Diary of a Marriage: New Traditions

With the holidays creeping up on us, our resident wife-in-training tackles the newness of holidays — as a married couple

Christmas Eve, 2008 — the first holiday J. and I were married — started out fine. We spent the evening with my family (who, luckily, live very close by). It wasn’t until J. and I were about to leave, that things got tough. That was when I finally realized that no longer would I be waking up with my younger sister, shuffling in to morning breakfast, and opening gifts in the family room where I’d spent every one of my Christmases, my dad stoking the popping fire in the fireplace with festive balls of used wrapping paper.

And so … I cried.

Up until that moment, I’d been completely enthused about the whole First Married Christmas thing. I’d used the self timer on our camera, positioning it just-so on a teetering stack of books, to document our first tree-trimming, J. and I holding a sign with “Our First Christmas” scrawled on it, sitting next to our pitiful three-and-a-half-foot shrub. Still, as soon as I hugged my sister, who was home from college, goodbye for the night, I was inconsolable.

The thing about marriage is that you’ve got a whole new set of traditions to forge. Sure, there are the set-in-stone family festivities that now include both of you (J. now comes to my family’s annual Christmas Eve feast at a kitschy local Chinese buffet), but you’ve also got to work to make the holidays yours. And while I delighted in the creating of new traditions, I bristled at the thought of changing my old ones, those that had been there for 26 years and which I feared didn’t exactly have much room for another person.

The hard part was — and still is — peeling away some of the things that are less meaningful tradition, and more plain old routine, in order to carve out space for just the two of us. This was admittedly near impossible on our first go-around, both of us determined not to squander any of our precious pre-marital family traditions. We spent the day ping-ponging from my parents’ house for Christmas breakfast to his folks’ place for an early dinner, and then back to my family’s place for dessert with friends. When we finally got home, after hours of gift opening and kisses and happy chatter, we were too tired to do anything but crash in front of A Christmas Story.

Christmas 2009 was a welcome change of pace. We chose to forgo breakfast with my family so that we could actually celebrate Christmas morning — lazy and lounging in our new pajamas — with just the two of us. I felt a little twinge of nostalgia at times and, okay, a weird sort of sadness at the thought of my sister playing the part of the only child on Christmas morning after years of padding into the family room together. That will probably be tough for a little while, until she’s got a family and traditions of her own. And by that time, J. and I will have cemented our own traditions, which now include a self-timer photo of us holding a handwritten sign in front of our tree (now, thankfully, six feet tall), and a Christmas evening viewing of A Christmas Story — just the two of us.

Tell us: Did you have difficulty adjusting your holiday traditions to fit in your spouse’s or your spouse’s-to-be? (Please tell me you cried, too.)

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