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My bitter-sweet first Christmas at in-laws

Straight from honeymoon, Faith Imani Mbelenzi went to spend Christmas with her husband’s family. Here’s how it went down

Faith Gachobe @wangechigachobe

Everything has a first time. And whenever you are doing something for the first time, there is always anxiety, tension, nervousness no matter how prepared you would be. Spending your first Christmas at your in-laws is no different.

For Faith Imani Mbelenzi, her first Christmas at her in-laws was last year. Seeing that she had just gotten married the same month, Faith had never had any lengthy interaction with her in-laws before. She was a nervous wreck with too many questions about how Christmas was going to turn out.

“I remember my husband and I had just come from our honeymoon, and two days later we had to travel upcountry for Christmas. To be honest, I was already missing my siblings whom I always spent Christmas with. I was really nervous and anxious on what to expect in my new home,” Faith recalls. Upon arrival, Faith’s in-laws were delighted to see her. It was a bitter-sweet experience of sorts.

Faith was severely home sick, yet happy for being received warmly. She had her guard up, all the rules and tips she had gathered from her mother on how to behave and what to do at in-laws were at her fingertips. Despite her husband’s efforts to calm her down, Faith had a list of things she would do when she woke up. Make breakfast, clean the house, do dishes, she was ready.

Unfortunately, all her plans to impress were futile as she woke up late the following day and all the house chores she had intended to do had already been done. She was embarrassed, more reason to prove herself, she thought. That evening, however, Faith had a great interaction with her in-laws that surprised her.

They made her so comfortable that she even forgot to call her home. “I remember calling my brothers and I broke down in tears. I was happy that I have survived the 25th without them, which I always thought was impossible,” giggles Faith.

The only thing Faith experienced different is that her in-laws celebrated Christmas on the 26th instead of the 25th as she had been used to. Her mentality of being the perfect wife was also challenged the more she interacted with her new family. No matter how great your partner’s folks are, spending your first Christmas with them can induce a major stress and anxiety attack.

So, how does one survive Christmas and maintain their sanity and marriage? Psychologist Irene Kimani shares a few tips that can see one through this daunting season. The first thing that couples need not undermine is that their spouse, depending on their culture, will be leaving their own traditions behind and for some, that’s a welcome change.

But for others, even as grown adults, the idea of spending Christmas away from own family can be slightly traumatic. The fact that your spouse becomes the new member of your family tradition does not make things any better for them.

Dr Kimani suggests getting to know your in-laws through your spouse. By asking them questions about their way of doing things during the festive season gives you a heads up on what to expect. Christmas being an eating holiday, it is crucial that you ask your partner to inform their family if you’re allergic to any foods long in advance.

This will save you the trouble of coming out as rude when offered something you do not eat. If gifting on Christmas is part of the tradition of the family you have been married in, do not try too hard to impress with expensive gifts.

The reaction you get from people when they open your gift may be frustrating and that may lead to some kind of awkwardness that should be avoided. Being thoughtful rather than classy and pricey with gifts might work in your favour.

If the traditions you find at your new home are different, learn to embrace them, but do not be afraid to bring to the table a tradition that you think may work and is also dear to you. “Do not forget that even as you try to impress them, your in-laws are also trying to impress you. After all, Christmas is not so much opening gifts as it is opening hearts,” she concludes.

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