, like most new couples do — Thanksgiving with one side of the family and Christmas with the other, and then alternating the following year. That didn’t work so well after a while. Not only did we always have to travel, but one of us would always be a newcomer trying to navigate through someone else’s decades-old family traditions.

Eventually we realized we wanted to start having Christmas at home even though we didn’t own a house yet. We let our apartment become our home instead of treating it as a short-term place. It was more than that, really…we were starting our own family and forming our own traditions, not just trying to repeat what we had grown up doing.

One of the first things we do at the beginning of every Christmas season is ask, What are three things you want to do this year that will help you feel like it’s a good Christmas?” We try our best and the rest is optional. We don’t always give the same answers every year, but they’re pretty close.

We still go see family, one side every year at Thanksgiving and the other side on a day close to Christmas, but we’re putting down our own roots and keeping Christmas Eve at home.

That doesn’t mean everything is worked out now. We still get touchy about some things, and the news didn’t settle well with everyone, but the process of making traditions for our own family released us from the burden of stress and obligations, leaving us free to richly enjoy Christ’s birth and time together. And I’m not just saying that because it sounds good on a blog. It really did.

Doug eventually came around to the idea of having more Christmas decorations (he likes our tree), so it was a win for everyone.

What are some new traditions that you’ve started in your family?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Great post! And I love this sentence: “the process of making traditions for our own family released us from the burden of stress and obligations, leaving us free to richly enjoy Christ’s birth and time together”

    Our first Christmas my husband wanted colored lights that flashed on and off, I wanted white lights that didn’t flash – so we had white lights that flashed on and off!!! We also had the “when to open presents” discussion – now we open one on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas Day – and so I guess this is how new traditions are formed – 2 people compromising and finding new ways to blend and create traditions. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas.
    Jane´s last post…Day 9 of 12

  2. We decided from the very first that no matter what, Christmas morning would be spent at our own home – wherever that may be. My husband came into the marriage with very few good memories of Christmas and no traditions – so it was up to me to incorporate what my family had always done (stockings, gifts on Christmas morning, etc.) with new traditions for us. One of the things we have done for the 11 years we’ve been married is to open one gift a week. This year we’ve opened three gifts so far – one on each Saturday (the day Christmas falls on this year) of December. It spreads the gifts out and it gives us something to look forward to each week – and it’s 100% OUR tradition, which is fun. :-) Merry Christmas!
    Carrie´s last post…FourSmores Kits

  3. Oo. This one hits really close to home. My husband of 5 years and I just had a huge fight about where to spend Thanksgiving next year. We live very close to both our families. It’s such a blessing. The holidays for us mean blending their traditions, 4 birthdays and our anniversary, as well as starting our own traditions for our little boy.

    We’ve had low momemnts: my husband wrestling our live tree to the ground and tossing it outside, because he blamed it for making him sick.

    And high moments: spending my son’s first Christmas at home, together, quietly.

    I’m not sure we’ll ever stop having this discussion, but I’m learning to enjoy it more. =)

  4. If you think it’s difficult to blend traditions at the best of times, try doing that when your family lives on one side of the Atlantic and his on the other. I married a Brit and we lived in England for the first six years of our marriage. We didn’t have any trouble with the traditions, but I often felt lonely missing my family with all the grandkids running around (whereas Christmas with my husband’s family was usually really quiet, something I kind of miss now actually).

    Low moment: my husband getting drunk, passing out on his childhood bed, and being sick all the next day on our first Christmas.

    High moments: getting to spend fun days out with my uncle from California whom I typically only see once a year.
    Cindy May´s last post…Hats off to Local Theatre Groups

  5. We’re wide open on Thanksgiving, game for anything, but also reserve Christmas eve and Christmas Day for our home – we are both from divorced/remarried parents, so a good part of our married lives we ran the roads on the Holidays, trying to “balance” the time we spent with each parent, and ultimately ending up exhausted, unhealthy and unhappy, because there just isn’t balance to be found in trying to please everyone. Now, especially with our children in the picture, there is again pressure to travel more, but we’ve managed to gracefully (I hope) resist. How we spend our time and energy has become as important as how we spend our dollars, and the whole picture has to include the pre- and post- game, so to speak, and all three have to be considered when we make our Holiday commitments. We love visiting with our families, and our door is always open to them if they decide to pack up and come see us, but I think it’s important to maintain certain traditions of our own. Peacefulness is an important one for us.
    the cottage child´s last post…Top 10

    • “our door is always open to them if they decide to pack up and come see us”

      That’s such an important option to keep in mind, especially for families with children. It takes us an hour to get out the door sometimes, and then we’re supposed to bring food and additional presents? It’s too hard, and that’s not the way I want to spend Christmas morning.

