The Best Tips For Splitting Holidays Between Families, According to Real Couples

Sharing holidays when you're married might be complicated, but here's how couples make it work.
Family eating brunch on Christmas morning
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sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
by
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Dec 06, 2022

Spending time with your family and friends is what the holidays are about. But if you're newly engaged or married and have to merge two families (or more, if your parents are remarried), it can be challenging to figure out what works best for all parties involved. Deciding where to spend the holidays can get downright complicated, to say the least. Of course, you both want to see your loved ones, they want to see you, and neither family wants the other set of in-laws to monopolize all your time. So when it comes to splitting the holidays between families, what do you do?

Since there isn't a rulebook for determining how to split the holidays between families when you're married, it's important to be honest with your partner about what you want while keeping their desires in mind too. Take the time to hear what your partner envisions for seasonal celebrations, and respectfully voice your opinion too. From there, you can work to find a compromise or create new traditions for your loved ones. To help you figure out how to decide whose family to visit for the holidays, we've put together this comprehensive guide to splitting the festivities, including tried-and-true tips from real couples who've been there.

How to Split Holidays Between Families

Splitting the holidays between families doesn't have to be a source of stress. In the weeks leading up to your celebrations, follow these six tips to determine how to divvy up the season with your loved ones.

Communicate Honestly, and Be Willing to Compromise

Deciding who to visit on your favorite holidays can be tricky. In a perfect world, you'd see all of your loved ones on every holiday—but that's not always feasible. To split the celebrations fairly among your families, communicate honestly about what you envision the holidays looking like. Perhaps Thanksgiving dinner is a longstanding tradition in your family, and you want to reserve that time to spend with your parents. Tell your partner how you feel, but be willing to listen to their thoughts and compromise on a schedule. Perhaps you'll spend Thanksgiving with your family, and in turn spend time with your partner's family on Christmas Eve. Or, consider splitting up the eight days of Hanukkah by celebrating with both sets of parents.

Once you have an idea of how you'll be splitting the holidays among your families, let your loved ones know as soon as possible to minimize hurt feelings. Be honest about your decisions, and let them know that your goal is to see everyone you love.

Allot Specific Days for Each Family

Maybe your family always has a lavish Christmas Eve party, but your in-laws host a Kwanzaa feast on January 1. One of the best tips for splitting holidays between families is to allot specific days to everyone each year so there's no confusion over who's going to which house, and when. Establish this routine early in your marriage to make it a standing tradition everyone can get excited about.

Consider Switching Off Each Year

Splitting holidays between families is generally easier when everyone lives near each other. After all, it's not always feasible to have everyone under the same roof on one day. For couples whose loved ones are separated by distance, consider swapping who you celebrate with each year. Alternating holidays on an annual basis may be the easiest option for everyone, especially if you'll need to coordinate travel to get there.

Offer to Host Everyone at Your Home

If you're really struggling to figure out how to decide whose family to visit for the holidays, alleviate that stress by inviting everyone to your home. Since your space is neutral ground, offering to host the party will make everyone feel welcome, and it'll eliminate feelings of jealousy or unfairness. Plus, taking over holiday hosting duties will give your parents a well-deserved break from managing the kitchen and overseeing the fun—a gift they'll truly appreciate.

Connect with Loved Ones Virtually

When travel isn't an option, you can always celebrate the holidays virtually. Thanks to Zoom, Skype and FaceTime, it's easy to video chat with family members who live far away. Although nothing quite compares to in-person quality time, a digital celebration is always a great alternative to honor the season with your long-distance loved ones.

Start Your Own Traditions

The holiday season is a wonderful time to begin your own newlywed traditions. Instead of worrying about whose house you're going to for Thanksgiving, host your own dinner party for everyone the weekend before. Or, rather than trying to split Christmas day among two families, reserve that day for one group and host a cookie-baking marathon on December 23rd to spend time with others. You might even consider creating your own combination of holiday celebrations on a neutral day that works for everyone's family. The more creative the tradition, the more meaningful it'll become over the years.

How Real Couples Split Holidays Among Their Families

If you're still not sure how to divide the holiday festivities, it can be helpful to hear how real couples handle this situation. Below, 20 people share how they split the holidays between their families. From virtual celebrations to new traditions you might not have even considered, these tips will help you navigate the holidays with ease.

