A habit that I’m trying to pick up from Emily is to savor my days rather than rushing time by celebrating or preparing for the holidays too early. However, when your mom texts you multiple times a week asking when you’re coming home for Christmas, it’s time to make some plans!
Choosing which holidays to share when you’re dating is a challenge we’re all well-acquainted with. With multiple families to see, traditions to take part in, and miles between each of them, how do you choose which you do together? How do you invest time in each other and each other’s families when you’re not engaged or married yet (or even thinking about it!), but still honor the traditions you’ve made among your own family and friends?
Taylor and I have learned that there’s no one way to do the holidays. In fact, we do it differently every year, since we both balance two sets of divorced parents, siblings and their respective spouses, everyone living in different states, and ever-changing work schedules. Actually, this is the first year we’ll be spending every holiday from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve together! It’s given us a great excuse to start making our own traditions, and to add even more cheer to the holiday season.
I asked the ladies in the office if they would also weigh in with their experience doing holidays while dating, and which fun traditions were formed from that time. I hope it helps to remind you that while the holidays can come with their fair share of schedule-wrangling, and time-compromising, there’s still plenty of time to do something that’s exciting and celebratory for the two of you!
For me and Taylor, this year will be the first in the four years we’ve been dating that we’ll spend Thanksgiving together. Two years ago, we started our own tradition to make up for the holiday we didn’t get to spend together: an annual Friendsgiving dinner with our best friends. Not only has this helped me hone my turkey-roasting skills for the day when we get to host family Thanksgiving, but it’s also been a really sweet way to spend time with our friends and each other during the holidays without taking time away from already-established family commitments.
Kristin: Initially, Kyle and I spent holidays apart. Over time, we made a joint decision to spend different holidays with one another’s family in the light of different factors like location, timing, and established family traditions. We had very open conversations about how to best do this, knowing that our decision impacted more that just ourselves. And once we made a decision, we stuck with it. Early in our relationship, if we weren’t spending the holiday together, we started to exchange cards on all of the major holidays, slipping them into suitcases or cars in advance. I found my very first holiday card from KPW tucked in my school bag right before Thanksgiving, after he had left to go home to be with his family. While we spend all holidays together now, we still continue the card exchange, leaving them under pillows or taped to the bathroom mirror.
Amber: When we were dating, my family was local, but his family was a three-hour drive away. We alternated years, with some spent at his family’s house on Thanksgiving and mine for Christmas. Brandon had been away for many holidays during his seven years in the Air Force, so it wasn’t hugely disrupting to his family for him to be away on any respective holiday.
Emily: John and I grew up in the same town, so our parents conveniently live only 10 minutes away from each other. While we were dating, we stuck with our own families for the major events (Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas Eve, Christmas morning), but made sure to each spend time with the other’s family while everyone was in town for the holidays. Things like baking cookies with John’s sisters and sledding down the hill behind his house were priceless opportunities to get to know his family better! Starting with our very first Christmas, though, John and I exchanged stockings. We went to college together, so we’d do the exchange—complete with hot cocoa and cookies from the dining hall—before we went home for the holidays. More than gifts, stockings to me represent something you do only with your family, so I love that we made this a tradition for our own budding family unit long before we actually got engaged.
Jess: When Logan and I were living in the same city, we’d have breakfast together on Christmas Eve before driving our separate ways to celebrate with our families. Now that we live in different states, we’re having to get a bit more creative about creating new holiday traditions.
Marissa: Since our families live in different states, the holidays have always been a bit tough for us. However, we have always wanted to be respectful of each other’s family commitments. During our time dating, we chose to celebrate the holidays with our own families. We wanted to give our undivided attention to our respective families, so we spent the time surrounding the holidays together creating memories and traditions. One tradition that we began when we were dating was trips to Callaway Gardens to see the lights. Add in hot chocolate and a cozy blanket, and it’s the perfect date night!
I would LOVE to hear how you’re spending your holidays with your significant other and your family! What fun traditions have you created, and how have you navigated both families’ commitments?
All photos by our Blue Ribbon Vendor, Caroline Lima.