Newlywed Holiday Traditions (That Work)

Holiday Debrief

Surviving The Holidays | A Practical Wedding

Oh, hi! We’re back! After nearly three weeks of not publishing, the APW staff is so glad to be back at work, and so grateful to y’all for letting us have the much-needed time off to catch up and recover from last year. Much time was spent staring at the ceiling, eating cookies, drinking French 75’s, and watching the baby learn to walk.

Before we dive into wedding planning with a vengeance (congratulations to the newly engaged, cheers to those of you ready to gird your loins and wade into the depths of wedding planning), I wanted to take a moment to debrief about our holidays. We spend a lot of time in the fall talking about the challenges of creating holidays that work for us as young couples, newlyweds, young families, or just humans trying to map thoughtful lives for ourselves. But we rarely take time in  January to share stories about what newlywed holiday traditions worked, and to learn from each other.

Over the past five holiday seasons I’ve experienced as half of a married couple (and ten I’ve experienced as half of a couple), I’ve learned that there are three distinct stages to the holiday learning curve (your mileage may vary).

Stage One: Splitting Holidays. As part of a new family unit, your holidays can’t continue uninterrupted, same as they’ve ever been. In the first stage, you’re wrangling parental expectations and managing your own expectations. If we do Thanksgiving with family A, we can do Christmas with family B. If we do Christmas Eve with family A, we can do Christmas Day with family B and family C and boxing day with family D. Fuck it, we’re staying home. Etc.

Stage Two: Owning The Holidays. This phase is crazy liberating. This is the moment where you realize that the holidays do not belong to your respective families. As a brand-new family, they belong to you, to share with your friends and loved ones. This is typically where you stop asking permission and start making independent decisions that work for you. No apologies.

Stage Three: Shaping the Holidays. This is where we’re at. Once you’ve claimed the shit out of the holidays, you have to figure out what they look like for you. What are your family traditions going to be anyway? Why?

This year, on Christmas Eve, I had a conversation with my friend Christina on Instagram. She posted a picture of her little girl opening an advent calendar, with the comment, “We aren’t really doing Santa and presents, but the anticipation is still fun.” And since, as an interfaith family we’re also not doing Santa, nor are we focused on presents, I rather hopefully asked, “What are you doing?” Turns out, they don’t have it figured out either. Christina told me, “That’s the problem, we’re not really sure what we are doing… Trying to find the spirit and magic, but still working out what the traditions will be for our family.”

So in that spirit of stumbling around and trying to find the magic, today we’ve scheduled a little APW holiday debrief. What did you do this year for the holidays that worked? (Think of this as giving yourself a holiday present for 2014, since in ten months or so, we’ll round up the best tips from this post, to give us all good ideas.)

Photo by Vivian Chen

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