  6. We buy the kids a new mug/cup every December… I try to choose the cups that I believe go with each one. I just got their cups yesterday! So today when they wake up they will have cocoa or coffee and a small piece of chocolate. Usually I try to have something special (cinnamon roll, sweet, cookie) a few times during the first couple of weeks. They love it- plus we tell them that they get to take the cups with them when they move:)…

  7. This was a great post! I’m getting married in June and just spend last week in CO with Kenny’s family. It was neat to see how they do things but it was VERY different from my family. We’re spending actual Christmas with my family since Kenny needs to be here in town for work.
    Whenever anyone asks me about Christmas traditions this is the one I tell. I really hope Kenny likes doing it because I’d like to make it one of the traditions that is carried into our family.
    We have a Candle-light service at my G-ma’s on Christmas Eve. Christmas has become so commercial and everyone simply telling what they are thankful for has been a wonderful way to get our minds back on the real reason for Christmas – Jesus Christ’s birth.

  8. I think when starting a family whether planning on kids right away or not, it’s nice to plan some of your own traditions. We celebrate three times of everything: My inlaws preserve the Italian tradition of fish on christmas eve, so for christmas we go there christmas eve for the big fish dinner and opening gifts at midnight; christmas morning is my time – we have a leisurely morning opening our gifts and the gifts that Santa brought and have a late brunch; then we go to my parents for a christmas day dinner. same type of thing for the other holidays like thanksgiving, easter, etc. one day with the inlaws, one day with my parents, and one day for us. It’s alot and I wish we could cut some of it out but then people’s feelings get hurt and it becomes a bit of a competition thing then – “what, is your family better than mine?” – usually from the parents and rather than making them mad and sulky and cutting ourselves off completely from either side we’ve come to the conclusion that we celebrate things 3 times. The one upside – we usually end up with a lot of leftovers – less time later in the kitchen for me!
    Happy holidays to everyone!

  9. Some new traditions we have as a family are decorating our Christmas tree on the first weekend I have off in December (my job requires I work every other weekend). As a child I always found Christmas eve to be very long, so I developed some traditions for my own children to help fill the evening. We go to church on Christmas eve. After we drive around looking at Christmas lights. We come home and watch Christmas movies. We end up going to bed pretty late so the kids had no trouble falling asleep (and slept in a little later in the morning too :-) )
    Carrie´s last post…Travel Medical Insurance

  10. When I was a kid, we spent the weekend before Christmas at my mom’s family, the weekend after at my dad’s and Christmas day at our house. I always thought it was the perfect blend of everything.

    Now, my family lives 3 states away and we have decided to only visit in the summer when traveling is easier. His family lives 3 hours away, and have a death grip on Christmas day.

    So, we have claimed Winter Solstice. This is our first year doing this, so the traditions around it are still forming, but we have a fire pit built in our yard (it’s a big yard) and we will have a campfire on Solstice night. We’ll roast hot dogs and marshmallows (um, we live in Texas, so it’s not so very cold out either)… Santa will come Solstice afternoon (for now) during our 2 year olds nap time and hide the stocking out on a tree in the yard. I’m thinking that eventually she’ll have to go on a stocking hunt to see where Santa left it each year. We’ll open our gifts around the fire and burn the paper in the fire, too.

    Beyond that, we’re still looking for ideas. Personally, I’d rather Christmas day was spent here, but it’s just not worth the HUGE family fight that it will cause… so we’re doing our own thing. Even when we end up hosting the family gathering in a few years, we’ll still do our own thing on Solstice, away from the stress and craziness, when we can enjoy being our own little family.

    • I know I’m replying a year past your message, but I love your Solstice idea!

      We live in Australia so our Solstice is obviously the Summer Solstice.

      Anyway, side tracking myself. My husband has two sons from his previous marriage, and when they were young we were never allowed to have them for Christmas morning. So we started having our own Christmas usually the weekend before the actual one.

      That satisfied us with them boys waking up to see what Father Christmas had left them. We explained that because they weren’t here for Christmas morning, that Father Christmas had agreed to drop off some of their presents at our house early.

