Christmas is just around the corner, and with it comes a myriad of situations that every newlywed couple must face. Most look to the approaching season with joyful hearts and can’t wait to spend their first holiday together. The young wives get starry eyed and buy "Our First Christmas" ornaments to hang on the tree while the men grow excited thinking about buying the perfect gift for their new bride. With these distractions to take up our time, the craziness of the season sneaks in unsuspectingly and before we know it, the happy young couple is snowballing out of control down a mountain of disaster masquerading as "Christmas."
The holiday season might bring a lot of warm nights by the fire and brightly packaged gifts under the tree, but it also brings the recipe for stress. Every couple consists of two individuals who are used to doing special occasions in their own way, with their own families. Suddenly, each individual has the appearance of a second family and a second set of traditions to contend with! The gift list doubles overnight while your income and budget seems to shrink.
Plan Ahead to Keep Christmas Merry
Before married life, we often fail to realize that what seems normal -- even sacred -- tradition to us is a completely foreign practice to another. And so the tug of war begins. One wants to spend Christmas Eve with their family -- the other wants to go to the service at church. One wants to eat lunch with their grandparents during the day -- the other wants to visit out-of-town relatives. The joy of Christmas can easily turn into a burden of despair if you don’t take the time to sit down together before hand and plan out your holiday schedule.
The key to planning is communication. Let your spouse voice their desires and then share your own. Listen to each other. Don’t interrupt or get upset while the other is speaking. Wait your turn and focus on that important word on which every marriage is based: compromise. Be willing to give a little. Remember that the holiday is just as important to your spouse as it is to you. Be willing to swap around – for example, one can commit to visiting their out-of-town family the following year while agreeing to stay in town to visit the in-laws this year.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. If one side of the family is willing to hold off part of the holiday celebration until the weekend after Christmas, then you’ve found a great compromise plus a bonus -- you get to join in the holiday festivities for two weeks in a row and the Christmas celebrations will stretch twice as long!
While making these decisions together as couple, don’t forget to smile! All of these changes in your life are not necessarily negative. Make your Christmas positive by getting excited and by being willing to try new things. Never been to a Christmas Eve church service? It could possibly be a very moving experience for you. Are you used to turkey instead of goose for Christmas dinner? Load up your plate and pass the cranberry sauce! It will mean a lot to your spouse if you join in whole-heartedly and show your husband or wife that you are trying your hardest to make Christmas merry.
Create Your Own "Normal"
One of the most important things to remember during these first few holidays together is the fact that you are married now. You have your own family – consisting of you and your spouse. It is imperative that you make your decisions together as a couple and stand firm. Try to do what is best for everyone involved, but stick to your schedule. Don’t let a well-meaning family member throw you off your carefully laid plans by giving you a guilt trip or a "just one more piece of pie, dear."
You’re now thinking in terms of two rather than one, and you have to do what is best for you as a couple. Remember the Biblical principle of leaving and cleaving: "This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife..." (Genesis 2:24). The holidays are a good time to tactfully practice your autonomy as a couple. Inform your family members of your plans before the season and make any necessary adjustments before the big day.
Lastly, don’t forget to schedule time alone. You need to have your own special time together to give gifts or snuggle by the fire and relax. Holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, fellowship, and food, not worry and stress.
Keep an Eternal Perspective
In spite of the hectic nature of the holidays, don’t let the day overwhelm you or keep you so busy that you forget what Christmas is really all about – Jesus Christ and his debut on earth. This holiday season, look past the glitter and the bows on your tree. Glance around the stack of brightly decorated gifts and put down your mug of hot chocolate long enough to catch a glimpse of a cold barn on a winter’s night. If you turn down the volume on the Jingle Bells blasting from your stereo, you might be able to hear the angels singing praises to a baby King. It’s not about the schedules, the plans, and the check marks on a list completed – it’s about a Savior, and a plan of eternal redemption. And this year, you get to celebrate the greatest gift ever given on earth with your new spouse. Joy to the world, indeed.
Betsy St. Amant resides in northern Louisiana with her husband, Brandon. They recently celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary. Betsy has an associate's degree in Christian Communications from Louisiana Baptist University and is actively pursuing a career in inspirational writing. You can contact her at Betsystamant@yahoo.com.