Christmas,  Marriage

7 Wonderful Ways to Prepare Your Marriage for the Holidays


Snow. Twinkly lights. Lovely gifts, woodsy garland, and a simple nativity scene.

Mystery and joy.

It was Christmas Eve and our very first together.

We were newlyweds living in those dreadful pink apartments and I was eager to have his family out to celebrate Christmas Eve with us. Everyone was invited over for “light snacks and a festive evening”.

I prepared a platter of cheese and crackers, a large bowl of popcorn, and an assortment of Christmas cookies.  The doorbell rang and Matthew’s parents, his sisters and their families poured in and soon our tiny apartment was full to overflowing. Everyone was in good cheer and began nibbling on the goodies.

After an hour or two, however, something seemed wrong.  A slight tension. I could feel it in the air, but couldn’t quite figure it out.

Finally, my sister-in-law softly whispered, “Um…..I don’t mean to be rude, but my children are starving! When are you going to serve the dinner?”


I’m quite certain that I had specified “light snacks” because, of course, that is what you do on Christmas Eve….saving your big, fancy meal for Christmas Day.

Yet apparently, that is not how they did it in his family – not at all. So my “light snacks” were misinterpreted as merely a humble offering on my part. Except that I had meant it.  Rather literally.

I suddenly realized that our small apartment was full of very hungry people who look forward to this special dinner every year. And I had unknowingly offered them a meager bowl of popcorn….

So I did what one can only do in such a circumstance: I burst into tears.

Horrified. Embarrassed. Stressed. Upset. Even angry.

Why hadn’t my new husband thought to tell me that this was the tradition in their family??  The misunderstanding seemed so unnecessary. 

This was the first of many lessons I would learn about marriage, family expectations, and holiday traditions. Thankfully, over the years I’ve learned some ways to help prepare our marriage for the coming holidays such as…

1)   Communicate your expectations: Often we assume our spouse knows what we value and expect over the holidays, but it’s usually worth a conversation or two. You might be both be surprised at the honest answer. You also might find that these things change over time.

2)   Hold your traditions loosely: Traditions can be delightful – but they should never be held above your relationship. God cares more about the love and peace between you than long-standing traditions.

3)   Protect your marriage: His family is important. Your family is important. But your marriage is your first priority, so make decisions together that are in keeping with that priority.

4)   Keep it simple: I know, easier said than done. But if attending every event and upholding every tradition sacrifices the peace in your home? Is it really worth it? Probably not. Be willing to let go of some activities to lessen the stress.

5)   Stick with your budget: Often the holiday stress stems from financial pressure, so determine your budget and then keep to it. Cut back your gift list, decorate simply, and make things at home.  Debt is always a damper to celebration.

6)  Be considerate of one another: For instance, my husband is an extrovert and I’m the introvert. Basically he has more “party” in him than me. So we try to accommodate one another – each giving up a little for the sake of the other.

7)   Keep Christ at the Center. He is the reason we are celebrating. It’s not about the presents, cards, food, fun, or even family. It’s about rejoicing in the Prince of Peace, amen?

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa. 9:6)

Blessings on you and yours as we celebrate the birth of the Christ-Child and King!

Lisa Jacobson



  • Nikki Rodgers

    I love your stories and you’re wonderful advice. Thank you so much for sharing this. This story along with a lot of stories from other lovely women, have one thing in common that leaves me feeling a little crazy. Lol Im so curious to hear the rest of the story! What happened after you burst into tears? I guess most people don’t care because it wasn’t the point of your article, but gals like me need closure. Lol Did you order pizza, did everyone go home mad, what happened??! 🙂

    • Tammy

      This is what she wrote on Facebook- “Well, my sweet sister-in-law ushered me to the back bedroom to mop up my face and then she ransacked my cupboards/refrigerator to come up with the most eclectic meal you’ve ever seen! A little sausage, a few vegetables, leftover soup, etc. (I seriously suspect that she whispered to everyone to put a good face on it – bless her heart!). And nobody ever said another word about it.”
      Like · 77 · Yesterday at 9:57pm

    • Lisa Jacobson (Club31Women)

      To ease your mind, Nikki 😉 – My sweet sister-in-law escorted me to the back bedroom where I could mop up my face while she went back out and began rifling through our cupboards/refrigerator and pulling out whatever she could: a little sausage, bits of vegetables, leftover soup, etc. and everyone nibbled away at the small offerings. (She must have whispered for everyone to keep it quiet because no one ever made a hint of complaint!). And not one of them ever mentioned it again, even though the memory was sure etched in my mind. I am very blessed to have married into a kind family!

  • Alison Wood

    Wow! That would be tough to deal with! Thanks for sharing your story and those tips! I definitely agree that your marriage is more important that tradition! Keep up the great writing!

  • Mari

    I spent many years going to my in-laws house for the holiday meal. Finally, I decided it was my turn to provide the meal, so the invitation was given and accepted. Christmas eve – the day for the Christmas dinner – came. Now I wanted to do something entirely different. I wanted a non-traditional meal – Homemade Tacos – a big favorite at our house! After the in-laws sat around wondering when dinner was going to be served, I announced that it would be later in the afternoon, and it was going to be tacos. They shortly dismissed themselves and went home – before dinner. My big entertainment for the holidays was ruined because I didn’t serve the traditional turkey dinner! It was a hard lesson to learn but all future years the dinner was at their house. Now they are gone and we have non-traditional every year! This year it will be steaks on the bbq. Each year we choose a different idea. Thank the Lord, we don’t have to be stuck with the same turkey dinner! Did I mention I don’t like turkey?!

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for sharing! I’ll never forget our first Thanksgiving with my husband’s family, where I offered to make the turkey, only to discover the night before that his family always ate their Thanksgiving “dinner” for their noon meal and was expecting me to arrive with the turkey by 11am. My family had always eaten it as the evening meal, so I’d planned to have all day to prep and roast the turkey. Instead, I found myself out of bed making stuffing at 3am the morning of Thanksgiving and so stressed out and tired by the time we were gathering to eat that I was in tears myself. In some ways, the three years we lived “alone” (several states away from either of our families) was a blessing in disguise, as it helped us solidify our own family unit and figure out which “traditions” we wanted to embrace as a family, and which we were willing to compromise on for the other.

  • Kelly

    My husband and I had his parents, his sister, her husband, and their two children over for the first time in our small apartment shortly after we were married as well. I made stew in one of those crock pots. You know, those small ones that sit on top of the burner that plugs in type (maybe some of you do not know about those). They were popular “back in the day” in 1987. I thought I made plenty, but since I had always only made for two, I barely had enough to feed everyone. They were all so kind about it though. I think they stopped at a fast food place after they left.
    A couple years later, I remember my mother in law fixing dinner one night for the family at her home and during our conversation she said she always made too much just to be sure everyone had enough and also to send some home with others. I had always remembered that and made PLENTY for everyone and tried to have some to send home with people. It got a little more difficult as all the families grew and grew, but it was one of the best advices I received during our first few years of marriage. I am so grateful for the wisdom of older people.

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