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How to Decide What to Do for the Holidays


The holiday season can be stressful for anyone. But newlyweds have the added pressure of setting the standard for future holidays and deciding where – not to mention with which side of the family – to celebrate. Like any issue that comes up in marriage, deciding where to go for the holidays should be settled with equal doses of communication, compassion, and compromise. Here’s what newlywed couples in different situations should do:

Scenario: You live far away from both sides of the family.

Couples in this situation often have relatives all over the country and find themselves at a complete loss during the holidays. They want to see everyone, but they might not be able to afford traveling. Depending on how far apart they all live, they might not even be physically able to get from one place to another. Many couples in this situation switch up where they go each year. For example, you could head to your family in Miami for Christmas 2007 and your spouse’s family in Europe for Christmas 2008. Others opt to dedicate holidays to each family. They travel to one family for Passover every year and the other side of the family for Hanukkah. If you like to entertain guests from out of town, you could invite both sets of parents and siblings to travel to you for a special holiday.

Alternative Option: You could always have a romantic holiday at home just the two of you. This is an especially great idea if there’s tension between the in-laws and your spouse or if you’re trying to save money for the future.

Scenario: You live in the same city or town as one side of the family, but the other is far away.

This has the potential to turn into Everybody Loves Raymond, where one side of the family dominates the couple’s life. If that’s what is happening, the spouse whose family is always in the picture should do his or her best to accommodate the other spouse’s wishes during the holidays. In other words, if your mom and dad are always at your house, you should go to California for Christmas to celebrate with your in-laws. It’s only fair.

Alternative Option: Invite the relatives who live far away to stay as guests at your home. If everyone gets along, have the in-city family come over for dinner and celebrate the season all together.

Scenario: You live near both sides of the family.

A scenario like this can be deceiving because it seems like the least problematic. But when everyone lives near one another choosing where to go can be even more difficult. Relatives on both sides of the family probably feel like you should choose their side because it’s convenient. You probably feel like you’re always with both sides, so there’s no easy way to decide who should get the honor of playing host for the holidays. If both sides of the family get along, you could do a joint gathering. If not, you could spend Christmas morning with one family and Christmas night with another.

Alternative Option: If you are pregnant or already have a newborn, consider creating your own traditions. Have all the grandparents, for instance, come over on Christmas morning to see the baby receive his or her gifts from Santa.

Scenario: Your families don’t get along.

When both sides of the family don’t see eye to eye, the couple often gets stuck in the middle. They end up arguing, especially during holidays, and it can get ugly. In this situation, spouses should try to be considerate of the other’s feelings. Refrain from speaking badly about or insulting your spouse’s family, and be open minded about how to handle the situation. In other words, if your spouse would like to make an appearance at her parent’s annual Kwanzaa party, you should agree to go no matter what her father said to your father just before you got married. The party will only last a few hours, but resentment can build and endure for years.

Alternative Option: Call a truce. Bring both families together before the holidays and talk out your problems on neutral territory, such as a restaurant. Most of the time, these family squabbles – especially ones that come up during wedding planning – are simply misunderstandings that can easily be resolved. It’s better to deal with the problem right away rather than putting it off and letting things fester. Once everyone’s friends, you can decide together how to handle the holidays.

Scenario: You are part of a mixed marriage, and your families celebrate different holidays.

People in mixed marriages can often be the most fair when it comes to deciding where to go on the holidays. You can, for example, celebrate Hanukkah with the Jewish side of the family and Christmas with the Christian side.

Alternative Option: For non-religious holidays, such as Thanksgiving, invite both sides of the family to your house for a big bash. This way, you can bring your two worlds together without the clash of different religious beliefs.

Related: Create Your Own Holiday Traditions

Suggested Reading: How to Get Along with Your In-Laws

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