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Our Thanksgiving


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Our Thanksgiving | A Practical Wedding

You may have noticed (and those of you who follow me on Twitter definitely noticed) that two weeks ago, when Lisa’s fantastic post on baby family traditions prompted a long thread about managing Christmas as a baby family… I stayed out of it. And I never stay out of it.

Why? Well. It turns out when you’re part of a bigger interfaith family and a Jewish baby family, and you chose to give up Christmas almost all together, when it happened to be your life-long favorite holiday… hearing people talk about navigating two Christmas’s does not bring out the best in you. In fact, it might throw you face down into a pile of pillows where you pillow-face-yell, “Well at least you still HAVE Christmas, and TWO Christmas’s at that, and HOW HARD CAN THAT BE?” And of course, while the answer to the question you just asked your pillow is really, “It can be quite hard.” That maybe does not quite soothe you, at this hard part of the year.

But. I actually didn’t want to talk about Christmas. Or how the holidays can be hard. What I did want to talk about was how the holidays can be rewarding, as a baby family. Or as a maybe not so baby family anymore.

You see, since we got married, I’ve wanted nothing more than to have holidays in our own house. Us. Maybe just us two, maybe us and family, but us hosting. But it’s been hard. David has an enormous family in LA, I have a very sick mother in LA. Add those things together and you have a lot of trips to Southern California, with me grumbling that if we just had a d*mn baby, we’d have an excuse to stay home (Because that’s why you have a baby right? Sigh). And, well, we always have fun, but it’s not quite the same as having our first holidays as Our Family.

Thanksgiving was shaping up to be a normal holiday for us. The car was full of gas, the suitcases were pulled out. And then Wednesday morning I woke up sick. Had to go to the doctor for antibiotics sick. Couldn’t travel sick.

Yesssssssss.

So. This year, we had our first big holiday together, just the two of us. And you know what it was like? It was like our New Years Days, actually (which has become our adopted baby family holiday, since no one cares about it much). It was a total lack of action. It was a lack of tradition. It was a complete shabbat.

We woke up. We sleepily read the paper. We took a walk through our holiday-stilled neighborhood, to the beach. David made dinner… whatever we felt like dinner. And then we did nothing some more. Perfect.

You see, as an interfaith couple, and as a couple in the midst of blending families, we have a lot of tradition to deal with. We have Christmas to mostly give up (or learn to deal with on a 24-hours-visitor basis). We have Hebrew to learn. We have places we have to be, so our families will be happy. We have things we need to do, so tradition is met. We’ve got travel.

And it turns out? What I really want? Is not so much. I want a walk to the beach with my husband. I want some time to write in my journal and nap. And that’s it. I’ll take what food I’m given, and I’ll take as few traditions as I can get.

But man, do I like to be home. Really, truly, home.

Picture: Our beach on Thanksgiving, taken by me on my Fuji Instax

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • Andrea

    Ahhh. This post made me breathe a nice big sigh, like you would walking down that beach.

    Thanks.

  • http://extoria.blogspot.com Vee

    “But man, do I like to be home. Really, truly, home.”

    Ugh, ME. TOO! We already had the Thanksgiving “tradition” of eating a meal with my family, but for our first married T-giving, we hosted it at our home. It was divine, and so laid back (it helps that my family is extremely laid back, and really rather small – including ourselves, we had 7 guests in all). Something about being on my own turf just makes me infinitely more comfortable :)

  • http://arduousblog.blogspot.com ruchi

    Meg, I’ve read most of the archives, but have you posted at length about giving up Christmas and the tension you guys went through to come to your agreement? I’m going through much the same thing, although with me it’s even weirder because I’m not Christian (technically Hindu, mostly agnostic) but we always celebrated Christmas (ask any of your Indian friends and I guarantee they will be, all, “Yeah, I totally celebrate Christmas”) so I think it’s weird that my fiance won’t celebrate Christmas just cuz he’s not Christian (because I’m not) and he thinks it’s weird that I want to celebrate a holiday that I have no claim to.

    Typical conversation
    Him: So, would we celebrate Chinese New Year in our house when neither of us are Chinese?
    Me: Sure! Why not?!
    Him: Because … we’re not CHINESE.

    ANYWAY. All this to say, I feel ya. I’d love to read more of your thoughts on the matter, but I understand if it is too private/painful/etc.

