Making New Traditions

Making New Traditions, by Kittisak via freedigitalphotosdotnet, ID-10065352 (1)

Whether you’re a newlywed, newly single, or a new couple, the holidays can be newly challenging.

We all grew up with ideas of the ‘perfect’ Christmas or Hannukah and what those traditions should be. If you are part of a new couple, whether married or living together, you suddenly have to accommodate someone else’s idea of the holidays.

Ironically, even the old traditions we weren’t that crazy about become sacred when the one we love is critical of them. To reject each other’s traditions can feel like total rejection, so we have to be careful about choosing how to protect some of our own history while honoring our partner’s past.

As a family lawyer, I have often been amazed to hear that even after 20 years or more of marriage, a divorcing wife or husband can still recall their first Christmas and the hurtful things that were said about their family holidays – as one of the reasons for the divorce! So it’s obvious that those first celebrations need to be carefully calibrated for the sake of the present and long- term future together.

Here are three suggestions to keep the holiday peace.

1. Agree that you will alternate years with each other’s family or split the celebrations in a given year if geography allows.  Then throw yourself totally into your new love’s celebrations or, at the very least, be a good guest.

2. Agree that you will have a ‘code’ so that you can signal each other if you need some ‘air’ and a rescue. A drunken uncle or freezing football game in the snow can wreak havoc with your holiday, so beforehand, mutually agree that you’ll honor the code, even if you do not agree with the need for the rescue.

3. Agree that you will have at least one tradition that is your very own as a couple. Having people over for cocktails on a given night before or after Christmas, always preparing a certain holiday recipe, volunteering together at a soup kitchen, or shopping for the various children’s toy drives are just a few suggestions. The possibilities are endless.

And remember: while we all love tradition, it often is the Christmas or Hannukah that’s out of the ordinary that becomes most memorable. The year you went to someone else’s church service or when your flight was delayed may not be the stuff of your holiday dreams, but they can be the ones you recall with a smile on your face. Happy Holidays to you!

Image courtesy of Kittisak via


About Gemma Allen

Gemma Allen is a partner in Ladden & Allen, Chartered, and has practiced family law for most of her career. Ms. Allen has written more than 50 articles and lectured on topics that include divorce, child support, maintenance, mediation, cohabitation, women and money, and reconciliation. She co-authored The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, or Moving On! and helps you navigate modern relationships in “Relationship Gems.”