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What are some Christmas traditions you had growing up?
Afton: We made puppy chow and ate it all the time. We always kicked off the Christmas season the night after Thanksgiving by watching Christmas Vacation and Home Alone.
Ted: We would go to my great-grandfather’s farm and cut down a tree. Then, my mom would have my brother and I decorate it—she would let us do whatever we wanted to do.
CJ: We didn’t have a ton of traditions, but we always had spaghetti for dinner on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning we’d have sausage casserole and our grandparents would come over for dinner. Now, Teri and I go to Chili’s on Christmas Eve—it’s the best people watching ever.
What assumptions did you make going into marriage about Christmas?
Afton: I assumed we would get a real Christmas tree. That was not an assumption that Hudson had—he wanted to use a cheap fake one so we didn’t have to spend money every year. So our first year of marriage, he got out the fake tree AND we got a real tree and used them both.
Ted: We do a fake tree, too. Christmas ornaments have to mean something. So every time we’d travel, we’d get an ornament. Not one ornament is the same as another. But some of our tension started when we had to travel home and decide what family to see when.
CJ: I don’t know that I had a whole lot of expectations that first Christmas. I think we pictured Christmas our way and with our own families. You don’t picture the part with your in-laws, and that’s where some of the expectations come in.
What are the stressors you feel when it comes to Christmas?
Afton: I still feel the stress of having to figure out the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day situation. We also have split custody with my step son, Julian, so we have to figure that out every year. It’s a logistical challenge for us. I also feel the pressure of making sure everyone else has a great Christmas.
Ted: Some of those logistical things have ironed themselves out for us. But what to get the kids for Christmas is a stressor. I want to celebrate, but some of it seems excessive.
CJ: This year, Teri is due with our first kid on Christmas day. As excited as we are, there’s also a lot of stress—who is coming in, who is staying with us.
Some of the most common stressors that people have around Christmas:
- lack of time
- lack of money—Americans spend an average of $750 a year on Christmas.
- pressure to give or receive gifts
- where and who to spend the holidays with.
The results of increased stress can make a couple feel exhausted, disconnected, and have less interest in connecting as a couple.
It’s important for couples to pause and remember what’s important.
Paying attention to the heart of Christmas can help couples simplify and get back to what a big deal this holiday is for our faith. There are a lot of ways this can be true for you.
It could be creating experiences instead of just stuff. It’s asking what you want for yourself and your kids and having experiences with your spouse.
Your one simple thing for this week
Talk about Christmas traditions before Christmas.
Ask each other:
- What does Christmas mean to you?
- How did you celebrate Christmas growing up?
- What your favorite Christmas memory as a kid?
- If you could create the perfect Christmas traditions, what would they be?
- How is the way you see Christmas different from me?
- How is the way you see Christmas the same as me?
- How do we compromise?
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