      That way we also incorporated having some of our family over to celebrate on our families Christmas day.

      Then on the actual day, we’d go to my parents or pick the boys up for the evening.

      Win win for everyone I think :)

  11. We too had quite a bit of acclimating to each other’s family’s way of doing things when we got married. Last Christmas, we were still brand-newlyweds and I didn’t have many expectations…though money (or lack thereof) might have been a factor at the time. My Christmas present to him was cleaning our apartment on Christmas Eve before he got home from work, and his was coming home early! We had a laugh about it then and wrote it off as a good memory.

    This year, though, I have a lot more expectations. I want the traditions and the tree and the candles and the music. But when I tried the “three things,” I had about 47 I was leaving off and he couldn’t even think of one. Needless to say, we’ve had to adjust and compromise. Honestly, around Christmas, we have to remind ourselves that only two things matter: Jesus Christ and family. Everything else is extra.
    Jennie´s last post…A Simple Christmas

  12. As a young couple with both sets of parents in the same city, we struggled go back and forth on the holidays, stuffing ourself at 2 meals. It gradually got a little better as the years went by, it was not so much a struggle between us and just a logistics issue. With 4 young adult kids, 2 who are on their own and grandkids, we decided we did not want to make the holidays stressful for our kids. We have Christmas eve at our house mid-afternoon, but going into the evening, but not too late to ruin bedtime on Christmas eve. Christmas day is reseved for being at our repsective homes, and our extended family has a gathering close to Christmas (this year on Sunday) but we do a simple meal, like lasagna! This year, we may only have our youngest at home on Christmas eve (almost 18) as our son has a little baby (3 months) and spends a good bit of time at her house as well. So we shall see what Christmas day holds! We may end up at my oldest daughters house to play with the grnadkids and their new toys!
    The main thing we have always said is that it doesn’t matter if we “celebrate” together on the exact holiday. We just want to see our family. I don’t want to make their holiday stressful by trying to conform to my standards.
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…This is your brain on overload!

  13. Thankfully holidays are something that usually fall into place with my hubby and I. With us living in Seattle and our family spread from OK to AZ to CA, popping over on Christmas Day isn’t exactly an option. But for my hubby’s family, Thanksgiving is more important and Christmas is just ok. For my family, they would shrivel up and cry if we didn’t have our crazy, wacky, over-the-top Christmas celebrations. And luckily my husband has come to realize he actually likes Christmases with my family better!

    This will the the first time in four years we’re actually GOING somewhere for Christmas, and I am very excited! Hosting 6 people in a tiny apartment for a week is a lot of work! Here’s to a holiday of putting my feet up!
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Christmastime and A First Doctors Visit

  14. Our traditions:
    1-read Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a chapter a night for a couple weeks before Christmas.
    2- simple dinner on Christmas Eve at home (we’re not into repeating Thanksgiving style food a month after) and breakfast casserole Christmas morning. Leftovers of both on C.Day.
    3- taking a posed picture of the kids on the staircase as they stand by their stockings (no fireplace here). This one went by the wayside when the oldest hit about 20 !

    To keep the stress out of the “we ALWAYS” do such and such (in case it fails and I’m the most disappointed one of all), I try to make a new tradition or two each year. This year we are inviting soldiers from the local base over (who have no family to go to and the base is empty). We are also not having a get-together with my folks till the day AFTER Christmas since it falls on a sabbath and they’re less and less tolerant of Christmas since more of a “conversion” to Messianic Jewish traditions in recent times (customs that I did NOT grow up with, like Hanukkah) .

    I’ve also decided in my heart that it’s okay not to try to convince myself that Christmas is only about the birth of Christ. It’s not. We can and should celebrate that all year, but the
    wrestling over how to justify the cultural stuff like tree-trimming,egg nog, and baking cookies with “what’s this have to do with Christ’s birth?” –was all “getting to me”. God lovingly intervened and spoke to me this year, “It’s okay. I love you.” I am free in Christ to celebrate His birth AND family AND evergreens in the winter! ( I posted about it a few days ago.)
    Zoanna´s last post…Sew Much Fun- Dala-la-la-la

    • I love the Best Christmas Pageant Ever. That’s a tradition I’d like to add when my kids are older.

      I’ve come to the same conclusion too that we can celebrate Jesus’ birth and enjoy the festivities. We don’t need to be serious just because it’s a special day.

