Tips for Sharing Holidays With In-Laws


sharing holidaysMy husband and I have been married 17 years. We’ve spent many holidays sharing time between my family, his family, and our own little family.  

I would really like to say we have found the perfect arrangement that includes all of our favorite traditions and lots of quality time with each side of the family, but truthfully, we have not found that balance. Thankfully I enjoy my husband’s family and that helps make our holidays easier!

holidays with in laws tips for christmas des moines moms blog

Leaving Traditions Behind

Growing up, I had three parts of Christmas that I really looked forward to each season. First, I loved baking with my mom all day on Christmas Eve. We would spend the day making egg casseroles, desserts, and all kinds of yummy foods for Christmas day. Now I spend Christmas Eve day getting ready for the evening festivities with my husband’s family.

My second favorite tradition was attending the Christmas Eve Candle Light service at our church. I loved seeing friends, singing Christmas carols, and ending the night with a beautiful candle-lit song. We no longer go to a traditional Christmas Eve service because this time is spent at my in-laws’ homes.

The third part of Christmas I loved was after a big lunch and opening presents, we would play games or watch movies as a big family. Sometimes the older crew slept, but mostly, we spent the afternoon laughing and eating together. Now this time is also spent with my in-laws. It’s always hard to leave right after Christmas lunch to travel to the other family. 

When we got married, those were the first three traditions I had to end so my husband could enjoy the holidays with his family. He’s made sacrifices and changes to his traditions too. Between noon on Christmas Eve and 10 p.m. on Christmas night, we somehow had to figure out how to cram in three family Christmases. Add in our two boys, and now the Christmases became even more hectic and rushed.

Creating New Traditions

Even though those parts of my childhood traditions are now distant memories, my husband and I have created our own awesome traditions! My favorite is having a lazy Christmas morning together with the four of us opening gifts, eating yummy breakfast foods, and often times, playing Mario Kart in our pajamas. This is not technically on December 25, but we find a time to make it special with our little family. I have found that intentionally creating time for us is more important than any other part of the season. 

We also started creating new traditions like Jolabokaflod where we spend a night reading books and eating sweets. 

Another tradition is doing an Advent Service in our home on Sunday evenings leading up to Christmas.

Overall, I feel like it would be very easy to find bitterness and resentment in having to change my family traditions. However, I intentionally look for joy and peace in the new ways to celebrate with family. What a great problem to have—so much family to spend time with and ways to celebrate the holidays together!

holidays with in laws tips for christmas des moines moms blog

More Tips for Sharing Holidays 

We do our family Christmas on Christmas Eve, since my step son goes to his mom’s usually on Christmas day and we have other family Christmases. We figure doing it a day early cuts down stress and we can enjoy our Christmas together. –Amy B. 

Take time to yourself for small self care routines, say yes to relatives who want to babysit! Go for a walk or date with your honey, relax and enjoy yourself, don’t let unwanted advice get to you, hold your head high knowing you’re doing what’s best for your family.  –Abby B. 

We do an online wishlist so we dramatically reduced the amount of duplicates! This is nice when kids are obsessed with paw patrol and you don’t want three lookout towers. –Alex L. 

Get time away, even if you are away. We stay with family, but they know that on Christmas morning they will not see us before about 10 AM. We still spend time secluded in the basement with our immediate family. We have our own Christmas Tree and get some quiet time before the crazy continues. It is a small tool that makes a big difference for us. –Jamie L. 

Set expectations early on about how much time is going to be spent where. –Kara K. 

Stay home.

Remember that you aren’t responsible for keeping others happy, and you aren’t responsible for giving them the experience they want. –Pamela H. 

We start scheduling our Christmas get togethers early so we can all get the the Christmas celebration with each family. We have 6 Christmas celebrations to go to but we do not do more than one in a day! –Morgan B. 
We do a secret Santa exchange with the adults on my hubby’s side and it’s become one of my favorite holiday traditions! We also take turns planning and evening meal so my MIL doesn’t have to do all the cooking for everyone! –Kimberly I. 

My in-laws have what they call “Thanks-mas”. They combine Thanksgiving dinner with a gift-card exchange game and it’s held between the two actual holidays. –Khylene W. 

What tips do you have for sharing holidays? 

sharing holidays


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