By Joy Ballard
Finding the perfect Christmas blend for your family takes a little time and effort. But when you intentionally craft it with your husband, you’ll have greater joy and peace this holiday season.
My Christmas Blend Story
Marriage is like a great brew of French press coffee—a blend of traditions, experiences and expectations—all in the same glass beaker. If you push the press filter down too quickly, you will end up with a spill. That is what our first Christmas as a married couple felt like.
As if blending these characteristics from two different families isn’t enough, our marriage also has different cultures in the mix. Having been born and raised in Mexico, my perspective on an American Christmas came directly from the movies: snow softly falling on picket fences, families singing carols around a piano, and piles of presents that hold exactly what each recipient wished.
In our first Christmas as young newlyweds in northern Minnesota, there was snow, all right, and our quirky little apartment was cozy and sweet. Since our budget was slim, we agreed to only purchase stocking gifts for one another.
Excited and proud of the quality of my purchases, I had stuffed into my husband’s stocking a novel by his favorite author, a pair of gloves, his favorite drink and some candy. But when I looked inside my stocking, I found an orange, some pencils, lip balm, a toothbrush, gum, socks and other similar things. I regret to this day that I couldn’t hide my disappointment.
I felt so silly and materialistic. Even the movies usually make the point that it’s not about the gifts!
Before long I learned that the things my husband gifted me came from a lifetime of family traditions. He had not procrastinated and raided the dollar store, as I initially assumed. Those gifts had a deeper meaning to him which I discovered later.
In our most recent Christmas, we still gifted each other only stockings. In my stocking last year I found nail polish, chocolate, a small bottle of perfume, my favorite lip balm, and other small treasures I absolutely loved.
Developing Our Christmas Blend
So what happened in the 13 years between our first and most recent Christmas? My husband and I have learned a few things that have helped us find the perfect blend of holiday traditions and experiences for our family that can inspire you too.
- We blend the value of old traditions with the discovery of new ones.
I’ve benefited from understanding how traditions can become markers. They mark the experiences we have lived together as a family. Yet, coming into this American culture gave me the advantage of a blank slate. I had the freedom to try out holiday experiences rather than feeling obligated to a long-held tradition.
Have you heard of Christmas Eve Eve? We celebrate it with pumpkin pie and an old Christmas movie. However, Elf on the Shelf never caught our fancy, so even though it’s popular, we opt out. We are sticklers about our stockings, though, and our kids use their savings to purchase gifts for each other. You get to pick and choose which traditions you want to keep.
- We adjust traditions to meet our family’s needs.
Traditions can make us feel like failures if we are not faithfully committed to them. That’s backwards! Instead, we should have the freedom to decide whether a tradition is serving the needs of our family.
My husband’s work doesn’t always allow for him to have Christmas Day off, so we’ve adjusted and celebrated on a different day. One year we had a great time driving around to see Christmas light displays. But the next year, we had a toddler who would regularly throw tantrums during those evening hours, so we skipped it. Some years it’s possible to meet all the extended family holiday expectations, and some years we may have to disappoint our extended family. We are responsible for the spiritual and emotional health of our family, and sometimes that means that we need to change things up.
- We prioritize our family values.
Over the years, my husband and I have found that there are certain things we really value as a family. If a holiday tradition tends to fight against our cherished values, we know it’s time to reevaluate.
A couple of our personal family values are generosity and simplicity. It only takes a few years into parenting to discover what a stuff-fest Christmas can be! When we feel our children’s obsession over toy catalogs is getting out of hand, we find practical ways to return to our Jesus-inspired values of giving more than receiving. We also choose contentment in the simple, non-materialistic gifts of life.
Just like any coffee connoisseur knows, finding the perfect blend of coffee takes time. They might try a variety of coffee beans and different brewing methods. They might try it with cream, froth, creamer or black. Many variables play a part in finding their favorite blend.
In the same way, God brought us together so that we would take our life experiences and perspectives and over time blend them into something unique, rich and full of purpose. It takes creativity and a little give and take. But when we successfully find that perfect blend, it becomes the unique flavor of our family.
Wife Step: How can you and your husband think outside the box to blend a little of what each of you likes and what your family needs to make your own flavor of Christmas this year?
Joy was born and raised in Mexico, but fell in love with a Minnesota guy. More than a decade, many geographical locations, and four kids later, they are currently settled in the city of Minneapolis, MN. Together they love helping couples discover the incredible adventure marriage was intended to be. They have led many marriage small groups, ministries and retreats, but their favorite way to connect with other couples is by simply sharing life together. Although homeschooling, parenting and helping run their vacation rental take up most of her days, Joy is always finding ways to sneak in time for writing, reading, design and coffee with friends. You can find her posting on Instagram @joy.ballard or @theriverlodgemn. Photo credit: Woodford Sisters Photography