A day where we are all reminded just how fortunate we are regardless of our struggles because there is always someone less fortunate.
Thanksgiving also has another meaning. With its passing comes the official countdown to Christmas- my favorite holiday of the year. Growing up my mother always went OVERBOARD for Christmas. She spent hours decorating her Christmas tree (I say hers because no one in the house was EVER allowed to touch the tree) and our entire home transformed into something that looked like it was out of a Hallmark Christmas movie. It was breathtaking! We always went to Church on Christmas morning, and Christmas dinner was at our home where my mom would make us all a feast. She loved wrapping presents and seeing everyone’s face light up as she gave them theirs.
Today’s post isn’t about my mother though. It’s about the traditions she instilled in me and how hard it was for me to compromise holidays after I got married. Our first year was the worst! I loved Christmas so much and was so set in my ways, that having to go to Bini’s family felt like I was losing a part of myself. I’m sure some newlyweds are going through these same feelings right about now. Do you cringe this time of year over how or with whom you will celebrate the holidays?
For years we were that couple. We would argue for days before the holidays (any holiday). We are both so strong-willed, and no one wanted to give in. Looking back now; we were both so naïve and selfish. Really- “no one wanted to give in.” Marriage isn’t about not giving in; it’s the complete opposite. If I had figured this out years ago, I would have spent so many holidays happy and excited instead of angry and bitter. Ask any happily married person how they sustain their marriage, and they will tell you “we compromise and communicate.”
Listed below are three ways to make the holidays a joyous occasion this year for you and your marriage. I hope it will save you from the unnecessary battle of the holidays- where you and your spouse are constantly at each other throats.
Not everyone celebrates the same way. Share your traditions with your spouse, let them experience your world and see where you’re coming from. I saw the difference this makes during our first Easter together. I grew up coloring eggs, taking pictures with the Easter bunny at malls and going for hunts at home. We went to church on Good Friday and Easter Sunday as a family and took communion. Bini grew up spending the Saturday night before Easter at church and breaking his fast with his family at 2 am on Sunday mornings. So imagine the disconnect during our first Easter together with Isabella. I wanted to do things my way and he wanted it done his way. Luckily for us, we practice two different denominations of Christianity, and therefore Easter didn’t fall on the same day. It took years but he learned to appreciate my customs and beliefs, and so did I.
It’s okay to be late to your parent's house for Thanksgiving and go early for Christmas or vice verse.
Keep in mind that you now have your own little family and therefore you can create new holiday plans with them as well.
Start building special memories at home so there is less tension about where you will go. Maybe host both families at your house. One thing Bini and I always do is separate the holiday time equally. We spend Christmas Eve with his family and Christmas Day with mine. All Ethiopian/Eritrean holidays are spent with his parents and the American holidays are spent with mine. It works perfectly for us, but there have been times when we had to be flexible and attend other events. During these moments, I try hard to remember the real reason for the holiday and not the logistics.
The holidays can quickly create tension between spouses for different reasons. Understanding your limits and that of your spouse will help you determine what is worth fighting for. There might be special memories tied to a particular holiday or maybe grief over the absence of a loved one. Your spouse will need to know what you are willing to compromise with and what is set in stone for you.
Here are a couple of tension points that creep up in my household around the holidays:
I hope this helps you or someone you know in some way. I wish someone had told me all this when we first moved in together. It would have saved us from years of arguing and getting mad at each other.
As always, I’d love to hear from you.