I grew up in a home with two parents who put major effort into the holidays. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas were a time to gather with extended family, and celebrate with large, rambunctious dinners. Thanksgiving also meant football, and the traditional Thanksgiving football game for the Detroit Lions, our hometown team. In lucky years, my entire family would head to the Silverdome to see the game before returning to my grandmother’s house for a big dinner. Christmas was a big production with lots of decorations—from the lights my dad put outside to decorating the tree with mom.
Along with Christmas, my family celebrated Kwanzaa, and I fondly remember both community and family celebrations for the week-long holiday. By the time I became an adult, some of those family traditions had changed. In my teens, my family converted to Islam, and my dad and brothers still practice the faith. Between my parents’ divorce, my brothers starting their own families, and me living so far away, it feels like the holidays of my childhood are a thing of the past.
Like me, my husband lives far away from his family, and he is used to traveling for the holidays. When we first began dating, navigating the holidays came up pretty early. William explained to me that Christmas was the one time when his entire family all gathered to celebrate, and he always made an effort to get home for Christmas. Given that my family all gathers for Thanksgiving, it made sense for us to put Thanksgiving in my category and Christmas in his.
For the most part, this split has worked well for us, but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. When I reflect on my childhood, I always loved how my family celebrated Christmas morning in our home, celebrating with our family traditions. Recreating that is my dream. So we put both our families on notice: We’ll continue to travel for the holidays until we have our children, and at that point, the family is welcome to join us to celebrate with our little ones. The past two years we’ve happily traveled to celebrate, but this year will be our first year celebrating in our home, since our baby girl is due to arrive just after Christmas.
For us, figuring out the holidays was a relatively easy compromise, but I’d love to hear how other couples figure this out. What happens when both sets of families want both holidays? If you live near your families, do you visit them both? What roadblocks have you encountered?
APW, what’s your advice for newlyweds who are figuring out the holidays? What do you wish you had known or talked about beforehand?