Every year, my mother-in-law buys a tree and lops off the top to make it fit in her living room. She decorates the tree with heirloom handblown ornaments as well as a surprising number of her children’s handmade ornaments. A splash of tinsel adds a sparkly finish.
The first Christmas I visited her home, the holiday music in the kitchen was dueling with a Christmas film on the television so everyone had to shout above the cacophony. At least 50 gifts had been piled beneath heavy boughs, and it took all morning to celebrate.
The first time my husband, Michael, saw my mom’s fake tree with its handful of ornaments, he made a reference to Charlie Brown. Rather than a mound of presents, my parents invested in a few quality gifts. We completed the festivities within an hour.
Our minimalist celebration was the opposite of Michael’s family’s maximalist experience, and this disparity caused tension in our early marriage. We needed to learn how to have a couple’s Christmas.
Now at Christmastime I keep Philippians 2:4 in mind as Michael and I plan our family’s celebration: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Here are some tips that have helped me navigate our differing expectations. Perhaps you’ll find these tips helpful, too:
Make a list to ensure a couple’s Christmas happens
- Ask your spouse to make a list of his or her desires for the holiday season: What is most important to him or her? Is it lots of baked goods? Hosting a party? Quiet nights during the season? Minimal or maximum decor?
- Remember you are a couple first and parents second. Set aside a few nights during the holiday season dedicated to couple activities. For example, watch a holiday movie of your spouse’s choosing or take a late-night drive to look at the neighborhood lights.
- Involve him or her in the seasonal planning. Decide on gifts together, wrap presents together, choose the playlist for a family party together. Choosing togetherness over a divide-and-conquer strategy will help keep expectations realistic.
When our church began an outreach to the homeless during December, Michael suggested we make it a part of our family’s holiday tradition. It quickly became the seasonal event I look forward to the most. I love seeing our family members serve alongside one another, packing meals for the hungry. Our Christmas celebrations wouldn’t be the same without Michael’s input, and I’m so grateful his fun-loving, memory-making approach is an integral part of our family traditions. Even though this activity includes the whole family, Michael and I chose it together, so it’s our way of having a couple’s Christmas.