Travelling Christmas
“Our two families live on opposite sides of the country so our first Christmas as a married couple was always going to involve a big decision. Friends advised us to spend it alone so as to avoid offending anybody but we weren’t keen; we both come from big families and are so used to spending Christmas surrounded by people.

We eventually settled on spending Christmas Day with my family, and travelling to my husband’s family on St. Stephen’s Day to stay for a couple of days. I know that his Mum in particular found it difficult not having him there for Christmas Day, and I will feel so strange this year away from my family for the first time, but it’s all part of growing up! Sometimes we can be scared of change, but it can be a really good thing.” – Clare

One of the reasons Christmas can be stressful is trying to meet the expectations of so many people. If you’re newly married, you might find you both have different ideas of what a ‘perfect Christmas’ might be.

Step-family Christmas
Our first Christmas together was a disaster! My family tradition had been to get up at a ‘reasonable’ hour and have a huge breakfast together before opening gifts. Gary’s tradition was ‘the earlier, the better’ to open gifts – who wants breakfast with so much excitement? In the end our children didn’t open their gifts until after 1pm. We’ve compromised now and created new ‘traditions’ together, which work for all of us.” – Penny

If your circumstances are different this year – whether it’s because you’ve got married, become a new parent or stepparent, family members have left home, or even you’ve been through a separation, divorce or bereavement – you can take this opportunity to create your own Christmas traditions. It might not be the Christmas you’ve ‘always had’, but you may find it a positive and memorable family time all the same.

Even if your circumstances haven’t changed, if you find Christmas stressful, then consider doing things differently this year! Here are three steps to celebrating Christmas your own way.

Planning and Expectations
1 – Plan ahead
If you’ve always done Christmas a certain way, change can be challenging. It helps, though, to start discussing your plans with your partner and your children, and possibly your extended family too. Decide as a family where you’re going to spend Christmas day, and when you’re going to see other relatives, and then let everyone else know as far in advance as possible.
If you can give people some advance notice of your plans, then hopefully they’ll accept the plans more readily and with less disappointment if it means they don’t see you when they were expecting.

2 – Cut a deal
If both sets of grandparents want to see their grandchildren on Christmas Day, but it’s just not possible to be in two places at once, then make a deal. You could offer to spend Christmas with one set this year, and New Year with the other, and then alternate it next year. Or, if it’s practical, take the plunge and invite them all to your home for Christmas dinner (remember, you can ask them to bring food with them).

3 – Involve the kids
If you have children, you will probably find Christmas becomes much easier if you include them in discussions and planning. Often children – especially teenagers – can come up with creative ideas you may have missed. For example: “if we go to grandma’s for dinner, then we can leave in the afternoon when everyone goes to sleep and meet nana on the afternoon walk they always go on.”

And, of course, if your kids are involved in the decision-making process, they are more likely to accept the plans and actively enjoy Christmas.

120% Christmas
We live in the same town as both our in-laws! Two families. Two Christmas celebrations. Two dinners. More sprouts than I care to remember and a strange feeling in my stomach for a couple of days afterwards.
Does it work? Well, yes and no really. I can greatly see the benefit in bi-annual family Christmas festivities. Or one for Christmas, one for New Year. Two in one seems a bit of a patch up really.

I love Christmas dinners, but the second can be a chore not a blessing. There is only so much rich food you can eat before the eyes glaze over and you dream of some plain brown bread or some muesli. I didn’t really have much of a “spark” in the second family gathering as I felt slightly bereft having just left my folks. For my wife it was probably a mirrored feeling as she had been eagerly anticipating getting to this stage and was sad at what she had already missed.

Overall though, both families seemed happy enough and we went home exhausted. I’d say we managed 60% of each family Christmas. The overall result of 120% in total meant we slightly outscored the whole of our old Christmas. We both felt the loss of 40% of what we used to know and love, and somehow the new 60% felt more of a struggle than we expected.” – Dave

With thanks to Care for the Family UK