Many families have traditions associated with the holidays. Some celebrate on Christmas Eve, and the whole family gets together for dinner and presents. Some families invite all the relatives to celebrate Christmas morning, and stretch the celebration out all day.
When I’m doing pre-marriage counseling, I casually ask where the new couple will spend Thanksgiving. The bride-to-be quickly answers, “At my parents’ house, of course. It’s the only day of the year we get the whole family together.” I look at the groom and he has a troubled look on his face. With a little coaxing, he chokes out that his grandmother expects them to be at her table that same afternoon… and you don’t want to get on grandma’s “naughty list”.
Does the wonder of Christmas, turn into “I wonder who will be offended this Christmas”?
Most young couples face the challenge of family expectations early in their marriage. The bible says, Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh. (Gen 2: 24) When a couple gets married, the relationship changes between themselves and their parents. But change doesn’t always come easily. All their lives children have been told to obey their parents. Now as married adults, a new authority structure is established. Young married couples sometimes have difficulty with this. But guess who else has difficulty? It seems that well-meaning parents and grandparents didn’t get the memo. They sometimes put tremendous pressure on their adult children to follow the “family script”.
Wise in-laws will invite their newlyweds to family events, and will be very understanding if they are unable to attend. Ask them when it works for them to get together, and then enjoy the holiday. Some families alternate holidays; some split Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Wise newlyweds will decide together what is important to them. There may be some new traditions they want to establish for their new family. They should do their best to communicate their plans graciously to the people who love them. That will take the wondering out of the holidays so everyone can enjoy the wonder of Christmas.