  15. This is our first Christmas with our baby girl and our first Christmas not being with my family. So, we’re taking advantage of that and starting some traditions of our own at home. We plan to go to the Christmas Eve service at church, come home, put the baby in bed, then eat snacks and watch Christmas movies. Christmas morning will be an early rise…not by our choice but our 4 month old is used to a 6:30 am wake up! We’re going to make a big breakfast, then open presents. I know I’ll miss some of the traditions of my family’s but am excited to begin some new ones with my husband and daughter.
    Nicole´s last post…music monday

  16. One family tradition I didn’t care for was “going around the circle” and opening gifts one at a time. This prolonged the morning while we agonizingly waited for each (extended) family member to open, comment upon, give thanks for, every gift. Try doing that while you’ve got a newborn and a three year old as I did during out 4th Christmas together. I’m not at all for a free for all but, one at a time, each person opening all their gifts is a blessed relief. Now that we’re celebrating our 30th Christmas together this year, we’re all for a quiet day for just the two of us and optional appearance by our two (childless but not partnerless)daughters.

    • I agree about the gift opening. I would love to change this tradition with my husband’s family but they love it – and with 15 people and we have a 3 and 1 year old … we begin at around 7pm and it lasts forever! Plus my mother-in-law wraps every single thing separately. I’m slowing trying to suggest wrapping more than one gift together (that’s what we do).
      I am grateful though that my husband has persuaded his family to turn off the TV during Christmas Eve! One success, many more to go :-)

    • Yes, I like opening presents one at a time instead of a free for all, but when that many people are together it takes forever. When we get together with my extended family, everyone draws names and only has one gift to open. It’s so much better.

      • We also did three gifts for our girls and it worked out well. We explained that since the Magi brought three gifts for Jesus, we would give them each three gifts from us. They were very happy with this and it worked out wonderfully. We could give quality items they really wanted and there was no attention overload for them.

  17. Slightly off topic, but… what book were you reading?

  18. I’ve subscribed to your blog after linking to it from my friend at Hollywood Housewife. I’ve loved reading the honesty in your posts. So I thought I’d comment on this one.
    Along with teaching about Jesus’ birth and the lessons surrounding why we celebrate all the traditions of Christmas, one thing we have decided is that “Santa” fills the stockings but the rest of the gifts are from family. I grew up that we always got the biggest, best gift from Santa and then everything else seemed to pale in comparison when my parents had worked so hard to even make any of the gifts happen. So we just took the cue from “The Night Before Christmas” where Santa fills their stockings. No big gifts. Then he heads out. We like that and focus the real gift giving on each of us giving gifts to each other and thinking of others rather than telling Santa to fulfill our wants. Trying to tie it back to the reason for gifts.
    Other than that, we are fortunate to have most of our family near us and they all gather at our house. We do a Christmas Eve dinner, then a Christmas Day brunch like Zoanna wrote. We have a large Thanksgiving “feast” and just don’t feel like repeating all of that for Christmas.
    One thing I have noticed this year though is the pressure I’ve put on myself with the Christmas cards. I’ve not stressed over it this much EVER. I am the one putting the pressure on myself – maybe because I design them each year and do that for others – so that’s something I need to figure out. I’ve already gone through the mental arguments but still felt the stress of them AND the other designed gifts for family. We do a calendar each year – memories of this current year are on that month for 2011. Great idea, yet I always manage to wait until December to start it!
    I’ve loved reading others’ posts…thanks for sharing. Love the blog and the honesty I find in each post. God bless you and Merry Christmas.

    • We do Santa the same way. We want to make it fun without having Santa be a big deal, so he leaves small treats in the stockings, and that way Doug and I can give the special gifts from us.

  19. Great post. Yes combining two familes (or several with divorced parents) it gets complicated. I like the 3 things that are important to you idea!

  20. This was one of the stickiest subjects for my husband and I during our first years of marriage. It centered around the fact that my mom always had a big breakfast Christmas morning–invited the neighbors and some friends–and the fact that FIL insisted on doing Christmas at their house at 8:00 am. Well, it is impossible to be two places at one time! Aaggh! So, after years of trying to please everyone–asking my mom to do breakfast another day, begging FIL to agree to open presents later in the day–we decided to stop! We don’t go to either house on Christmas Day. It is so much easier on us. We leave the schedule up to the grandparents as far as when we come over on another day. They get to choose and if we can come, we do, otherwise they can pick another day or not. It’s amazing how flexible they have become once we stopped trying to please everyone. The ball is in their court, not ours.

