Changing Traditions: Keeping Christmas Day Sacred

When my husband and I got married we had to merge holiday traditions and figure out what worked for us as a couple, while still maintaining harmony amongst our extended families. Both of our parents live in the Cedar Rapids area, so splitting time didn’t create a lot of travel. For Christmas, we decided to celebrate Christmas Eve with my side of the family and then Christmas Day with his. In the years before we had kids, this plan worked great. We would have a few hours Christmas morning that we would celebrate as a couple and then pack up to head to his parents.

I have two siblings, one having her first child this spring, and another getting married and lives out of town. They both have their significant other’s side to celebrate with as well. My husband has one sibling who lives 18 hours away and often doesn’t spend the holiday with us. Thus the day results in us celebrating with just his parents.

The Real Meaning of Christmas

It’s gotten harder for us to please all parties and still keep those original traditions alive. We feel that we’re rushing out of the house trying to get to the next family gathering. Our girls aren’t able to enjoy the new gifts under the tree. But, most importantly, we aren’t able to spend quality time as a family of four and create new traditions. Christmas was causing me stress to try to please everyone else. We were trying to fit as much as we could in to two days and I was losing the meaning of Christmas, celebrating Jesus’ birth and reflecting on the gifts he’s given us.

I’ve been ruminating on this since our youngest was born two years ago and haven’t known how to tackle the problem. We didn’t want our families to be hurt and think that we didn’t want to spend time with them. In fact, the opposite was true. We wanted to spend more quality time with them and not feel like we were pulled in a million directions.

Keeping Christmas Day Sacred

Changing Traditions

My husband and I had planned to bring up the idea of doing a weekend celebration with one of our families this year. We’d be able to spend a Saturday afternoon/evening spending time together. This would free up Christmas Day for us to create new traditions with our own girls. Fortunately, we never had to bring up this conversation. My mom brought up the idea at Thanksgiving this year. She thought it would be easiest for us and even mentioned being able to spend time with just our families. (Thanks, Mom!) The pressure was lifted and I felt like it was a Christmas miracle.

We got lucky since my mom recognized traditions needed to change, but I know others deal with a similar dilemma. What if you want to broach the subject, but are nervous about family reactions? My advice is to do what works best for your family. Let your extended families know that this isn’t meant to offend anyone or take time away from them. Express your reasons of wanting to keep Christmas Day sacred for your family, whatever those reasons may be.


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Elizabeth is a personable, outgoing mom living in Cedar Rapids and working as a high school counselor. She met her husband, Ryan, in high school, but were friends for several years. They started dating while they were both at the University of Iowa and have been married since 2009. After enjoying 5.5 years as a married couple with only a dog to be responsible for, they added to their family in November 2014 when their daughter Elin was born. They welcomed their second daughter, Myla, in October 2016. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys being outside, reading, traveling, attempting to be crafty, running, cheering on the Hawkeyes and spending time with family and friends. She’s loved seeing Cedar Rapids through the lens of a mom and all our city has to offer for families.