My boyfriend and I were talking to a friend about our plans for Christmas the other day. I offhandedly said, “Oh, we’re just going to do what we always do,” and it wasn’t until later that I realized how awesome it is that we have things that we “always” do for Christmas. This is our fourth Christmas together and we’ve fallen into the tradition of cooking an obscene amount of food, watching movies on the projector, and not taking off our pajamas all day. It’s cozy, fun, and it works well wherever we’re living.
Because of the way my boyfriend and I live, we have to forge our own traditions more than the average couple. In addition to the fact that he’s British and I’m American (which means we can’t even agree on the proper Christmas greeting), we don’t live close to either of our families. We both work online and we move to a new country every couple of months. That means we’ve celebrated Christmas in San Francisco, Guatemala, Vietnam, and this year will be in Thailand. We can’t default to going to our parent’s house or following their traditions to the letter because it’s just not logistically possible for us.
But even couples who don’t bounce around the globe have to figure out ways to meld their traditions and preferences during the holiday season. I asked three relationships experts to see what their top tips were for creating new holiday traditions with your significant other. Here’s what they told me.
1. Talk About What’s Important To You
"I think the most important thing is to talk to your significant other about what is important for you,” Sarah Watson, sex therapist and counselor tells Bustle. “Let them know if baking cookies or cutting down a Christmas tree is something that means a lot to you.”
2. Keep Your Family Favorites
“Many couples are bringing together different religious beliefs as well as different cultural traditions,” dating coach and licensed marriage and family therapist Pella Weisman tells Bustle. “If this is you, instead of going for the blender idea of ‘Christmakkah’ or the equivalent, try having each partner bring in something of meaning to them that they want to share with the other. Bringing in family traditions can be a meaningful way of staying connected to your family of origin while you begin to build your own family.”
3. Combine Your Traditions
“I don't think you have to leave your birth family traditions behind, but build new ones and incorporate into family traditions is a great idea,” Watson says. “Whatever you decide to do, make time for your significant other and ask what is important to them and discuss what is important to you.”
4. And Get Rid Of The Ones You Hate
“I suggest that both partners talk about what traditions from their birth families they enjoyed/looked forward to and which ones they disliked,” Erika Martinez, Psy.D., licensed psychologist from Envision Wellness, tells Bustle. “Decide together which — if any — to integrate in your new family.”
5. Do Something New To Both Of You
“Was there something this (or in past) season that stand out in your minds and made the holidays more enjoyable?” Martinez asks. “Go ahead and intentionally recreate that trip, event, outing, or party. It can be a trip, cooking or baking certain foods, going to see the Nutcracker, or attending local light displays or holiday events.”
While I'm all about tradition and nostalgia, I love the idea of creating new traditions as you start to form a new family. My only caveat? It better include cookies.
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