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There’s nothing like a new relationship to make the holiday season feel extra merry and bright. Cuddles by the fireside? Check. Swapping nostalgic stories of festive seasons gone by? So sweet. Decorating the tree together for the very first time? Magic.

Of course, sky-high fantasies of the holiday season can sometimes lead to letdowns. And guessing at your partner’s unspoken expectations can jangle your nerves.

So, how can you make the first holiday season with your new flame feel special without the stress? We’ve got you, boo. Here’s how to make the first Christmas with your boyfriend (or any partner!) unforgettable.

There are many ways to spend the holiday with your partner for the first time.

Here are a few tips to avoid unnecessary conflict:

  • Communicate your expectations. Talk to each other about how you enjoy spending the holidays. Maybe you *always* open gifts before 10 AM Christmas morning. Or perhaps you expect to have a long, leisurely brunch before even thinking about the presents. Discuss expectations *before* Christmas rolls around. Even science says good communication is the heart of happy romantic relationships.
  • Be courteous about how you split your time. If you’re both expected to celebrate with your families, discuss ways to divide the time as evenly as possible. Maybe you’ll spend Christmas Eve with your fam, then head to his family gathering on Christmas day.
  • Opt for curiosity over criticism. If you grew up in a household full of Christmas traditions, you might cringe at your partner’s laissez-faire festivities (or vice versa). But instead of criticizing the ways your boo does or doesn’t celebrate, get curious. Why does he love celebrating this way instead of that way? What’s his favorite part about December? See differences as a way to start new traditions together.

And speaking of new traditions, here are a few fun holiday activities to try on your first Christmas together as a couple.

  • Plan a holiday movie marathon. From Elf to Love Actually to It’s a Wonderful Life, there are so many great Netflix and chill Christmas movies.
  • Make hot chocolate. Why not turn up the heat with some homemade hot cocoa?
  • Trim the tree. Pick out a new ornament that symbolizes your relationship, then hang it together while you decorate.
  • Try a new recipe. Gingerbread, candied yams, or even savory latkes, anyone?
  • Volunteer. Ring bells for the Salvation Army, serve soup, adopt letters to Santa, or even wrap gifts at the mall. There’s nothing like giving your time to get in the holiday spirit together.

Picking the right Christmas gift for your first holiday together can feel like a *lot* of pressure. Maybe you’re wondering how to strike the perfect balance between sentimental and lighthearted. Or perhaps the biggest question is how much to spend.

Here’s our best advice: Communicate. Be open and honest about your budget. Set a mutual spending limit. Once that’s done, you can dive into the fun part of factoring in your partner’s interests and love language (do they melt over physical gifts, or might they prefer an experience together?).

Depending on the expectations you’ve set, consider gift ideas from one or more of these categories:

Spending your first holiday with a new family can be daunting. What will they think of you? What will you think of them?

Some tips on handling the first holiday with your partner’s fam:

  • Be yourself. Pretending to be someone you’re not will only undermine the relationship with his family in the future. Put your best foot forward, but also be yourself. After all, your partner is with you because you’re you — not some prim, proper, polished version of you.
  • Offer to help. Whether it’s bringing a side dish to share or helping wash the dishes, you’ll win over the prickliest of parents by graciously offering to pitch in.
  • Give yourself an out. Holiday stress is real. And sometimes, crowded Christmas reunions or over-the-top feasts can be major triggers for anxiety, depression, disordered eating, or even grief. It helps to have a plan for politely exiting the scene if needed (maybe you agree on a silent signal that it’s time to leave, or maybe you already have evening plans).

Celebrating your first Christmas (or any holiday!) with your boyfriend or girlfriend can be fraught with expectations.

Cheesy as it sounds, the best gift you can give yourself and your love is the gift of clear communication. Being open about what you want and need during the holiday can prevent unnecessary stress.

Beyond that, have fun! From volunteering together to sneaking smooches under the mistletoe, there are so many ways to make your first Christmas as a couple memorable and magical.