Couples vs Families: Determining Where To Spend the Holidays

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Holidays can be a challenge as relationships become more serious.  You would like to be together with your significant other, but also have family obligations.  Maybe you’ve never met your significant other’s family, and this could be the first opportunity to meet them.  Or now you’re married and need to determine who will get your attention for each holiday.  How do couples decide where to spend the holidays?

Where Couples Spend the Holidays | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

Between Thanksgiving and New Years, my family can get together an average of 3-4 times for big holiday meals.  For the first few years I dated Mr. E, the only holiday he would spend with my family was Christmas Eve.  Primarily because my Italian family does the traditional Seven Fishes dinner, Mr. E loves seafood, and his family wouldn’t start their Christmas celebrations until Midnight Mass.  But once we were officially married, our attention was pulled in multiple directions.

That first year we were married, we celebrated 2 Thanksgivings (Thanksgiving Eve/Thanksgiving Day), 3 days of Christmas dinners (Christmas Eve through the day after Christmas), and a New Years dinner with my family.  By January 2, we were tired of eating! Calories aside, the holiday just weren’t fun for us that year.


Where Couples Spend the Holidays | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

Over the years we have done our best to space out the celebrations.  Doing Thanksgiving with one family a week later.  Celebrating Christmas Eve with my family, and Christmas Day with Mr. E’s family.  Hosting Christmas Eve to introduce Mr E’s family to our Italian tradition – and try not to gross anyone out in the process with the insane amount of food!

With Mr E as the oldest of 3 boys, all the men in the family married women with strong family holiday traditions.  As a result, it has become even more challenging to get together on holidays with families spread all over NJ and PA.  In the short time we have been married, Mr E lost both of his parents in addition to me losing my dad.  This by no means makes the holidays any easier emotionally.  And without my in-laws around to bring all the men home, the challenge of spending time together increases.

RELATED: MINDFULNESS MATTERS DURING THE HOLIDAYS

To alleviate the stress of dividing up time among families, traveling all over, and overeating at multiple large family dinners, Mr E and I have come to our own solution. We celebrate Enrightmas the first Saturday after the new year.  This also happens to be around the time of Mr E’s mom’s birthday, so him and his brothers feel the day takes on a new meaning to commemorate their mom.

Our solution is just one of many couples come up with over the holidays. But I’m curious to hear how other couples handle spreading their time among family. So I reached out to some fellow Registered Dietitian colleagues to get their take on where they decide to spend the holidays.

Where Couples Spend the Holidays | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

“We initially determined where to spend the holidays by setting up a rotating schedule. One year, we went to my family’s house for Thanksgiving and his family’s house for Christmas. The next year, we rotated. As the years went on, our families became closer friends. Now, both our families spend Christmas together at his family’s house. It’s easy for us and everyone gets to hang out. Win Win situation.” – Sarah Koszyk, MA, RDN, founder of Family. Food. Fiesta.


“My husband and I used to travel to 3 different houses on major holidays early on in our relationship. We made the rounds because we felt like we had to see everyone to be fair. It left us feeling very tired and worn out instead of being able to relax and enjoy the holidays.

Now that we have two small children of our own, we realized we can’t keep up the traveling tradition. Instead, we talked to all of our families and came up with a plan that worked best for us and our families. For Thanksgiving, we trade off families each year. One year with my side, the other with my husband’s side.

For Christmas, we celebrate Christmas Eve with one side and then Christmas day with another. It works well that we talked to all sides and tried to find mutual solutions. We can’t always see everyone, but we try to get together around the holiday with the side of the family that we won’t be spending the actual holiday with.” – Brynn McDowell, RD, The Domestic Dietitian


“My husband and I have been married for just over 5 years, but have been together for almost 12. Both our families live in the same city in North Carolina. You would think this would make things less complicated over the holidays, but the question always ends up being – who are we staying with and which house will we spend the actual holiday? At first, it didn’t seem to be a big deal, my family is Hindu so Christmas is more about just spending time together, but my husband’s family has done the same thing pretty much every year since his childhood. Now throw a grandchild into the mix (our kiddo just turned 3) and there’s even more demand for time spent in both houses, and the fact that my husband and I want to begin our own family traditions. It definitely takes time to figure out what works best, and we are still working on it. This year, we are having Thanksgiving at my in-laws and celebrating at my family’s house on the Friday after. And we’ll be having his family over to our house for Christmas. Next year, we are hoping to have my family up to our house for Thanksgiving, and going down to North Carolina and spending Christmas day at my in-laws. Bottom line is communication and compromise. My hubby and I discuss everything that comes with the holidays and how we want our son (and future daughter) to experience them. We want them to know that the holidays are about spending time with family and loved ones, giving to others, and reflecting on how fortunate we are – not just about getting presents.” – Tina Gowin Carlucci, RDN, Gowin Nutrition

How will you and your significant other divide time among each other and families this holiday season?

Have a unique solution? 

Sound off in the Comments below!  

Thank you to my fellow Registered Dietitian Nutritionists for contributing!  Make sure check out their sites and follow on their social media for even more great nutrition information.

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Where Couples Spend the Holidays | Nutrition Nuptials | Mandy Enright MS RDN RYT

16 thoughts on “Couples vs Families: Determining Where To Spend the Holidays

  1. This is such a great post! My boyfriend and I live in Jersey, but my family is back in NH, so it makes a little more difficult to see both. I’m going home for Christmas this year by myself, but these are great ideas for the future! 🙂

  2. My husband and I area lucky that both our families live in the same city, but it must be really hard for couples who’s family live far away. Thanks for this post, it was really interesting

    1. That is really lucky! Growing up all my family lived super close to each other, so we never had to experience others not being around for certain holidays. That has definitely changed as the younger generation all married people outside of the town we grew up in.

  3. Great post! Our holidays are different every year now with family all over the east coast from boston to florida. Very different from growing up where my parents large extended families were all within 30 minutes of us and we’d hop everywhere for every holiday!

    1. My family was the same way- pretty much everyone was in the same town when I was growing up. My “furthest” relative lived 30 minutes away – and it was a big deal going to their house for the holidays. Sounds like there will be some traveling for you this holiday season.

  4. Thank you so much for this post! It is very tricky trying to navigate where we will be and which family we will spending time with for which holiday! I never want either family to feel bad and we love them all the same. But, it sure is hard when they live in two different states! Wonderful solutions 🙂

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