    • That’s great! I can imagine they’re much more flexible now, which is really good for everybody.

  21. excellent post! somehow we had the foresight to really hash through this before getting married/in our early marriage (we’ve been married a year and a half). i always had two christmases each year growing up — the ‘real’ one with extended family, that my family traveled 1000+ miles the attend, and our own one at home a week or two later. our thanksgivings were always odd, too, because there was a major dance competition that weekend and the holiday took second priority to the dancing. getting married and being a household of our own, the mister wanted to make sure we made sure that the holidays were our own, too. last year we didn’t travel for either christmas or thanksgiving; we hosted friends/family/holiday orphans for dinner on both days, but we deliberately made those celebrations ours. this year we’re traveling to his side, and next year will be to mine. we have a bit more holiday decoration, because i really love that (we didn’t have space for a tree last year), but it’s still all small and appropriate to our space and our lifestyles (a notch or two above students). i would love someday to have the ability (read: a house) to invite our families, plural, to come celebrate with us. until then, we’ll be sure to celebrate with them, but only so long as it is the right decision for the “my family” that means my husband and i together.
    katie´s last post…old beautiful things

  22. My husband’s family lives closer to us than my own, which is spread across all four corners of the US (literally – Florida, Washington DC, and Alaska), so ever since we’ve been married, we’ve always joined his family for Christmas, and sometimes Thanksgiving as well. I don’t mind this at all – in fact, even with our two little boys, having a Christmas dinner or celebration on our own would feel really small. It feels better to have grandparents, aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and neighbors there.

    We haven’t really fought over traditions. It might be that for five years before we got married, I was overseas in a Muslim country where Christmas wasn’t celebrated at all, so even to put up Christmas lights these days or buy more than one or two Christmas presents is a big deal to me. We have often been in the middle of “newborn-dom” around the holidays anyway, so often we are too tired to care about decorating too much :).

    What we have tried to start doing, and hope to do more as the years pass, is focus on Advent Sundays with a nice, well-planned meal, and hopefully more time spent trying to bless others around us, like baking things or doing chores for neighbors around us who are aging, etc.

  23. We have a family celebration on Solstice, where we give our children their gifts – which usually are things to play with in the car. The next morning we leave for my husband’s family 4.5 hours away. We stay there through Christmas morning where we come back to the city where we live but go to my parents, have dinner and spend the night. Then we come back to our house on the 26th afternoon and Santa has come for the kids (1 gift each). I don’t mind traveling. I did it as a kid and it’s a great chance to see our family out of town. I don’t love much of anything they do (in-laws) but the trip is really about the kids who love it so much. I have been learning over the years to make it easier for me.
    I am so grateful that my mom has been so understanding and accommodating to us figuring out how we are going to spend the holidays. She doesn’t mind that we arrive at 2:00 (tiered and hungry from the drive) on Christmas day. We don’t get to enjoy the church service or Christmas eve or morning with them but she has released all her old traditions to make new ones that fit with the whole family. Something I hope to do when my kids marry!

  24. I’m really curious about the book you read on marriage with an entire chapter (!) on holidays. We’re newlyweds and I love an interesting read!

  25. Rachel, we took you up on the idea to pick three important traditions. And yes, the kids surprised me. They wanted to make gingerbread houses. (Uh, we’ve NEVER done that.) They wanted to make cookies and decorate the outside of the house.

    I love this system, because I have always been torn by not having the great yearly traditions that everyone else seemed to have and secretly enjoying the flexibility that NOT having traditions brings. For example, I have step-kids who are not with us every Christmas Eve, so it would make any Christmas Eve traditions hard.

    But picking the things that are important to us each year turns out to be a great mix of flexibility and tradition. After all, if we all have a good time together, isn’t that the most important thing? (Love your blog, Rachel.)

    • I’m so glad you tried and enjoyed it! I was surprised too when Doug mentioned things that I wouldn’t have thought of, and it helps me not to feel like I have to try to do everything.

