How To Combine Christmas Traditions - New and Blended Families

Christmas is all about traditions isn’t it? What we often don’t realise as a child is if we took a peek in through the window of different houses on Christmas morning, ghost of Christmas present style, we would see very different celebrations. Each family will do things in their own way from what time presents are opened to what people wear and eat. When new families come together it is a wonderful time, but it can also mean that the different Christmas traditions may cause conflict and disappointment.

New family traditions at Christmas with a christmas tree decoration
New families coming together means Christmas traditions need to be combined, but how?

New Families Coming Together At Christmas

The dynamics and expectations of a Christmas gathering can change for many reasons. It might be due to bereavement, a new partner, a baby or two families coming together for the first time. Families often repeat the same activities each year in the same way so when a new group of people come together it is helpful to talk about people’s expectations in advance and what is really important to them. 

Communication is particularly important when it’s a blended families first Christmas together if there are children from both previous relationships. While adults are more likely to recognise there will be differences when they are spending Christmas with different people, this is harder for children to navigate. There might already be tensions due to absent parents and the additional confusion of why Father Christmas has a different diet or now only brings small presents in a stocking can be avoided by talking about it in advance.

The first Christmas my partner and I spent together we talked through how to make our new Christmas special for all of us, combining our favourite parts of how we have celebrated in the past. We also had to navigate a first Christmas with my eldest being at her Dad's Christmas morning.

If you have a different group of people coming together at Christmas for the first time it can be helpful to ask about their favourite Christmas memories, to ask them what makes the day special to them and to ask specific questions. Have the conversations one on one where possible, but involve everyone including children. Young children wont always remember previous Christmases they have been a part of, but they will still have expectations due to books, TV and films. Their expectations are often simple to make happen, but not always what you expect.

Questions You Might Want To Ask When Planning Christmas With A New or Blended Family

Different Father Christmas Traditions

  • Do you call the big man Father Christmas, Santa or something else? 
  • Do all the children (and adults!) believe in Father Christmas?
  • What is the conversation with those who are doubting or don’t believe? 
  • Does Father Christmas bring all the presents or just a stocking? What size is the stocking and where is it left?
  • Do adults get stockings or just children?
  • Are gifts in the stocking wrapped or not?
  • Are there any must haves in a Christmas stocking eg chocolate coins and a clementine?
  • Does anything get left out for Father Christmas and the reindeer? If yes is it cookies, milk and a carrot? Sherry, mince pie and oats? Something else? 

Different Ways To Open Christmas Presents

  • When are Christmas presents opened? Is it first thing Christmas morning or later in the day? Do any get opened on Christmas Eve? 
  • If there are stockings then what are the rules about opening them?
  • Are children allowed to open presents without adults present?
  • Does everyone open presents at once or one person at a time?
  • How are the presents distributed? Are they left in piles for each person or all mixed together?

Food At Christmas

  • What do you eat for Christmas dinner? Are there any specific condiments or extras that are must haves?
  • What time do you have Christmas dinner? 
  • What else is eaten on Christmas day? Is there a traditional breakfast or snacks?
  • What is the approach to alcohol on Christmas Day?
  • Do you normally have crackers? Any particular rules on who pulls what or when?

What Do People Wear Christmas Day?

  • What do you wear for Christmas day: dressed up, lounge wear or something else? 
  • Are Christmas hats and silly jumpers expected or frowned on?

Activities on Christmas Day

  • Are there any must have activities during the day? 
  • Is there an expectation that people will go to church, for a walk, watch a Christmas film or the Queen’s Speech?

Likewise people may have traditions for Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. While these days tend to be less emotive, it is a good idea to know in advance.

What Do You Do When There Is Disagreement?

Many people will be flexible about what happens on Christmas Day as long as they know in advance so expectations can be managed. If guests have traditions that conflict then it might depend on who feels strongest or seeing if you can reach some form of compromise. It can help to understand where the traditions came from as some might have a religious or cultural basis and some are the way that family has always done it. It might help to alternate each year or to create a new tradition which everyone can support. 

If children are expecting something different starting to have conversations with them in advance about what is going to be happening and getting them excited can help.

Creating New Traditions

When a new family comes together for the first Christmas of many a lovely thing to do is to create a new tradition.  It doesn’t have to be anything big and you don’t want to make it anything which will make Christmas more stressful. Simple ideas include having a hot chocolate with marshmallows and a film before bed on Christmas Eve, sprinkling reindeer food on the lawn or going for a walk to see all the Christmas lights.

How to combine family traditions at Christmas
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However you celebrate Christmas this year, I hope it’s special for you.

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