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.