Navigating the Holidays as a Newlywed

You meet a guy. You fall in love. He proposes. You make wedding plans. You say, “I do,” for better or worse. Walking down the aisle, hand-in-hand, you make plans for the rest of your lives. The future looks bright, and it is! But inevitably you will face challenges along the way. For some couples, that includes the holidays. 

Your family traditions are ingrained in you. Whether you’ve come to love or despise them, year after year you know: “that’s just the way we do it.” I’ve celebrated twenty-plus Christmases with my family, and from the way we meticulously decorate the tree, reminiscing over the homemade ornaments, to enjoying soup followed by a Christmas Eve service, I love everything that encompasses our family celebrations. 

When I pictured my Christmases as a married woman, I imagined everything about my family Christmas and simply added my husband into the picture. While this may end up sometimes being the case, reality isn’t always picture-perfect. My husband and I have had to make room, both in our holiday expectations and our hearts, as we adjust to life together, including new families and traditions. 

Whether you’re newly married like me, a seasoned wife, or perhaps a sister-in-law or mother-in-law welcoming a new family member into your home for the first time, what is the condition of your heart as you navigate the holidays this year?

Peace, Love, and Holiness

Christmas is a time when we celebrate the best news of all—Immanuel, God with us. We make extra space to pause and reflect on the wonder of the birth of Christ and His coming to save sinners like you and me. And what a blessing to celebrate this goodness with others around us, especially our families. 

However, the most wonderful time of the year isn’t always rosy with hearts that are glowing. Sometimes we get distracted with the parties and decorations vying for our attention and we start comparing. Sometimes our expectations imprison us as we walk through the holiday with disappointment or guilt. Sometimes the peace, love, and holiness that should accompany the Christmas season looks more like chaos, bitterness, or selfish desires, especially when new people are involved in our celebrations. 

Consider this passage from Colossians as a guide for your heart this Christmas:

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. (Col. 3:12–15)

Whether you’re stepping into unfamiliar territory this holiday season or celebrating the way you always have, here are some practical approaches to celebrating in a way that reflects the love of Christ.

Put on Love

When I thought about my first Christmas as a married woman, my thoughts revolved around . . . me. I envisioned everything the way I wanted it—my plans, my timing, and my family’s traditions. And while my husband was a good sport, I didn’t realize I needed to take into account his thoughts and what he hoped our first Christmas together would look like. 

Self-centeredness is our natural bent as humans, and for me, it’s especially easy for selfishness to flare up at the holidays. But we are called to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3–4). 

If we chose to live with this mindset, how would it change our actions? 

  • When your husband’s opinion is different from yours? 
  • When your new family has more expectations than you’re used to?
  • When the new family member brings an unfamiliar dynamic into your home? 

What if we set aside our selfish desires and “put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness” like Paul tells us in Colossians 3? 

Our ability to “put on” these characteristics can’t be mustered up from within—it’s the active work of the Holy Spirit living in us. When we surrender our hearts and minds to Him, He is faithful to grow us and shape us so that we look more like Jesus. And if you’re gathering with people who don’t know the Lord, your actions will speak volumes. 

Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person. (Col. 4:5–6)

Let this Christmas be an opportunity to show the love of Christ to everyone around you, believers and unbelievers alike. 

Give Grace

Between gift shopping, meal prepping, house cleaning, and everything else the Christmas season entails, it’s not uncommon to feel like we’re stretched-thin. On top of that, adding a new person into the holiday mix can get complicated. All of a sudden, multiple layers are involved. One person’s plans have a domino effect on everyone else’s. Even the simple act of scheduling time with your families proves not so simple, like when Uncle Joe is only available this day but you can’t arrive until the next day. Then your family asks you to consider changing plans with your husband’s family or vice versa, and on it goes. 

We could all use a big dose of grace, especially at this time of year. When we remember the abundant grace God has lavished on us, showing grace to our loved ones doesn’t seem like such a big feat. We love one another, just as Christ has loved us (John 15:12). Extending grace to others flows out of our receiving of His grace.

Walking into your holiday plans with an attitude of grace will help you to be flexible when the agenda doesn’t unfold how you imagined. You may impact your relatives more than you expected, just from exhibiting a heart willing to give kindness, compassion, and understanding. 

Pursue Peace

Giving grace to our families also helps us maintain a peaceful environment during the holidays. Paul tells us in Romans 12, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (v. 18). As far as it depends on you—therefore, you are responsible for your thoughts, words, and actions. Even if Aunt Carol starts up her political arguments or Cousin Eddie gets upset about the food not being ready on time, you have the opportunity to respond in peace, and it may end up changing the atmosphere altogether.

This is not to say that you need to turn on “people-pleasing mode” and run yourself ragged, appeasing everyone’s desires. Sometimes the wishes of your families can be too demanding or exhausting, in which case you may need to have some difficult conversations and set boundaries. But even as you approach them, you can do so in a peaceful, gentle way. As a newlywed, I’m learning to prioritize my husband and his wants, the two of us as a family unit, and then to balance that with accommodating both of our families’ plans. As we pursue peace with everyone and in all of our actions, we reflect God and His character to those around us (Heb. 12:14). 

Enjoy the Ride

Though navigating the holidays as a new family member or with a new family member can be tricky, it’s also a special time to enjoy. As a newlywed, I love learning more about how my husband spent his Christmases growing up, meeting his extended family, and observing his family’s traditions. I get to see him interact more with his family that has now become mine, and it’s an opportunity for me to get to know them better. My husband’s family is much larger than mine, and they have different traditions and plans for holiday celebrations. While our first holidays together have been an adjustment, I’m learning to stop questioning our differences and embrace the way they celebrate. 

In the same way, I’m overjoyed to share my family’s holiday traditions with my husband and let him become part of them. Different doesn’t mean bad. Different is an opportunity to learn and appreciate more about your loved ones. 

One of my favorite parts of experiencing holidays like Christmas as a newlywed is creating new traditions together. Whether it’s choosing an evening to wear Christmas pajamas and decorate the house, reading an Advent devotional together, or building gingerbread houses, let your creativity soar and set new traditions for your own little family unit. 

Don’t Forget the Miracle

Marriage is a gift. Family is a gift. But the Christmas season reminds us of the best gift of all—Jesus coming to save us.

Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

As you maneuver rocky paths or forge your way through the unfamiliar forests of new beginnings this holiday season, don’t forget why you celebrate in the first place. Everything about the Christmas story is a miracle. This year, let’s fix our gaze on the wonder of Jesus and let our interactions with others overflow with the love and joy of His good news. 

About the Author

Micayla Brickner

Micayla Brickner

Micayla Brickner serves on staff with Revive Our Hearts and loves encouraging others with the truth and wonder of the gospel. She is a big fan of chasing sunrises, sharing conversations over coffee, and finding joy in everyday moments. Micayla … read more …

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