Am I Ready for My First Holiday Season With Bae?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No matter what culture or tradition you’re celebrating during these frigid winter months, the best part about winter is the endless food, love, laughter, and family.

The holiday season is personal to all of us, and that’s what makes it so hard to integrate new members. 

You’ve been on the outside before: the youngest one at the table while your cousin, aunt, or uncle brings their new boo to the festivities. If you felt awkward, just imagine how they’re feeling, separated from the only rituals and traditions they’ve ever known, immersed in a totally new setting and family with dozens of eyeballs watching their every move.

Now that you’re older, you’ve graduated to the painstaking, challenging role of bringing someone home to your family - or being introduced to theirs. It’s no easy task, no matter how many times you’ve been through it. 

Gather round folks because I’ve gathered some surefire tips to make a great first impression on your partner’s family - and plenty of other holiday-relationship hacks! 

On etiquette 

So you’re about to spend quality time with your partner’s family. Whether you’ve known them for a few months or it’s a completely new relationship, the holiday season is a totally different ballpark. Here are my five tips for making a great impression:

  1. Laugh and smile, a lot

Okay, Uncle Larry’s joke might not have been that funny, but your reactions make people feel more comfortable around you. Being receptive to your partner’s family is an important indicator of the type of person that their son, daughter, niece, or nephew is fawning over. Keeping a smile on your face (when appropriate) is an easy way to open yourself up.   

     2. Ask questions

Remember not only are you a new person to this family, they’re new to you as well. You’ll probably be asked tons of questions, so the best thing to do is reciprocate. Here’s an easy one, “What’s the funniest memory you have of (insert your partner here)?” It’s bound to get a laugh out of everyone, and it lets you in on the secret life of the family you’re walking into.

    3. Remember names

This isn’t always easy, but there’s nothing more awkward than asking for someone’s name three times. Ask your partner to give you a quick quiz before you go to the party, so that when you get the real introductions, you’re already a pro.

  1. Go with the flow

So your partner’s family watches a Sunday night football game as their holiday tradition, and that’s totally foreign to you … go with it. The holiday season is personal and special to each family, and it’s important to be understanding of the fact that their rituals may be drastically different from yours. Your partner and their family will appreciate the fact that you’re open to engaging in something special to them - and who knows? You might just fall in love with football.

  1. Give all the thanks 

Showing your appreciation is best in its simplest form: saying thank you. When you get to the door, thank them for having you. When you’re sitting down to eat, say thank you. When you’re offered tea, say thank you. When you’re leaving, say thank you. Anytime your partner’s family goes out of their way to make you feel comfortable and welcome, express your gratitude. It’s mega important to acknowledge their effort, and it just makes everyone feel good.

On introducing bae

Okay, flip side. You’re bringing home your partner, and that is no simple feat. Chances are you’ve already fielded dozens of questions from your family about your new boo, and you’re worried about one of two things:

       - Your partner is going to feel completely awkward.

       - Your partner is going to think your family is totally ridiculous.

While you obviously can’t read your partner’s mind, you can rest assured that everyone believes their family is absurd. Let’s be real, most families are. Frankly, I haven’t met a single family that isn’t categorically strange in some way, but that’s what gives us character. How boring would it be to have a super basic family that never did anything out of the ordinary? How would you tell traumatic - AHEM - hilarious stories about your childhood if you didn’t grow up in a slightly chaotic environment?

TL;DR - Everyone’s family is weird. So don’t be embarrassed, embrace it.

Here are a couple of tips on making the introduction as smooth as possible:

  1. Introduce your partner.

  2. Talk about their accomplishments and hobbies to your family (because no one likes to toot their own horn).

  3. Engage them in conversation when you can.

  4. Squeeze their hand under the table to remind them you’re there for support.

  5. Stick to their side for the most part, but allow them to be free too - They can handle your great aunt Cathy, I promise. 

On gifts for bae

Okay, buying gifts for your new partner in ANY capacity is usually pretty difficult. Sure, you’ve spent lots of time getting to know this person and you know what they like, but this doesn’t always translate to great gift giving skills.

For example: She likes books. Great, you get her a book. But what book? Has she already read it? Does she even like this genre? Why is it special? Is it enough? What if she gets something way cooler? What if she thinks I’m lame!? 

Hold your horses, and think about what you’d like best. Personally, I love receiving really thoughtful gifts, no matter what the value is. If I can see that you put time into creating a special card or choosing something that relates to a shared inside joke - or even a bucket of small items that reminded you of me - that is the type of gift that makes most people really smile. 

The saying is true - it’s the thought that counts!

Note: If you’re on a budget, be honest. Nothing feels worse than receiving an expensive gift when all you can afford right now is a junior chicken and a postcard. Tell your partner that you don’t want or expect anything fancy, and that the most important thing is that you spend the holidays together.

On gifts for the family

Okay, this falls into the etiquette category as well, IMO. Sometimes, if you already know the family well (and if it’s within your budget), it’s appropriate to buy individual gifts. Consider a theme, like matching socks with silly quotes. Or if that’s out of reach, consider individualized greeting cards. Spend a few dollars on a pack of cards and write truly heartfelt notes to your partner’s family. They’ll appreciate it more than you’d think.

If you don’t know them well, or it’s your first time visiting, it’s always nice to bring a peace offering. A bottle of wine, flowers, or your mom’s fresh chocolate chip cookies are a great way to say: “Thanks for having me!” You’ll totally get some brownie points, and it’s the hospitable thing to do.

On being yourself

Preparing for holiday interactions in any capacity is going to be anxiety-inducing. Most importantly though, when you go into this experience, just remember the one simple cliché: Be yourself.

Your partner wants to introduce you to their family because you’re special to them. They want to get to know you for who you are so they can better understand what makes your partner care so deeply for you. Just remember, they aren’t out to get you or make your life harder. They’re on your team, so take a deep breath and stay true to you. If someone fell for you once, it can happen again, right?

Happy holi-baes!