Holidays and Happenings: Family Celebration Etiquette for Newlyweds

Getting married is easy, but staying married involves ongoing understanding and respect. For example, newlyweds, who marry in the fall season, may soon find that they are at odds regarding tradition and how they respectively celebrate the holidays. For some, continuing tradition is very important, yet if couples maintain separate traditions, a truce must be made.

You Can’t Please All People

Understand you can’t please all people when it comes to separate traditions. For example, a wife’s side of the family may celebrate Hanukkah and the husband’s Christmas. Each holiday involves separate dates, gift giving, and faiths. Some may be obstinate in pledging allegiance to their faith and neglecting to recognize what matters to others. If you think you can please all family members during this time, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. It’s important to make your mate understand what’s important to you while respecting what matters to them too.

 Immediate Family Matters

When it comes to family, newlyweds are met with expectations that sometimes are not aligned with their own intentions. For example, Christians often eat fish on Christmas Eve, yet if your immediate family is vegetarian or does not want to observe the holiday at all, it’s okay to make that choice despite the chagrin of other family members. Immediate family matters most; and, if the extended family has a problem with you making your own decisions, it’s best to start your own traditions that include or omit the routines of others.

More Family in Less Time

It’s understood that a wife’s family wants to spend the holidays with members just as much as the husband’s. However, it creates a problem for newlyweds who must meet the expectations of each family. Make it understood that you would like to spend time with each family, yet time spent will be limited in order to do so. Building a family means adding more members, and often, it means doing well in allocating your time. This is especially true for couples with a newborn baby; grandparents, aunts, and cousins may look forward to spending a ‘first’ holiday with a baby, yet the baby’s health and the happiness and convenience of your immediate family matters most.

Focus On Sentiments Rather Than Religions

Newlyweds can be at odds regarding when and what to present as gifts during the holidays. It’s important to focus on the sentiment, the why, rather than the what. That way, there is no argument about opposing religions, views, etc. For example, focus on the fact that the husband is giving wedding Christmas ornaments because he wants his wife to remember their special day rather than assume it’s a clever way to get her to celebrate the birth of Christ.

 It’s a Time of Togetherness and Not Competitiveness

During birthdays, weddings, and holidays, some newlyweds receive gifts that contrast in price and grand gesture. For example, the wife’s parents, both doctors, may present the couple with a cruise vacation while the husband’s parents, living on social security, can only afford to give a gift certificate to the movies. If such contrast bothers you or other family members, make a choice to suggest gift giving be done in private, so no one feels superior or inferior, or do away with money gifts altogether, and remind members that the holidays are a time to be together and not a call to compete for love with gifts.

Marcella D. Estrada is a family therapist. She likes sharing her insights online. Her articles appear on many family and lifestyle websites.

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