re you stressed about the idea of planning holidays with your family, your spouse’s family, and also wanting to have your own traditions? Family expectations can lead to quite a bit of frustration. Honestly, I never really understood how holidays could be stressful or difficult until I got married. With the words “I do”, I suddenly had more than myself or my family to think about. I now had to think about my husband’s family, and also the fact that Adam and I were now our own little family, and wanted to create our own traditions.

Here are 6 tips that we’ve found really helpful as we work to keep the holidays a time of joy (we learned some the hard way):

  1. Talk openly with each other about what you would like to happen
  2. Talk about what traditions you would like to start, where you would like to spend Christmas and Christmas Eve, and any other expectations you may have. When you communicate what you want, you can work together to come up with the best plan before it turns into an argument.

  3. Be willing to adjust your expectations
  4. This one is really hard for me. I love the way holidays have been for the past 28 years and I don’t want them to change. But it isn’t just about me anymore; it’s about Adam too. He has his dreams about the holidays and traditions he wants to incorporate. The holidays are about us, as a team, working together. We have to be understanding of each other’s desires and needs to find something that works for both of us. Check in with your spouse to see what you can do to make the holidays special for them. Be willing to listen and hear what means the most to them.

  5. Set a budget for gifts and stick to it
  6. It is so easy to lose track of spending if we aren’t intentional. Talk to your spouse and come up with an amount to spend on gifts that you are both comfortable with. Christmas is not a time to go into debt. This will only cause more conflict and tension later on.

  7. Think outside the box
  8. Our first couple of years of marriage we exchanged gifts with my brother- sister-in-law. I remember feeling so much pressure to find them the right gift. Adam and I would find ourselves stressed over what to get them. Finally, after a couple of those stress-filled years, we all talked and decided to stop doing gifts and spend the money doing dinner together instead. Our time together went from something that gave me anxiety to a time of family and fun that I cherish and love.

  9. Know that you don’t have to meet everyone’s expectations
  10. You and your spouse need to figure out how you want to spend your holiday time with each of your families, as well as your own family. Some people may be disappointed or upset and that’s okay. You have to keep your own little family (you, your spouse, and kids) and the traditions that you set as your top priority. The most important thing is that you and your spouse are on the same page.

  11. Give abundantly
  12. While we should be generous all throughout the year, the holidays are a great time to actively show the love of Jesus. There are many opportunities if we keep our eyes open. The Bible calls us to BE love, actively serving others with grace and humility.

“The Bible calls us to BE love, actively serving others with grace and humility.”

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In the midst of the planning family activities and gifts, remember the true meaning of Christmas. It can be easy to focus on the frustrations and completely miss where the focus should be–the birth of Jesus. Christmas stress and family expectations should never distract from that. By eliminating unnecessary stress and making sure we’re intentional with our holidays, we can celebrate the true reason for the season.

What are some other tips you have that have made the holidays easier? What are some of your favorite traditions? Share with us in the comments below…

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