    • meg

      Nope, I haven’t. And honestly, I probably never will. I think interfaith things are their own brand of complicated, and deserve their own forum. It’s something I write and talk about, but only in faith related settings.

      • Kate

        Since this tends to come up a lot, I wonder if you could recommend a few good interfaith spaces? It’s an issue in my relationship as well.

        • meg

          I’d reccommend interfaithfamily.com, though NOTHING is as good as finding a clergy member you trust (in any faith).

      • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

        I completely understand your not wanting to discuss your choices here, because as someone below said, merging religions is probably one of the most intimate parts of a relationship (paraphrasing, clearly). But it would be interesting to read about – for me it doesn’t directly relate because my partner and I come from backgrounds of the same level of secularity, but I feel like that kind of negotiation would have lessons for other difficult compromises and choices in a relationship. If you’re willing to host the discussion here, and if anyone else is willing to share, it would make a great guest post.

        • meg

          No, that’s not a discussion I’m willing to host here. I have very strong and clear feelings on the subject, so I’m not in a place to be all things to all people (and that is probably what would be needed).

          • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

            That’s fair. I’ll have to keep it in mind though, when negotiating other things with my boyfriend. If some people can give up Christmas for their partners, I can probably load the dishwasher.

          • meg

            Haaaa.

            Though, you don’t give up Christmas for your partner. You give up Christmas for YOU and for your family. I want to be really clear on that. It’s not easy, but it’s not a sacrifice I made for David, exactly (just like loading the dishwasher, I suppose.)

    • Marisa-Andrea

      Interestingly (a word I hate but am using anyway), I celebrate what are considered “religious” holidays but never have for religious reasons. I didn’t grow up in a religious household yet we celebrate Christmas and Valetine’s Day. And I’m not particularly religious. Spiritual, but not religious. To this day, Christmas, though for many is a religious holiday, is not nor ever will be for me. So I find it interesting that your fiance refers to Christmas a holiday to which you have no claim. I guess. Or…it depends on why and how you celebrate Christmas. Even more interesting…my husband IS a Christian and HE doesn’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday either. But we both like Christmas and the season generally.

      Another random thought — I love Hanukah. LOVE. I don’t celebrate it. I don’t claim it. I just think it would be too offensive and most of my Jewish friends have told me yes, it would be. Though I can admire it from afar and they think that is quite lovely. I wonder if Christians feel the same way about non Christians celebrating Christmas. Just food for thought….

      • http://arduousblog.blogspot.com ruchi

        Yes, I think you touch on several of the underlying tensions we’ve been grappling with.

        Here’s the reality. My fiance and I come from very different world views when it comes to religion. In a Christian-Judeo-Islamic world view, my understanding (and if I’m incorrect, please tell me) is that you kinda pick one. You either believe Jesus is the son of God or you don’t. You either accept the teachings of Mohammed or you don’t.

        Hinduism (and I believe most other Eastern religions, but I won’t speak to them) doesn’t operate in this fashion. It is fully possible to be a Hindu and a Jew according to the tenets of Hinduism. As a child, my mom would always tell me the story of ‘her most religious aunt’ the one that we should all aspire to. This woman apparently went to mosque one day, church the next, and temple the next. She was so religious that she found God in all houses.

        Given this background, I find no real tension in celebrating Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, or really … anything else. To me, all these holidays are about celebrating tradition and family. But you’re right. Not everyone views this the same way, and I am sure that there are some Christians who would take offense at the fact that I celebrate Christmas. Thanks for the food for thought!

        • Emmy

          “In a Christian-Judeo-Islamic world view, my understanding (and if I’m incorrect, please tell me) is that you kinda pick one.”

          I think you’re generally right here, people pick one of the above and often will keep it very separate from the others. However all these religions are linked to a common source which makes faith conflict pretty frustrating (especially to me as an atheist). Islam is especially encompassing as it accepts that Moses, Abraham and Jesus (like Mohammed and others) were all prophets of the same God. I know some of my Muslim friends will have a family get-together at Christmas but I don’t think they make more of it than Eid.

          The celebration of Christmas amongst the majority of people I know (including our families) is down to culture and family tradition rather than religion. Our decisions as to where to spend the holidays tend to be for practical and logistical reasons however that doesn’t make me any less excited to be at my parents’ home this year!

