Managing Holiday Traditions, Gatherings, and Expectations


Set the tone for your family’s holiday traditions this year.



One of the weird pressures that moms face (and that they hardly ever mention in parenting books) is managing holiday traditions and gatherings (and everyone’s expectations!) for their families. From setting the schedule to deciding which traditions to continue from your own past, to which of your partner’s traditions to incorporate, to starting new traditions … it feels important, liberating, and impossible all at the same time! 


Whether you find yourself frustrated with how your holidays have turned out or you’re a soon-to-be or new parent facing a clean slate of holidays to come, here are some tips for how to make the holidays work for you, as well as some ideas if you’re looking to shake things up with a new tradition.


a brother and sister decorating a gingerbread house together as a holiday tradition


Know Your Own Speed


Are you “go-go-go” or “less is more”? It’s tempting to switch gears when the holidays arrive, but stick with what works for you and your family. And your speed as two newlyweds may not work indefinitely— you may find that your speed changes as you become a family of three, four, or more. 


Work Together


It can’t be one-sided! Your partner deserves an equal say in what stays, goes, or gets started. But, the reality is that most of the holiday heavy-lifting is done by the moms, so make sure that if your partner insists upon keeping/starting a tradition, they are committing to making it happen (or it won’t become a tradition!). And once they are old enough to have an opinion, involve your kids— you may just find that the new tradition you hope to start is a flop, and your kids would prefer something entirely different instead.


Speak Up


Sometimes people just assume that everyone is perfectly happy with doing the same thing, in the same way, at the same time, etc. You’d be surprised by who/what is flexible if you just ask. Whether it’s a more convenient time (people without babies have no clue how important nap time is!), or bringing an easier dish to the potluck, or switching to a gift swap instead of buying for everyone, just ask!


You Can’t Please Everyone


Trying to be all things to all people around the holidays is exhausting. Someone is going to be disappointed. Accept that reality and prepare for it. Better to let down extended family or your partner’s college drinking buddies than beloved family members, your kids— or worse, yourself!


Be Fluid


You aren’t locked into something as a tradition just because you did it one year, or even two or three. If something is no longer working, and it’s no longer sparking joy, then stop trying to force it! Families grow and change, and you can start new traditions at any time. Spoiler alert: your kids may get to an age where they no longer want to visit Santa, and that’s okay! 


Give Yourself Permission


To stop sending out Christmas Cards just because “everyone else does.” To bring a premade dessert to the extended family Thanksgiving dinner. To stop buying presents for everyone you know out of a sense of obligation. To skip that holiday party that you dread every year. To shake things up and start new traditions that work for your family.




a family laying in front of the fireplace in matching red and white striped Christmas pajamas

Ideas for New Traditions:


  • Ugly Holiday Sweaters (trade in your dressy clothes for ugly holiday sweaters)
  • Holiday Movie Marathon (this can work for all age levels from littles to adult kids)
  • Matching Holiday Pajamas (there are so many to choose from online!)
  • Themed Gift Exchanges (depending on the group dynamic, you could go for board games, books, restaurant gift certificates, “as seen on tv” for a funnier vibe — the possibilities are endless)
  • Holiday Bake-Off (who brings the “best” version of a classic dessert for the extended family potluck, your kids can compete against each other for the best decorated sugar cookie, etc.)



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