  26. I have backed off on Christmas this year, (decorations, enteraining, presents),and it has made a big difference in the atmosphere around our house. We were also scheduled to travel to my family this year, but decided not to due to young children and finances. I must admit it has been more relaxing and calmer, well, as calm as it can be with a three and five year old.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith´s last post…How was your day- honey

  27. This will be my husband’s and my first Christmas, so we’re having fun figuring out how we want to spend the holiday. He really likes decorations; my family is very utilitarian, so I thought decorations were kind of silly. But I put up a few decorations and am actually enjoying making the house look festive for the two of us. His family never did stockings, but mine always did, so we’ve added that, and his family always watches It’s a Wonderful Life (which wasn’t a tradition for my family), so we’ve added that as well. It’s mostly been a series of compromises and trying to make it something that both of us will enjoy. I think it’s been a good experience so far.

  28. Our family (both mine & my husband’s) are spread out, we have some in Texas, & some in Illinois. It was a struggle for the past few years, every family wanted us to be with them. It really got to be too much (especially driving to Illinois), so we’re doing Christmas at our home. It’s very laid back. We will make sugar cookies on Friday (this is the first holiday season where I am not doing any baking other than that), look at Christmas lights. My husband & I will bring the gifts down after the kids are asleep. Christmas morning we’re going to sit back & watch our kids. (extended family sent them gifts). For dinner on Christmas, we’re having pizza. Super simple & I couldn’t be more happy. :)

    Happy Holidays! :)

  29. One other thing I wanted to add. We have a very simple pre-lit tree. No tree topper, no ornaments. There is a tree skirt, & stockings are up. That is it. The simplicity of our tree is one of the best things we love.

  30. 1) I loved reading all of the comments so far! This is such a thoughtful site with such a wonderful group of readers. It makes my heart warm to read insightful comment after insightful comment. So, thanks Rachel for building an awesome community.

    2) This holiday season I am really struggling. Christmas was such a big (secular) deal at our house growing up, but as an adult I realize what an incredible strain it was. I appreciate the magic of faith, belief, and Santa as well as the economic importance of the season but right now, for me, it feels shallow.

    The past two Christmases for my son we kept things pretty small with a big focus on relaxing, family, and shredding wrapping paper to bits. This year, at 2.5, he is into it. All anyone talks about is Santa and presents and since I haven’t made up my mind about it {ehem, thus, not talking about it} he doesn’t have much of another perspective. My husband is still recovering from [what he perceives to be} the lies of his strictly religious background and for that reason we avoid speaking much of faith either.

    I don’t want to keep blathering on, but I could use a little advice, if anyone has some…
    Zom G.´s last post…Glitch Art

    • Thank you! I think the comments are the best part.

      You don’t need to figure everything out this year. Your son is still little, and there is time for you to think and develop your family traditions more each year.

  31. When James Bond and I first married, we had a huge issue with Christmas. The best thing we did to solve that problem was that he joined the Army and we moved half way across the world (well a quarter of the way) and be spread out over the holidays wasn’t an option. You can’t hop in the car and go visiting when you’re on another continent. It forced us to think how WE wanted to celebrate Christmas. We started celebrating at home and enjoying a relaxed holiday. We have had single soldiers over and groups of friends who aren’t flying to the States. When we moved back to the States, we made it clear to our families that we would still be celebrating Christmas in our own home (as we have always been stationed far away) due to Indy. When I was a child I HATED traveling to see family over the holidays. It was always stressful. I wanted Indy (and the new baby on the way) to experience Christmas at home. We’re back in Europe again (for the 3rd time) so traveling is again not an option, but people are welcome to visit us. My dad flew over last year and my mom and stepdad are here right now. I made sure they knew that we have our own traditions at home though and they need to respect that. Santa brings only 3 gifts. They are welcome to give other gifts of course, but not a ton (Indy had 27 gifts his first Christmas-he was 5 months old!). We ALWAYS watch Holiday Inn on Christmas Eve (ALWAYS!) and Christmas mornings are relaxed. We keep it simple.
    When our kids are grown, we will celebrate Christmas at home (with or without them), but will not expect them to come to us on Christmas day unless they want to. Christmas should belong to your nuclear family IMO. Other family members are welcome to join in, but the nuclear family should not have to travel if they don’t want.
    Mom in High Heels´s last post…Skiing the Alps

  32. This is our third Christmas married, and each year it gets a little easier. My family does Christmas in an obnoxiously huge, exhausting, overblown way that drives me bananas, but it is important to them. I used to want to avoid spending Christmas with them because it was so stressful, but now I realize that would be selfish because they feel loved when we drive (to another state) and spend it there. So now we spend every other Christmas there. My in-laws live close by and do a much more low key holiday, so on those years we spend the morning at home, opening gifts from each other, and then the afternoon with them. I wish I could spend every Christmas every year with just the two of us, but I realized that for our families, they would be hurt by that decision, and showing them love meant sucking it up and just getting through the holiday, hoping to come out in one piece! To make it still enjoyable, my husband and I spend lots of time together during the season watching Christmas movies, eating cookies, hanging stockings, looking at lights, etc so it still feels very cozy and romantic. I think no matter what, holidays will never be perfect, but you’ve just gotta make them work!