          • Alicia

            Just want to say, I’m not sure if this is what organized official Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion says – that you have to choose just one. I’m pretty sure it is. But I’m a nice Jewish girl who just ran a Hanukkah assembly this week for 4th graders in London and grew up playing some mean dreidel, but who also celebrates and loves Christmas (my grandparents were Trotskyists and that’s that you did in the 50s to try to fit in).

            Meg’s choices about Christmas clearly come from a lot of thought and love and are true to her relationship – but faith, like marriage, like tradition, is uniquely personal. So I feel fine about celebrating Christmas, and solistice and whatever else, and still think of myself as Jewish. But I know others may disagree.

          • SR

            I know this is way off the point here but this comedy song from Tim “Atheist/Humanist” Minchin does a great job of articulating the significance that Christmas can have for non-Christian reasons (for anyone who celebrates really)
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCNvZqpa-7Q

      • meg

        Oh Marisa, you love Hanukah so much more than we do (we lit candles three times this year), you should clearly come do it up right for us.

        A few quick thoughts – I’d say for most religious Jews (us) Christmas is out of bounds. If you’re a secular Jew, it’s sometimes a little different. That said, Christmas is a religious holiday in my family of origin, and for that I’m really grateful. For us, if it was secular, I don’t think we’d let our kids do it. It would be WAY too confusing. But a religious holiday? Then, of course. They’ll go to their grandparents for Easter dinner and learn about it, why wouldn’t they do the same on Christmas? But there will be NO “Oh, this is kind of secular” in our house. It’s about Jesus, we don’t do Jesus, but Grandma and Grandpa do, so we go listen to Grandma sing in the choir on Christmas Eve because it’s wonderful, just like she comes to our Passover Seders because it’s wonderful. So that’s where we’re coming from in a really general way.

        Also, just for everyone’s knowledge, Hanukah is a super minor holiday in the Jewish religious calander. So please don’t confuse it with, “Oh, it’s like Christmas” or “It’s your big holiday.” It’s not. It’s MINOR. Our major holidays are Passover, Rosh Hashanna, and Yom Kippur.

        • Marisa-Andrea

          Meg, thanks for the clarification. Clearly off topic, but I’ve noticed I am very careful about Jewish holidays perhaps because Christian holidays are commercialized in a way I don’t see being done with Jewish holidays. All kinds of people celebrate Christmas. I just don’t see the anyone other than Jewish people celebrating Hanukkah, for example. But you (or David) already know how much I love Jewish culture and traditions so there you go. But like I said, I am very respectful and appreciate and don’t try to offend.

          • meg

            Well you’re welcome to come to any of our holidays any time.

        • http://arduousblog.blogspot.com ruchi

          ::Nods.:: And that’s why I TOTALLY get why you wouldn’t want to post about the negotiations you have had, because it is SO different for each couple.

          For us, we are coming at this from a more secular perspective. Neither of us is religious, but our cultures are extremely important to us. And I am coming to terms with the fact that, for my fiance, not celebrating Christmas is part of his cultural identity.

          In any case, thanks for sharing what you are comfortable sharing. It’s funny, but even just knowing that other people have struggled with the same issues we are struggling with is such a huge relief, and I’ve so appreciated this thread for that reason. I also really appreciate what Adria said about open-ended compromise. I think both me and the boy have a tendency to try to figure out how we’re going to handle Every. Possible. Situation. Ever! before marriage, and while I think it’s good we’re talking about it, I think realistically, you have to leave room for the fact that … life changes. People evolve.

          But to go back to celebrating holidays with your baby family, I have to say, that this was the most amazing Hanukkah ever for us. We started the eight nights with my not knowing any of the prayers or songs or anything. My fiance hadn’t celebrated Hanukkah in nine years or so. We had no expectations nor a huge set of traditions to fall back on. But by the last night, the two of us were singing “Sevivon” while jumping up and down in our living room. That’s the sort of thing that would have never happened were we always with our larger families for holidays, and I have a sneaking feeling that, because it’s a minor holiday that we aren’t going to travel for, Hanukkah will become a favorite holiday for just us.

      • B

        Hi Marisa-Andrea. I know this is a late reply to your question/thought the other day but it caught my attention. As a Christian (and speaking only for myself) I’m not too offended by non-Christians celebrating Christmas. I guess I kinda hope the message will rub off on them one day ;) I think what really does offend me though is when people stop acknowledging that Christmas is actually a Christian celebration and not just a consumer driven buying frenzy. In the “Christian” country I live in some people go so far as to stop calling it Christmas and refer to it only as the holiday season or similar things “so that it doesn’t offend people of other religions”, which makes me really sad/angry/offended. But yeah, for me as long as you know that you’re celebrating your own secular version of a Christian event, go for it! :)
        (hope that makes some sense…!)

