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Family rituals are the glue that holds families together. And they really come into play during the holidays. Now is the time to sit down with your spouse and decide what traditions you want to keep from your families of origin, and what traditions you would like to create for your own family. Be explicit. We tend to think everyone celebrated the holidays like our family did, but each family is unique. Ask yourself and your spouse what your expectations are. And be honest about it. If you expect a huge expensive gift, say so now. Don’t keep it a secret, because then it wouldn’t be a surprise, etc. Does your spouse expect a huge feast on Christmas Day? All of your expectations are allowed to come out for this discussion. If we are explicit about our expectations, we will avoid hurt feelings and fights that could potentially spoil our holiday.

After discussing your expectations, decide what you are actually going to do this year. Do you really want to stay home instead of travel? Do you have time and energy to create this special Christmas feast? Perhaps you need to simplify a bit. Does your extended family need to be told about changes that will be happening this year? Many families are feeling the need to limit the number of presents their children receive, for example.

Don’t let the holidays run away with you. They can be very stressful if left to their own devices. Now is a good time to think about how you and your family would like to celebrate this year. Take the stress out (You do not have to bake seven different kinds of cookies—unless you just love that stuff!) and put the enjoyment back in.