Cookie exchange? Check. Teachers' presents? Check. Christmas cards? Check. Stuffing ingredients? Check. Shopping for the kids? Check. As the holidays draw near, the to-do list can grow exponentially. No wonder the holiday season depletes us of energy and often takes our focus off of our marriage.
In the midst of commitment overload, couples can stay connected by establishing traditions that celebrate and strengthen their love for one another. We've asked busy couples like you to share with us some of the traditions that have helped them stay connected. As you read their heartfelt stories, we hope you'll find inspiration for your own marriage this Christmas season.
A Gift of Memories
The gifts my husband and I exchange are not elaborate but serve as souvenirs of our life together. Last year, the first gift I opened was a sweatshirt from our vacation to Myrtle Beach. My husband and I chatted about how chilly it was, the kite-flying experience and the epic car ride. Then my husband opened a small package from me and found a sleeve of logo golf balls from the same vacation. Reminiscing together helps us remember the wonderful parts of our life that may have been forgotten by the end of the year. It also reminds us that the greatest gifts in life are the times we share with each other.
A Date-Night Stroll
The Christmas season can be filled with so many events that it's difficult to find time for each other. My husband and I don't want to give up our holiday traditions, but we desperately need time as a couple. So we make looking at Christmas lights a date-night event. Rather than driving around town, we bundle up and stroll through the neighborhood holding hands. When we get home, we warm up with eggnog by the fire. This date-night stroll has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions!
Snacks & Stories
About an hour before bedtime, I pull together a quick snack and wrangle our three boys into the living room. While they crowd around the coffee table and nibble on popcorn or apples with peanut butter, my husband and I curl up on the couch and read to the family. We have three special books that we share during December. Even if our day is packed with holiday preparations, our evening remains the same — a quiet moment of reading together while the tree glitters in the corner, where we propped it up after it was knocked over during a Nerf war. It's a time to relax as a couple before we face the storm of bedtime.
—Kristen Joy Wilks
Book of Love
I'd been married only one year when I opened an empty journal and wrote my husband, Jeff, a love letter. I told him I was starting a new tradition so he would feel honored and appreciated. Each Christmas I committed to expressing my love, describing my favorite memories and recording Jeff's loving actions in the pages of this journal.
Twenty-seven years later, my husband's book of love is almost full. Each year, I've added to the journal, wrapped it neatly and placed it under the tree. As our kids have grown, they, too, have included loving messages in Jeff's book. This longstanding tradition helps me pause during the season's chaos and thank God for my husband and for a marriage that has thrived — with God's help — despite the challenges and sorrows of life.
—Julie from Colorado
A Win-Win Tradition
Once our daughters were pre-teens and teens, my husband and I found it difficult to get time alone as a couple amid the holiday chaos because the girls' 8 p.m. bedtime was a distant memory. To make sure my husband, Ben, and I connected with each other between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, we made it a tradition to schedule a weekend away — a night when we could enjoy some quiet time together and a day to make a dent in the Christmas shopping list. The girls eagerly supported our Christmas weekend away because they knew we'd come home with bags of goodies to wrap. It's only now as young adults that they've figured out it was a win-win tradition for all of us — the kids were excited about the shopping and the parents were excited about a night in the city.
Our Day in December
It was our first Christmas back after living 3,000 miles away from both of our families. We were used to having our space to enjoy the holidays, and now we felt overwhelmed. So we decided to create our own day to celebrate together and marked Dec. 23 on our calendar.
It became a tradition, and each year Dec. 23 is our day as a couple. Even if friends are in town or we've been invited to a huge holiday party to attend, you'll still find us in our own comfortable living room, surrounded by the decorations we've collected over the years. We exchange gifts, eat our favorite foods and enjoy the friendship that thrives because we take time to strengthen our bond with each other.
Music of Christmas Past
Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, my wife and I play Christmas music after the kids go to bed. We even listen to the same Christmas CDs from when we were first married. We've found that this music helps us realize how much God has changed us throughout the years and how blessed we are. The Christmas music even gives us an opportunity to reminisce about childhood Christmases before we'd even met.
—John from Colorado
Our Wonderful Life
On Christmas Eve, my husband and I make a fun, kid-friendly dinner for our children and either put them to bed early or settle them in another part of the house. Then my husband and I cook a fancy dinner for just the two of us. We eat in the living room while we watchIt's a Wonderful Life. After the kids are asleep, we bring the gifts up from the basement and pause together to thank God for allowing us to bless our kids. This tradition has become a fun way for the two of us to give thanks and to cherish each other.