  33. I like the post from Christmas 2008…it’s important to think those things through! That way on December 26th, no one’s left saying, “Hey, Christmas is over??” Good idea.

  34. No matter our families of origin- we need to make a new family and new traditions- yet another reason to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas which START on the 25th- then there is time to visit everybody!
    priest’s wife´s last post…Are You Ready

  35. There is another point of view. I have seven grandchildren and it’s always been assumed that I will make dinner and host all major holidays. This year I told my son that I would enjoy being a guest on Christmas so he and his wife are preparing dinner and I’m really looking forward to it! Food for thought to those who believe they are required to show up at their parents on Christmas.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  36. I was actually kind of blessed that Husband’s family had fairly loose traditions. Because it meant I got to impose more of my own! Haha.

    But seriously, we have really relished keeping some from each of our families (stockings, certain baked goods) and adding some of our own (Advent calendar and Jesse Tree). It is always a good reminder to myself to lower my expectations at this time of year, since I tend to dream the Currier and Ives dreams.
    Minnesotamom´s last post…One for Auntie Manda

  37. What a fabulous post – again and again!!! I spent Christmas as a child dragging from one set of grandparents to the other… all totally dreadful!!! One set couldn’t care less that we existed and the other set insisted that we dress in kilts and winter wonderland clothes – we live in Cape Town where we are in mid-summer… but that granny insisted on a traditional English “Dinnner” Christmas… complete with standing before the entire extended bunch of ancient aunts and uncles to recite poetry… Can you imagine!!! I should write a book just about Christmas day and how not to have fun!!! Anyway when we first got married, regardless of children, we decided to claim Christmas day as our own… and we see his folks the night before and mine the day after…roast dinners for both of them – treat parents equally because they can be more insufferable about fairness than you can ever believe!!! AND then Christmas day is our own to chill and read new books and go for an amble on the beach and whatever we feel like – sometimes dinner is waffles and ice-cream, sometimes it is just leftovers – whatever a totally chilled day!!! Now with a bunch of kids … we secretly stock a box of with books throughout the year and on Christmas day out come all the books and we still just mooch around and read in a shady spot… it is just too hot to do much of anything else anyway!!!
    se7en´s last post…Sunday Snippet- Crafts- Crafts- More Crafts…

  38. I like your post. I remember as a kid opening up gifts on Christmas morning, but my mom’s family was German and they use to open gifts on Christmas eve. She changed the tradition because we were little and too tired at night. When we got to high school, we tried opening gifts on Christmas Eve one time, but all of my siblings didn’t like it, we love awaiting until morning. We went back to Christmas morning. We do church on Christmas Eve.
    My hubby’s family were also of German origin and did the Christmas Eve thing, but my husband and I picked Christmas morning. We have immediate relatives over parents and sisters and brothers, usually for dinner on Christmas day or we go there Christmas afternoon or stay over the night, Christmas eve into Christmas day. I just like to be with family.

    I remember one Christmas I was really sick and couldn’t go with my hubby and kids to his sister’s house for dinner, I was so lonely and cried for an hour, but was glad that I didn’t get them sick and loved seeing the movies.

  39. vermontmommy says:

    A a couple we did not really celebrate Christmas till our oldest was 4.

    My husband grew up as a Southern Baptist I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness.

    I was not really comfortable with celebrating and he was not willing to ditch his beliefs. I had intended to celebrate the Winter Solstice. I had great plans. :) I felt we were celebrating winter, life, nature and would make a simple celebration of bird feeders, pajamas, board games, books and making strings of popcorn.

    He disagreed.

