By the time this post goes live, Thanksgiving will be a thing of the past and the world will be in full-blown Christmas mode- even though Advent has barely started. But I’m okay with that. I’m okay with my Advent wreath sitting next to my Christmas tree. I’m okay with singing “Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel,” immediately followed by “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” In my family, Advent has always run simultaneously with the preliminary Christmas season, followed by an additional few weeks of the proper Christmas season that extended into the new year. In fact, I’m still going strong when the Epiphany rolls around. In case you couldn’t already tell, I’m a little bit of a Christmas fanatic.
This is Andrew and my first holiday season as a married couple and as a family. Even though JT is still growing steadily inside me, there is already a sense that this is our first family Thanksgiving and Christmas. Considering how many gifts we just bought for Baby Whitmore, it’s not all that surprising.
Before Andrew and I got married, we did not split holidays. Our relationship was still fairly new during our first holiday season, and by the second one, we were both pretty sure that our families needed one more full holiday season with us. So even though we were already engaged, when Thanksgiving arrived, Andrew hopped on a plane and I took the train home. We were able to see each other over our Christmas break, but when Christmas morning arrived, we both woke up in our own beds in our own houses. And we both knew that this was the last year that this would happen.
Before we got married, Andrew and I decided that we would split the holidays evenly between our families, beginning with Thanksgiving in Massachusetts. That would be followed by Christmas Eve and morning at my parents’ house, the rest of Christmas day and night at Andrew’s, and then Easter back in New Jersey. The following year, we would rotate the schedule, beginning with Thanksgiving with my family. It was the best compromise we could reach, and everyone was content with the arrangement, even if they weren’t strictly happy with it. No one was looking forward to that first holiday where there would be an empty seat at the dinner table. But we all knew marriages require sacrifices at times.
Sometimes the sacrifices have been big- like missing Thanksgiving dinner with my family, or Andrew missing Christmas morning with his. Other sacrifices have been small (even though they seemed like life or death matters at the time)- like choosing colored or white lights for our Christmas tree. Over and over again, we have been reminded that the joining of two families involves both joy and sacrifice.
As Christmas break approaches, we will be preparing for our final major road trip before the arrival of John Thomas Whitmore in February. Our families are both anxiously awaiting the birth of the newest family member, though his arrival will once again change the way our families do holidays. As difficult as juggling the holidays has been and will continue to be, it is also the sign of a great blessing.
Holidays would certainly be easier to manage if it was just our little family here in Maryland. It would be simpler if only one of our families was interested in seeing us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There would be no juggling needed- we would follow the same routine year after year, visiting the same family members over and over.
Yes, it would be easier, but it would definitely not be as satisfying. It would make planning simpler, but we would be missing out on a vital part of family. I am willing to make the sacrifice year after year if it means that my children will have a relationship with both sets of grandparents, both sets of aunts and uncles, both sets of cousins. I am so grateful that JT will be surrounded by so much love. Yes, juggling the holidays is not always easy or painless, but it is totally worthwhile. In the end, the trials associated with alternating holidays mean nothing compared to the joy and love to be found in our newly-formed family.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!