After the smoke has cleared from the wedding & honeymoon, the thank you cards have gone out, and you’ve had the chance to shake the sand out of your suitcase, a traditional family holiday will roll around. Most people are accustomed to celebrating special occasions in their own way, with their own families. Suddenly, each individual has the addition of a second family and a second set of traditions to contend with!
No matter what the holiday, you are now family celebrities, and everyone will want you. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other important family celebration will see you now held in high demand.
Many couples choose the split holiday method. Depending on how your respective family groups are, this can go like this: Thanksgiving with Family A, Christmas with Family B. Christmas Eve with Family A, Christmas Day with Family B and C and New Year’s day with Family D. This method can and does work for many couples, when distance isn’t a major issue.
Even when all this planning comes together perfectly, awkward moments can still ensue. Generational issues such as diet choices are frequent triggers for awkwardness. Here’s a scenario you may be able to relate to:
Mother in Law: Jennifer, please try this garlic herb butter on your potatoes, it’s a traditional family recipe.”
Jennifer: “Actually, thanks so much, but I’m a Vegan.”
Mother in law: “Oh, but there’s no meat dear, it’s just butter.”
Jennifer: “I’m not just a Vegetarian, I’m a Vegan, we don’t consume any products that originate from animals. Like butter does.”
Mother in law: “Oh, my. You do look quite pale, you probably aren’t getting enough protein.”
Mother in law: “James, look how pale your wife is, like a ghost.”
Mother in law: “Robert, our son is married to a very picky eater, just like your sister Margaret who was anorexic and now look, she’s dead!”
These types of family faux pas aren’t attributable only to Mothers-in-law, in spite of the sizeable joke genre they have inspired. How about this memorable welcome:
Father in law: “Welcome to our family Thanksgiving Brent! We’ve never had a gay married couple at our Thanksgiving table before. Or a male daughter-in-law at the Thanksgiving table for that matter…”
Some more seasoned or just plain bold newlyweds will opt to host their own holiday celebrations and bring the families altogether under their own roof. When members of both families are all together in your home for the first time, the awkwardness can be even worse. Check this out:
Grandmother of the bride: “Megan, what a lovely house you have. Where’s the brandy?”
Megan: “Dennis and I don’t drink alcohol, Grandma, or keep it in the house.”
Grandmother of the bride: “Well, that’ll be the end of your marriage, soon enough, how will you be able to stand each other without having a good, stiff drink?”
Grandmother of the bride: “For god’s sake, someone get me some brandy so I can stand all of you!”
How about this conversation, which actually happened to my brother:
Uncle of the bride: “Wow, Jim, nice man cave. Who’s your football team?”
Jim: “Actually, I don’t follow football.”
Uncle of the bride: “What on earth do you do on Sundays in your man cave?”
Jim: “I play my clarinet in my man cave on Sundays…”
Uncle of the bride: “Susan, your husband isn’t watching Sunday football? What kind of man doesn’t watch Sunday football? Does he ballet dance in there as well?”
No matter the care taken with holiday plans clashes of generation, culture, personality, and expectations can still occur. Sometimes it’s good to decide what your own expectations are for the holidays and discuss them before making any family commitments. Once done, staying aware that these types of situations are bound to arise can help keep the drama at bay, or to a minimum.
Finally, whatever awkward moments and situations do happen to arise, think of all the great stories the two of you will have to laugh about together for years to come!