It is that wonderful time of the year again, when our spirits are high and everyone is in a spending (not to mention) generous mood. There is less traffic on the roads, travel plans are what’s trending and those oh so nostalgic Christmas carols are bellowing all around us: Joy To The World. Silent Night. Jingle Bells. Mary’s Boy Child.
It is a season when we love to do things as per tradition. Christmas is about nostalgia.
While the rest of the world goes about the season merrily, it comes with some confusion for newly weds, and the excitement of the first Christmas together as a married couple quickly spins into frustration; especially if the “where will we be spending the holidays” question had not been previously discussed. Both the man and his lovely bride come from different families, each with their way of ‘doing Christmas’. Perhaps all along the husband assumed that in keeping with African culture, his wife would give up her tradition and adapt his (and his family’s) way of celebrating the holidays. She, on the other hand, probably assumes that they will go on with “Christmas as usual”, which in the past meant spending time with her family.
Unfortunately, a good number of couples, many years into the marriage still struggle with this dilemma. During marriage counseling, I have interacted with numerous couples whose Christmas woes sound something like this:
Rhoda: “It is unfair for James to always expect me to spend the holidays with his family. He simply does not seem to care about me. What about my family? Besides, all I do when we travel to his shags is cook and clean for the multitude of guests streaming in and out, and so by the end of the day I am too tired to indulge him and his stories about how exciting his day was catching up with his uncle Njoro who has a new young wife. I never really get to enjoy Christmas.”
James: “I love my wife and like having her around my family, to ensure that the bond between them continues to grow. She, however, normally develops a serious attitude problem whenever we travel up country for the holidays. She gets angry and irritable, which I do not understand because my family members are nothing but nice to her.”
Rhoda feels that James does not care about her, while James feels that she does not like his family. Neither is true. James and Rhoda never had the conversation about where, how and with who they would spend the holidays. These are conversations that are usually encouraged during dating/ courtship. The problem is not that they usually go up country, or that they always spend it with James’ side of the family…. far from it. There are many families which spend it that way and everyone is happy.
The problem is communication. They should have discussed it and come to a consensus in advance. The ultimate decision should never be with the extended family. When you tie the knot your siblings and parents become extended family. You vow to leave the family of origin a.k.a extended family and to cleave, that is, be joined to your spouse a.k.a your number one priority henceforth (Gen 2: 24).
This calls for compromise from both parties. There is no single right way to celebrate the holidays. The couple must discuss this soberly to find an amicable solution for both while still recognizing the importance of staying connected to the extended family’s support system. Some couples agree to spend Christmas with the husband’s side of the family and the New Year with the Wife’s. Others opt to visit both sets of parents before the holidays and then create their own new traditions during the actual holidays.
This Christmas, regardless of where you spend it or whom you choose to spend it with, do make sure you enjoy it!
Have a Merry Christmas and a Fruitful New Year
PS: This Article was originally posted on Arusi Guru Blog Page