Less than a week until Christmas? I still can’t believe it. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.
Christmas is generally sunny, about 70 degrees. Christmas is waking up, romping up and down on my slumbering brother (yes, I did this in my twenties – don’t judge), and opening stockings before breakfast. Christmas is lights in Naples, gum drop trees downtown, and a post-meal walk up Big Dalton canyon.
None of that is happening this year. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel like Christmas.
I’m stuck in the sentimental space between Christmases past and Christmases in the future. For a newlywed, this space is called Christmas Present. As the marital status implies, everything is new. New spouse. New lodging. New responsibilities. New life.
Christmas Present is new, and for a holiday built on traditions and memories, new can take the feelings of Christmas right out of Christmas.
So, how do you get Christmas back in Christmas? Since I am currently waist deep in Christmas Present, my advice is fairly raw and being tested as I type. In any case, here are the ways I’m approaching my first married Christmas:
- Know that your feelings are okay. Marriage is a huge adjustment and holidays are part of the adjustment. You are simultaneously mourning Christmas Past, trying to make it through Christmas Present, and hoping Christmas Future is better. Give yourself a break.
- Be honest with your spouse. Your feelings effect them, too! I hesitate to talk about Christmas feelings because I don’t want Tim to feel bad. Withdrawing (which is my default) makes him feel worse. Communicate!
- Be honest with God. If you’re not used to speaking candidly with your Abba about how you feel, let David speak for you. The Psalms are full of his heart, mind, and soul in song form. If David can ask God, “Why?” and “What gives?” (Emily paraphrase), then you can pose the same questions.
- Let God work on your feelings. Trying to force yourself into Christmas cheer isn’t going to get you very far. If you’re not feeling how you want to feel about Christmas Present, ask God for peace and joy, even in the newness. If you’re feeling like me, you can even ask Him to help you want to have joy and peace in the newness.
- Embrace the new. Don’t try to replicate Christmas Past. I have a good imagination, but jacking up the heater to 80 degrees, importing some palm trees, and creating cardboard cut-outs of my entire family just wouldn’t be the same as Christmases past. Trying to recreate a SoCal Christmas in Northern Idaho is disappointment in the making.
- Transform traditions. Is opening stockings your favorite part of Christmas morning? Stuff a stocking for your spouse or family member. Always decorate Christmas cookies with your mom? Host a cookie exchange for college gals who might also be away from home. Not Christmas without a ham? Try your hand at tamales instead.
- Make new traditions. They probably won’t fill the Christmas Past void, but overtime new traditions will be special. In fact, they will become the new Christmas Past. I know I will look back with fondness on the first time Tim cut down our own tree, the first year our tree fell over, the first time Tim and I made Christmas dinner together, and our first Christmas in Coeur d’Alene.
Newlyweds: What are you doing to make Christmas Present feel like Christmas?
Married folks: What did you do to make your first married Christmas special?
2 thoughts on “When It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas”
We’ve enjoyed making our own traditions, things that we do special with just us. Some of the new traditions are influenced by previous family ones, but made unique to us. Like you said, it may not feel like Christmas traditions now, but the ones you start now will be ones that become cherished traditions in Christmas Future. It’s definitely strange that first year, and can be tough, but it looks like you’ve got the right attitude and self-reflection :-). I’m so privileged to be able to be your sister!
I love how new traditions are a melding together of two people’s previous traditions. I agree, it definitely makes them feel familiar but special and unique. I love having you as a sister! :)