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Christmas is going to look different this year. It’s my first time EVER not going back to the place I grew up. It’s weird. It’s good. It’s the way Scott and I decided to share the holidays.
We switch every Thanksgiving and Christmas. My family one year for Thanksgiving, his for Christmas and then opposite the next year.
I had a good friend who gave me some valuable advice. She told me to keep those years consistent, no matter what. She said it can get confusing and become hard on the family not knowing where you’re going to be from one year to the next. By keeping it consistent, everyone’s on the same page and they know how to plan ahead of time.
And so, this is my first Michigan Christmas. It’s going to be different but I’m really looking forward to it. Scott’s family is great and it will be a whole lot of fun. I’ve heard so many stories of how they celebrate Christmas that I’m excited to finally experience it for myself.
I continue to learn that marriage is constant compromise and love and just figuring out what works for the two of you.
We’ve celebrated a few of the major holidays with each other’s families and have found a few small things that help make them feel more familiar.
1) MAKE A DISH THAT REMINDS YOU OF HOME
Making food that reminds you of home, helps you feel like you’re at home.
We were driving to Thanksgiving in South Dakota this year and Scott turns to me and says “So, what do you guys have for Thanksgiving dinner? There will be sweet potato casserole, obviously, and the green beans with crunchy onions on top too right?”
Ahhh….nope, neither of those actually.
But I told him we can make it happen! So I jumped on the phone with his mom and sister, got the recipes that he loves, and we made it work. It was fun because we got to share two, new Thanksgiving dishes with my family, and Scott got a taste of home. It was a win/win for everyone.
For me at Christmas, it’s all about the desserts. It’s what I think of when I think of Christmas. You better believe I’m making corn flake wreaths, ritz cracker peanut butter sandwiches dipped in almond bark, and caramel puff popcorn.
Take a few extra minutes to decide on your go-to recipe and put it on the menu for your next holiday!
2) VIDEO CHAT
It pains me to write about using your phone during a holiday, but it’s one of the best ways to connect with everyone back home. I’ve learned it means a lot to everyone and there’s something about seeing each other that gives the heart some peace during a season of being apart.
One major suggestion I have is to make a plan for your video chat. You don’t want to just abandon the family you’re physically with and spend all of your time in the virtual world. Everything will be better if you find a way to be present, but also take the time you need to video chat.
For us, we’re doing a virtual Christmas the Saturday before Christmas with my family. It’s dedicated time we have set aside for Scott and myself, my parents, and sister to be together, take our time, and enjoy our “Christmas together” without feeling bad for missing out on anything in the present moment. We’re also planning a shorter, video call on Christmas day just to say a quick hello and see each other.
Having a video chat plan is a way for us to connect with everyone but respect the time we get with the family we’re celebrating with in person.
3) BE FLEXIBLE
I could write be flexible for every piece of advice I ever give.
The traditions and games and foods and stories will be different than what you’re used to and that’s ok.
Ask your spouse or in-laws what you can expect ahead of time. See if there are ways to bring some of your traditions into some of their’s without overstepping.
I’m fortunate to have the best in-laws who are excited about what I’m excited about and are open and willing to try new things. But even with that, it’s going to be different than any Christmas I’ve experienced before.
I’m prepared and ready to be open and flexible so I enjoy this new tradition with them.
4) JOIN IN ON THE FUN
Participate. Chat with folks. Rally the troops for a walk. Teach everyone a new card game. Cook. Help clean up.
Don’t just sit and let the holiday pass you by, make sure you’re a part of it and it’s one you’ll remember with your new family.
5) TAKE TIME FOR THE TWO OF YOU
I’m writing this for myself more than anyone. We get (ok it’s mostly me) caught in the hustle and bustle and people and food and things to do and trying to squeeze it all into a very short period of time, that I sort of abandon my person, aka Scott.
I usually pay attention to everyone else because Scott and I spend so much time together anyway. But that busyness can feel like we’re ignoring each other and usually turns into a mini argument if we don’t communicate.
Don’t forget to include little, intentional moments where it’s just the two of you and you’re completely present.
Be together, be grateful, be present.
6) YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT ALL
There are a lot of things happening, especially this time of the year. Shopping and baking and Christmas programs and trees and wrapping presents, and so many places to be.
Remember, you don’t have to do it all.
If you need some alone time, go for a walk. If you need a nap, nap. If you need to sit down and have a good chat with Grandma, do that.
Don’t get caught up in the hustle and bustle that you let the holiday just fly by.
Something that has helped us is giving ourselves enough time in one place. We’ve found the best memories usually happen when we give ourselves enough time to slow down and be together.
Don’t cram your day with things, leave it open for the little moments you’ll remember forever.
I’m curious how you’ve learned to share the holidays with your spouse. We’re a work in progress but it’s progress nonetheless.
I hope these tips gave you some ideas of how to spend the holidays in whatever way that may look like for you.