Family Time and Family Ties — The Celebration of the Holidays for a New Family

When Marisa and I first entered marriage in May of 2007, we knew we were starting a new way of life that would become our new normal. One year later, we were blessed with Margaret Mary and we knew that the new normal we had started to become accustomed to would change once more and our new “new” normal would have our family as its center.

Marisa and I have worked to ensure that we have a strong communication between us. This has been the case since prior to marriage. One thing I have always found interesting when talking about it with Marisa and other couples we know is how family time is spent during the holidays.

Some historical background

Marisa comes from a close knit family. This is something I absolutely loved about her. It was common for people to go over to her parent’s house or to all end up at someone’s home for coffee. Birthdays were celebrated, even if simply, surrounded by loved ones. Holidays were split between homes: Mom’s home was the venue for Christmas, one sister’s home was the venue for Easter and another sister’s home was the venue for Thanksgiving. The homes would be buzzing with sounds of laughter and children. It was very much home. My family was similar. We usually started at my mom’s home and then moved to another sibling's home to continue our grazing pattern. The one major difference was that my family was much more loose with regards to the expectation that a member of the family be present. In Marisa’s family, all were expected to at least be present for a brief period of time.

When Margaret Mary came along in May 2008, we began talking about Christmas. I asked Marisa what ideas she had in mind for Christmas.  She mentioned doing what we had always done, go over to her mom’s for Christmas.  I asked where Margaret Mary would be opening her presents and the response was that it would be at her mom’s. She then asked for my ideas. I had no opposition to going and having Margaret Mary spend time with our extended family and her getting numerous presents. However, it got me thinking. After that Christmas, Marisa and I sat and talked. I remember the central question of the conversation. We both had fond memories of the holidays surrounded by our families.  Our question was, what would be our traditions. Would it simply be a carry over of our parents’ traditions or would we purposely create our own. We realized that this was something we had not thought about before.

We began asking our friends and heard mixed answers. Some had created their own traditions immediately, others moved to their own traditions as their children grew older, and others continued with traditions they had grown up with as children. I wonder how often this comes up in marriage preparation? How does a new family, pre- and post-children, establish their own identity and traditions as a new family unit entering the holiday season. While there may not be a set answer, I thought I would throw the question out there as food for thought. I’d love to hear your opinion.

Bravo family moves on

What did we end up doing? For the most part, we opted to stay the course. Later things began developing. First, we began celebrating our Catholic faith. We made our saint days BIG! Ice cream and presents were a part of it. Margaret Mary quickly began to realize that the feast day of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was her day and she was going to own it. When a feast or solemnity comes along in the calendar, we make sure there is a distinction in the day. Usually it’s cake. The next thing we did was give each other the gift of new pajamas on the feast of St. Nicholas. The goal was to create in us an anticipation of Christmas. It has worked out great. I owe these two ideas to Dr. Taylor Marshall who mentioned them on his podcast. This has grown to having Thanksgiving in our home and celebrating Christmas with our family back in our hometown. It has worked great for us. We have created moments of quality family time while maintaining ties to our family and the traditions that helped shape us into the mother and father we are for our little one. May God’s blessings be with you and your family!

Javier Bravo