New Relationship or Blended Family? Navigate the Challenges of Blending Traditions this Holiday Year
Holidays are typically our favorite time of year when we get time off, extra holiday pay and time spent with close family. This could be a very special time of year but very stressful as well.
If you're in a new relationship or you've recently married, you may be experiencing your first holiday with your new family. This can create conflict if your family traditions or rituals conflict with that of your new mate's family, especially if it involves blended families with children.
Perhaps one of you is Christian and the other is Jewish; maybe one of you wants a tree but the other is against it. Maybe neither of you practice regularly but you know upholding holiday traditions are very important to your parents and in-laws.
This can create friction if your new in-laws feel that their traditions will be compromised as a result of your union. While blending new families could be stressful at holidays, it can also present opportunities to learn about other cultural traditions and rituals. It's also a chance for you to start your own traditions.
The truth is you can survive holidays with different cultures, beliefs and traditions.
How do you do it? Here are a few helpful tips:
1. Look for commonalities and differences. Each of you make a list of holidays that are most important to you and least important. This could be a chance for you to bond over your common love of Christmas or learn about a new tradition if they're different.
If one of you values Thanksgiving but isn't into Christmas, offer a trade off. One of you is responsible for the festivities of Thanksgiving while the other organizes Christmas. But you have to be willing to participate when the time comes.
2. Learn something new. If you have different beliefs surrounding the same holiday: Make a list of rituals surrounding the holiday that are most important to you. If you and your partner are willing and able, try to participate in as many of each of the rituals from both of your lists as possible. If it's not possible, pick the top 1 or 2 rituals from each list and take turns celebrating them.
This can create a bonding experience through mutual respect and acceptance of each other's differing beliefs. It's also a chance to learn about a tradition or custom that you're not familiar with.
You do not necessarily have to share beliefs to participate in each other's traditions. This is what true acceptance and respect is all about.
3. Handling family clashes. If you have in-laws that have very specific rituals for the holidays that perhaps you and your mate do not share but do not want to offend, try to lovingly participate, but be willing to pass as well.
If you have two different families that live in the same city that come from very different belief systems and you and your mate feel there's no way they could be in the same room together, take turns. Visit one family on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day. The next year-switch! Draw their name out of a hat if you must in order to decide fairly. This can also work if families are out of the area.
There's also no rule that says you have to go to your parents or in-laws for Christmas. If you don't like their traditions, start your own by having everyone over to your house and let them know that while all beliefs and traditions may not be practiced, they are honored and respected in your home. If there are ex-spouses involved and children are splitting time around the holidays, allow them to continue traditions they enjoyed prior to the split. This can help them feel valued and have a sense of continuity amongst so many new changes.
4. Be willing to create your own holiday traditions. Starting a new relationship or family is an exciting time. While it could be stressful, it doesn't have to be. Even if you're starting over and it's just you and your new mate for the holiday, this could be a time where you each pick a holiday tradition you wish to continue, and add to it by starting a new tradition of your own.
This can range from a new holiday breakfast meal where everyone cooks their favorite breakfast dish, or building a snowman as a family. Maybe it involves packing the children in the car with hot chocolate and loading up Christmas tunes as you cruise through the neighborhoods looking at holiday light displays.
Starting a new tradition could be especially important if your new marriage brings together children from previous marriages. It is a way to bond and strengthen the union among new family members. And you never know which one of these new traditions will become a holiday favorite your children will want to pass on!
Holidays could be stressful as well as exciting. While combing families and traditions from differing beliefs may seem impossible, it can create an opportunity to bond and share mutual respect. Holidays don't always have to involve repeating old traditions but can also include starting new ones.