Alternate Days

"We're from cities about four hours apart, so this year we're doing Christmas Eve at my mom's, Christmas Day at my dad's, and then the day after Christmas with his parents. Whatever holiday it is, we try to make time for both families, even if it's not all in one day." —Samantha

"Since our families don't live close to each other, we can't hit both of them over Christmas weekend. Instead, we spend Thanksgiving with his family since it's his favorite holiday. (My family is English so it isn't important to them.) We'll spend Christmas with my family since it's my favorite holiday and is very important to them." —Christina

"His family does a family Christmas before the holidays and we'll go to that, then spend actual Christmas with my family." —Sarah Ann

"We're crazy and spend Christmas Eve with his family and then drive five hours overnight to spend Christmas Day with mine." —Katie

"His favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and mine is Christmas. So Thanksgiving is with his family, and Christmas is with mine." —Emily

"We'll split Christmas (Christmas Eve in Southern California with his family where we live, then we'll drive up Christmas morning to Northern California to spend with mine). And then we alternate Thanksgivings and Easters." —Karissa

"We visit both! On Thanksgiving, my family does an earlier dinner (around 1 p.m.) and his family does a later one (around 7 p.m.). For Christmas, we'll do gifts with his family in the morning, then the early dinner and gifts with my family in the evening, then end the night with his family." —Jessica

Swap Years

"We alternate the holidays. Every other year, we spend time with one family on Thanksgiving and the other on Christmas." —Morgan

"My family lives in Florida and his in New York, so we switch off every year. This year will be Thanksgiving with mine and Christmas at his, next year will be Thanksgiving with his and Christmas with mine." —Anastasia

"My family's much larger and closer, but a lot farther way, so we're spending Christmas with them whenever we can afford to travel. We spent Thanksgiving with his mom this year, since we're doing Christmas with mine." —Stephania

Host an Event at Your Home

"We have six hours in between our families (we're in the middle-ish) so we usually spend Thanksgiving Day with my family then go to his for a second Thanksgiving for the weekend (we'll stay two nights so the drive is broken up). For Christmas, we'll do Christmas Eve with his family and drive out first thing in the morning for Christmas Day and then go back home. It's pretty tiring, so next year we'll host one of the two so we don't have to travel for both." —Barbara

"My parents are flying from France to spend Christmas with me and my in-laws. This is our first married Christmas, but we'll most likely alternate and offer our parents to either come to France or America." —Eva

"I'm Italian, so I host the annual Festa dei Sette Pesci (or Feast of the Seven Fishes) on Christmas Eve. We'll open presents then too. Then our fiancé's family has us over on Christmas Day." —Nikki

Celebrate Virtually

"His father lives in Idaho, his mother lives in Tennessee, both of my parents live in Florida and we live in Colorado. It's super hard during the holidays (we both work in retail) so we use a lot of FaceTime and video chat on Google Hangouts. One day when we own our own home, we plan on having our family come to us." —Alyssa

Celebrate Interfaith Occasions

"We're interfaith (he's Jewish and I was raised Catholic). Our only tricky holiday is Thanksgiving, for which we'll usually either split for the day and meet in the evening or spend half the day with one side and the other half at the other. Other than that, we do Hanukkah with his family and Christmas with mine. Everyone is happy every year!" —Kristen

Plan Multiple Parties

"We're lucky because even though we live in Oregon, both of our families are in Southern California. My parents are divorced, so we do three Christmases. His favorite part is Christmas dinner (we do that with his family), my favorite part is Christmas morning (we do that with my mom) and my dad always does it big on Christmas Eve." —Dani

"This has been particularly difficult for me and my fiancé to figure out since I'm an ER nurse required to work every other holiday. I'm lucky enough to have Christmas off this year, so we're doing Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas Day with his. Next year will be difficult because I'll have to work both days. We'll just have to take each holiday season as it comes and be open to celebrating on other days." —Allison

Create Your Own Traditions

"His family isn't really close, so we spend nearly every holiday with mine. But his dad always has a huge Father's Day party every year, so we make sure we make it to that!" —Alexis

"Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are just the two of us. The day after Christmas, we'll fly and visit his family for a couple of days and celebrate Christmas with them. We're going to visit my family a little earlier in December to celebrate with them. We like to celebrate the actual holiday with just the two of us to start traditions as our own family." —Abby

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