Trying to Relax Over the Holidays

By Aaron and Hilary Bernstein, Contributing Writers

After celebrating two Thanksgivings and Christmases together as boyfriend and girlfriend, we decided to start our own Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions once we got married. Now, nine years later, we’re thankful we made the decision at the beginning of our marriage.

Since our family’s tradition is now firmly established, every holiday season is a no-brainer. For the most part, there are no disputes, no questions – our schedule is just the way our family does things.

Curious about what we decided?


We love to relish the true meanings of the days and savor holiday moments spent with our families. Frankly, cramming two or three celebrations into one day stresses us out. Because of this, we have one family celebration per day. That’s it.

For Thanksgiving, we take turns with our families. Both sets of our parents are still married, so one year we eat dinner with Aaron’s family and the next year we eat with Hilary’s family.

We never flip-flop Christmas, though. We celebrate Christmas with Aaron’s family on Christmas Eve, we spend Christmas morning with just the two of us – and now, with our children, it’s four of us – and after our children’s nap times we celebrate Christmas evening with Hilary’s family.

That’s it. Simple, huh?

In theory, it works. But when we throw extended family Christmas parties into the mix, we end up enduring three- or four-day “Christmas Extravaganzas” where we have three or four days of consecutive parties. It’s exhausting. This year we’re torn, because we desperately want to teach our young children the beauty, simplicity and wonder of Christmas. God came to Earth as a baby. We want to focus on Jesus Christ instead of a commercialized holiday. While it’s nice to see every single member of our family, do we really have to do it all in a window of a few days – and be expected to give and receive gift after gift?

New Year’s has quickly and quietly become our favorite holiday of the season. We spend New Year’s Eve in by ourselves. New Year’s Day, too. After trying to go out for a New Year’s celebration one year and just not having much fun, we make our own special pull-out-all-the-stops dinner, and play games together until midnight. On New Year’s Day we think of goals and resolutions for the new year and enjoy a quiet pork and sauerkraut dinner.

This plan and tradition works for our family in a predictable, comforting way. What scheduling traditions have you established? How do you navigate an extended family holiday scheduling nightmare?

This post is part of our Surviving the Holidays With Your Marriage Intact series! Come back all month long for tips, advice, giveaways, and a FREE eBook on the Holidays here at A Biblical Marriage. You can find the rest of the series HERE.