Your first Christmas as a married person, as this year was for me, can cause a fairly major shift in the way you’re used to celebrating the holidays. You spend your entire life celebrating the holidays with your family, enjoying the traditions set forth by your parents and their parents before them. You look forward to having the holidays the way you’re used to having them, and you take comfort in knowing it’s the same thing every year. You know what to expect, and it is a part of who you are.
Then you get married.
Obviously, getting married is wonderful and so are all the things that come with it. But let’s be honest. When you become engaged, you know that it’s only a matter of time before you and your spouse are going to have to sit down and have that dreaded conversation about which holiday to spend with which family. Unfortunately, there is no book to prepare you for such discussions. How do you amicably decide what to do, what is fair, and what will make you both happy?
But then you find out that it’s not so much about what makes you happy; it’s about what is going to make your respective families happy. Will one side be more offended that you chose to spend Thanksgiving with them and not Christmas? Will you be made to feel terribly guilty if you make the “wrong” choice?
Of course our parents don’t mean to make us feel guilty. But when they drop such comments as, “It’s just not going to be the same without you here,” or “I was going to make the squash casserole, but since you and I are the only ones that like it, I guess I won’t make it for just me,” you tend to feel the guilt sink in deep.
There are some people who have both sides of the family in the same town, thereby making it easier to spend the holidays with everyone. In our case, my family lives in Charlotte, and Marshal’s lives in New York, so we don’t have the luxury of being able to drive back and forth from one house to another to see everyone in one day. Although, I have to say, having to drive all over creation to spend two hours with one family and two hours with another sounds a bit stressful. But I suppose you do get twice as much to eat, which is never a bad thing.
So when it came time for us to decide what to do in our first year as a married couple, we were actually able to compromise easily. Luckily, our work schedules dictated what we were able to do and what we weren’t, thereby relieving us from having to make these difficult decisions ourselves and eliminating the opportunity for our families to unintentionally make us feel guilty. I was able to get time off for Thanksgiving so that we could travel to New York to see Marshal’s family, but I wasn’t able to for Christmas, which allowed us to stay in Charlotte with my family.
But we realize that it won’t be so easy every holiday season. Each year will be different, and each year we will dread having to make this decision for fear of hurting our families. But from what I hear, there is one saving grace. That, my friends, is children. Once we have kids, the holiday traditions will shift, and our respective families will be the ones to visit us during the holidays. We’re a little ways off from having children, however, so there are going to be a few more years where we will be forced to make these choices on our own. Rock, paper, scissors….