With the holiday season in full swing, many people are navigating questions like: How do we want to celebrate? Who do we want to celebrate with? Do we have the ability to incorporate all the traditions and people that matter to us? What’s the best way to compromise?

LGBTQ+ couples deal with these decisions and they may be compounded by having a family of origin that doesn’t accept you or your partner(s), having to spend time with people who have wildly different political views and being constantly exhausted by the news cycle.

My partner and I had a tough time figuring out what to do for the first year we spend the holidays together, but we’ve learned a lot since. Here are a few ways you can make the decision about how to celebrate less challenging.

Elegant holiday ivory, gold and burgundy lesbian wedding Entwined Studio Photography Equally Wed
Photo via An elegant holiday winter wedding

Choose traditions you already love.

Macey and I are both close to our families of origin and we have traditions that matter to us. Her family has a Christmas Eve party every year on December 24. My family likes to go out as a group and look at other people’s holiday lights.

David, a queer and transgender parent, and his partner both really value their family’s holiday traditions. David celebrates Yule with his partner and their child, but they still participate in the family Christmas traditions that they care about. “I think all religious minorities, especially those of us with families who observe Christian holidays, have to figure out how to compromise with living in a predominantly Christian culture,” he says. “What that has ended up looking like is still going to a couple of extended family Christmas celebrations a year, accepting Christmas gifts and basically allowing it to be its own separate thing.”

Spend the holidays alone or with chosen family.

You might choose to make things simple by keeping it just the two of you, creating a really intimate holiday. Or you can invite chosen family and start celebrations and traditions with them.

“My wife of 17 years and I have celebrated Christmas Eve every year with our chosen family,” says Kathleen Archambeau, a third-generation native San Franciscan author. On Christmas Eve, they watch a gay men’s chorus at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California, and always spend Christmas morning with drinks by the fire, opening presents and taking their black lab for a walk. “Our holidays are a happy blend of friends and family, with ample downtime for just the two of us.”

Every year, in addition to our celebrations with our families of origin, Macey and I have holiday traditions with our chosen families. We have a Friendsgiving in November that’s potluck-style and centered around coming together in gratitude for good food, good alcohol and good memories. We also have two Christmas celebrations in December where we exchange gifts with two groups of chosen family Secret Santa style. Last year, we added to our traditions by attending a book swap holiday party hosted by one of my friends from grad school.

Find ways to compromise.

Alaina Fister, a digital marketing specialist, and her partner of three years Lucie, believe that compromise is key. They spend some of the holiday with Lucie’s family and some with Alaina’s, and they have a tradition of doing a tequila shot with the entire family on December 24. “We try and be fair and split holiday time with our families as evenly as possible,” Alaina says. She and Lucie prefer intimate holidays with smaller groups.

Here's how LGBTQ+ couples are spending the holidays together Alaina Fister Lucie and family tequila shot
The only real tradition we have is doing a tequila shot with the whole family on the evening of the 24th. Photo courtesy Alaina Fister

Macey and I split the two main holidays that our families of origin celebrate: Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every other year, we spend Christmas with my family and vice versa. It works as a good compromise because I get to enjoy my family’s gingerbread house smash every other year and she gets to open presents at her grandparents’ house on Christmas morning the other years. We don’t have to leave our holidays midday and I don’t have to drive halfway across the state more than once in a single day.

Haven Thorn, a publicist from Miami, Florida, and his partner Alex also make compromising and spending time with family a priority. Since Alex is Christian and Haven is Jewish, they spend Christmas and New Year’s with Alex’s family and Sukkot, Passover and sometimes Hannukah with Haven’s. “For the secular holiday, we tend to compromise and try to plan long weekend trips with our combined families, inviting both to partake in our adventures!”

If you’re traveling for the holidays, you can check out the app GeoSure, which offers safety scores for LGBTQ+ couples who decide to travel. “Our whole mission and goal is to empower, to inform and to engage travel—not to telegraph safety through a prism of fear or anxiety,” says Micheal Becker, CEO of GeoSure. “We want to give LGBTQ travelers an instantaneous understanding and assessment of what safety looks like anywhere in the world, and GeoSure is a very quick way to know when to raise your safety antenna or when to lower it.”

Create your own traditions.

In David’s family, they celebrate Yule on December 21 and put a lot of emphasis on that celebration. “We have a tree and lights and decorations and all that jazz. We do our immediate family gift exchange on Yule morning, and then that night we have a big potluck style dinner,” he says. “It’s turned into a great way to connect with our pagan friends, and include friends, neighbors and chosen family in our special holiday time.”

David says that he and his partner really wanted to create their own traditions together. “This also has the advantage of already having things set up that you can just plug your kids into. I highly recommend it because being a new parent is the hardest and already knowing what you’re doing helps,” he adds.

Communication is key.

It’s important that you and your partner both love how you’re celebrating and that you each feel respected and heard. Just because you’ve been doing it one way doesn’t mean you can’t change things up, too—if you’ve always spent Hannukah with their family of origin but that’s getting too hard because many of them are anti-LGBTQ+, it’s okay to bring that up and see if you can alter what you do.

Communicate with your partner regularly, and check in to make sure that you’re both happy with how you do things. If hosting everything at your home causes too much stress, is there somewhere else you could do it? Can you take some of the cooking or driving off your partner’s plate if those are things they don’t like to do? Keep holidays celebrations an ongoing conversation that’s flexible, so you can be sure it’s serving you.

And most importantly, have fun! Start an annual tradition that’s just for you because you love it. Take time for self-care or spend an entire day just doing your favorite things with your partner. Spend time volunteering or set up a whimsical makeshift photo booth, and celebrate your heart out.

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