Navigating the Holidays Without Killing Your Family


Our first Christmas as a married couple nearly killed the joy.

My husband and I both LOVE Christmas - so much so that we choose our wedding date to be just seven days shy of December 25th. We are crazy about having an anniversary in that dreamy season. However, our very first Christmas as a brand new family of two was tough to navigate.

Both of us have multiple extended families, giving us more people to celebrate with, but also more schedules to coordinate. That first year as a married couple, all sides of the family wanted to spend either Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with us. This resulted in a holiday season of tug-of-war. As newlyweds in our twenties we still very much wanted to make all sides of the family happy by continuing childhood traditions, but we discovered just one week into marriage that wasn’t going to be possible.  

If you find yourself dreading the holiday hustle, I hope these ideas offer you some encouragement.

1. Prioritize immediate family.

Although it is incredibly important for us to spend time with our extended families, the realization that impacted us most that first year was that we were a new family of our own. As such, we had the freedom to  figure out a holiday routine that allowed more joy and less stress, while still spending time with our extended families.

2. Spread the love and joy.

Once we recovered from that first Christmas season, we began talking through ways to accommodate multiple celebrations. For almost two decades we have been stretching the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, by celebrating “Christmas” with different families every couple of weeks, rather than cramming the celebrations into a forty-eight hour period. We love that this gives us a chance to savor the time with each family, rather than feeling rushed.

When we became parents, we realized a side benefit to spreading out the celebrations all month - it allows our kids a slower pace to enjoy their doting grandparents. We all know that a few days in a row of gifts plus sugar plus late nights equals cranky little ones.

3. Savor the season.

By planning ahead and celebrating with intention, we have found ourselves in a holiday pace more conducive to joy and peace. Our family calendar can stay steady instead of hurried, and our time with family and friends can be intentionally planned rather than last minute.

We have also found it easier to anticipate and savor the true meaning of Christmas, gathering and celebrating all through Advent instead of only on December 24th and 25th.

We incorporate different Advent calendars, devotions and Scriptures throughout the season, as well as seeking ways to serve our community. Honestly, as a parent, this is just as important to me as guarding an overly-crowded calendar or finding just the right gifts.

What about you? I’d love to hear your ideas for keeping the holiday season sacred and special. How have you been able to navigate the holiday hustle?



Meet the Author!

Heather McAnear is a wife, mom, author and speaker with a passion for sharing God's truth to help women understand their uniquely beautiful design and how to use it for God's glory! She loves teaching young married couples with her husband, homeschooling their three children, traveling the world, enjoying good chocolate and long conversations in coffee shops. CRBC has been her church home for two decades and she is thrilled to be part of the Women's Ministry team, helping women connect with each other and grow in their walk with Jesus!