I grew up with holiday traditions with my family, including when we celebrated, where, and with whom. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with both my mom’s and dad’s sides of our extended family. There was always lots of pie. It was great.
Things slowly changed as I got older, people spread out more, and grandparents passed away. But my immediate family still had our special traditions – including 11pm church with family friends on Christmas Eve, and wearing red and green socks.
Then I got married. My husband’s family also had ways they celebrated the holidays. We had to figure out how to celebrate with both families. At first, we alternated – Thanksgiving Day with my family, Christmas Day with his, and switch the next year.
Then we had our daughter, which complicated things more, because now both sides of the family REALLY want to see us (her), but we also want to create traditions for our own little family.
It’s a blessing to have loving families on both sides who want to celebrate the holidays with us, but can also create a stressful scheduling nightmare. If families live close, that makes it easier. But even a two-hour drive can mean splitting the holidays.
Here are some scenarios and solutions for sharing the holidays:
Host the holiday event yourself.
My family has a more rooted Thanksgiving tradition than my husband’s. We all used to go to my Grandma’s house for the big meal, but she is 91 and no longer up for prepping a big meal and playing hostess. My husband’s parents don’t always have a specific plan for their Thanksgiving meal, and my sister-in-law travels to have Thanksgiving with her husband’s family.
So, last year, I took the leap to host Thanksgiving at our house, and invited both my family and my husband’s parents. It worked out so well, we’re doing it again this year! Having parents and friends around for the day helped the event be a success – they offered lots of help entertaining our daughter, as well as with food preparation and clean up.
Keep the faith(s).
A Christian friend of mine married a Jewish man last year. They are spending Hanukkah with his family, and flying home to her parents’ house for Christmas. In a case like this, where to be for religious holidays can be a little easier, even if there are other complications or discussions regarding religion during other parts of the year.
Go the distance.
Janette and her husband live in southern Ohio, while his parents are in Michigan and hers in Florida. For her, Christmas is a no-brainer. “That’s easy – I’m closer with my family, and Miami is warmer!” she shared. Because his parents live closer, they see them more often throughout the year, but then make the longer trip to see her family for Christmas.
Erik and his family live in central Ohio, with extended family in Arkansas and Alabama. His wife’s grandparents passed before they were married, but Erik still has his down south. They make it a priority to see his grandparents as long as they can. The rest of his wife’s family live in northern Ohio and are easier to visit. He explained, “We do end up spending some time with both sides of the family for most holidays, but it usually depends on if there are any organized gatherings with extended family (as opposed to just seeing the immediate family) that determines precisely where we are on the holiday itself.”
Families can be pretty set in their ways when it comes to holiday traditions. What if you want to start a new one in your own immediate family? My husband and I want to start creating traditions that our children (our daughter is nearly 2 and the second one due in May) can grow up looking forward to and enjoying each year, like we had with our immediate families. But, there are already some traditions in place in the extended family.
We are trying our best to keep all lines of communication open, and started talking about changes to holiday plans with both sides of our family earlier this year, so there are no surprises or hurt feelings when the actual holidays arrive. So far, so good. I feel like it’s going to be a great holiday season this year.