    It was a touchy subject for a while. Once our son was 4 he was old enough to start asking questions. I caved a bit. The first year we did not get a tree, the second year we got a live tree to plant in the back yard but only decorated with white lights and the third year (and from then on) we got a real tree to decorate. We celebrate Christmas but I have to say it is not for the religious reasons. I see it as a way to make traditions for our children. My husband let me set the stage for decorations (simple but sweet), the menu (easy but yummy and lots from the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks), opening a gift on Christmas eve (Pjs and books) and saving stockings and Santa’s gifts for Christmas morning.

    While my husband celebrated he did not have any real traditions that he needed or wanted to keep. I think he also felt if I was willing to give him Christmas he was willing to let do what I needed to do to comfortable. We have been together 15 years and married 13 and I think we are both just getting it all figured out. :) Christmas is at our home. Two years ago I made a book with our traditions and our menu. I’m tweaking it as we go but I love that I have everything in a binder.

    I only wish I knew of all the options. We have Santa leaving everything (stockings and gifts). If I could go back in time Santa would just leave the stocking gifts and we the rest. There needs to be a book of all the ways you can celebrate. :)

    Long post, huh?

  40. I know this is after Christmas but I just had to post.
    This is what my husband and I are going threw/went threw this holiday.
    We live 7hrs from our families(in the same town, but the trip there is somewhat dificuldt. We have to go over a mountian pass, that this time of year is somewhat hit and miss. My husband is in the military and if we do not make it back for him to get to work then he can get in trouble.
    I have a quite large “divorced” family, which results in needing to go to a few houses. He only has his mom, stepdad and young siblings.

    We got to the point the day after Christmas where we were both just so stressed out and started snipping at each other. I was feeling the pressure of my mom to be with her every waking second. Feeling the pressure of not making my mil feel bad and giving them equal time with our 2 boys. Everything had been so stressful-having enough money, enough time, the weather.
    We finally decided that next year we are not coming home at all.
    In our 5 years together and 3 yrs of marriage, we have never had a Christmas in our own home. My husband has either been deployed or we traveled(including paying a ton to fly from TN to WA and back).
    Next year we will do our Christmas the way we want, in our own home, with no stress.
    No Adult Gift exchange to worry about. I’ll get small gifts for my small cousins and little brother, everyone else(my aunt and uncle) can be adults and realize that gifts are not a requirement for Christmas.

    I can not wait to enjoy the decorations I put up in my house. I can not wait for my boys to open their gifts Christmas morning and actually play with what they get and not have to be moved from house to house. I cant wait to start our own traditions.

  41. Love this. Once we had our first child we decided Christmas day we stay home. Period. Sometimes family comes over for dinner, but the morning are ours. And we don’t drive anywhere. We see everyone at some point during the season, but we try to not cram all the visiting into one day like we used to.
    MamaK´s last post…Im a slacker

  42. I can’t believe I just read this post.

    Christmas in the Philippines is totally different from Christmas in Seattle with my husband’s family. And because flying to Manila for Christmas is pretty expensive, in the 5 years that I’ve lived here, we’ve usually spent it with his family.

    But after this years Christmas, I talked to my husband and we’ve come to a conclusion that we should start our own Christmas traditions since we’re already planning on having a baby.

    I’m not used to the quiet Christmas. My family is so huge that the free for all opening of gifts on midnight, the loudness, the staying up late is what I miss so much.

    Our extended family may not like the idea of my husband and I doing our own Christmas eve, but hey they get Christmas day.
    Tanya´s last post…Teatro ZinZanni

  43. This was a very cute post. and one that will be written very differently in 10 or 20 years.

    I think as folks get older, they come to realize how little any of this matters. Family becomes so important … The whole clan. The sense of the need for independence fades, you meld with your husband becoming much more of one unit, and you take on the role of caring for your elder parents. When we were younger, newly married, and with a baby, we thought, “oh yes, we must be at home and have our own traditions. Now, years later it’s about just being together and picking out a great restaurant! Or, at Christmas…having our folks over, making them feel comfy, cozy and welcome and providing a warm and delicious meal. And Thanksgiving is a great time to serve food at a shelter.

    Whether you have a tree or not, lights that are colored or white, it really doesn’t matter. Love each other. Be kind to each other. And always open your home to others. Invite everyone over, let them bring their favorite dish or tradition. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. Don’t be selfish. Don’t try to hold on to old traditions or make new ones just for the sake of it. Just to feel independent. It’s foolish. Love one and other and make everyone feel welcome. You might just be in the presence of angels!


    Mary @ Mary’s Nest´s last post…Culinary Her-story History