        • meg

          That’s because it’s INCREADABLY offensive when people wish us non-Christians “Merry Christmas.” Because as you noted it IS a religious holiday, and a lovely one at that. But we don’t want it to rub off on us, we’ve had thousands of years of people trying to convert us by blood and force. People trying to convert us by false cheer is just a painful reminder of that.

          Also, you don’t live in a Christian country, period. That’s mind-bogglingly offensive of you to say. There are *plenty* of people of other religions on your country, period.

          Please be respectful of other faiths on APW. That’s how it works here.

        • Marisa-Andrea

          Well, that’s kind of my point — I don’t celebrate it as a Christian or religous event period. I’m not celebrating some “secular” version. Christmas has never been a “religious” holiday or slightly religous in my mind ever though I do know that for many it is (I won’t get into pagan influences, etc on here, but there are lots of reasons why non-Christians would celebrate Christmas as a non-Christian holiday without any references to Jesus, Mary, etc whatsoever). It just occurred to me that Christians may find non-Christian co-opting of the holiday as offensive in the context of this discussion, though again, Christmas has a lot of history and symbolism and influence so I guess it depends on who you’re having the “celebrate Christmas” conversation with. To Meg, it is a clearly a religious holiday for reasons she mentioned. For me, it is not.

          Also, I think references to the “holiday season” and saying “Happy Holidays” helps us to recognize that there are many different holidays and celebrations by people of all faiths that occur this time of year all over the world. Saying “Merry Christmas” and making this season only about Christmas assumes a lot of things about a lot of people and fails to recognize that there’s Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and other traditions and holidays people may have. I don’t think it’s people TRYING to turn what many consider a very religious holiday into a commercial event- the advertisers and American-consumer driven culture do this enough. But I do think it’s a very nice way to be respectful of other faiths and traditions without offending. That is, unless you’re TRYING to offend someone and that’s a different conversation. :-)

          • Alicemay

            I know this is a bit late in the game, but I have been reading the thread with interest (as faith also plays a big, and complicated role in my relationship), and just wanted to clarify something related to B’s comments. Having experienced the ‘holiday season’ in various places, there seems to be a distinction as to how it us understood in various places. In the US, the notion of a holiday season seems to be exactly as Marisa Andrea puts it- a celebration of the fact that there are many different groups, with many different heritages and traditions, who all have a celebration somewhere mid-winter.
            In the UK and Europe, however, the idea of a ‘holiday season’ has a quite different tone. Here, it is usually associated with the idea that public celebrations of one particular religious tradition may offend those of other faiths or none, and therefore that none of us (whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Atheist or other) should celebrate our own tradition in the public space, for fear of offending, and that all these should be replaced by (rather than gathered together under) a secular, or at least areligious, celebration of ‘the holiday season’. I think this is more the approach B was referring to.

        • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

          Coming in two years too late for this discussion, but I felt a need to reply to this.

          Aside from what Meg already replied on this (which is totally on the nose) I’d like to point something out:

          Many people who *are* religious Christians also say “Happy Holidays” because it is faster and less clunky than wishing people “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!” all the time. Christmas+New Years=Two major holidays in just a week’s time. So seriously, the idea that “Happy Holidays” is an attack on Christmas/Christians is something cooked up by TV pundits to stir up argument and sell advertising time. That’s it. Please stop buying it and try to enjoy “the holidays.”

  • http://www/blogspot.com/livingwithlupus Amber

    Yup we are homebodies as well. I was sick on Thanksgiving too Meg but we still had to go to dinner so I could look at all the food I couldn’t eat. :P

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      What is it with being sick on Thanksgiving? I had appendicitis on Thanksgiving several years ago . . . it was not fun.

      • http://madeline.eisenhart@gmail.com Maddie

        My mom and I used to get sick together almost every Christmas. It was actually really great Mom-Daughter bonding which was hard to come by as one of 5 kids. :)

  • Zan

    I got sick on Thanksgiving too — it was super lame, hospital and all. The worst part though was that I missed out on pie. Dang, I love pie.

    We’re going to have our own little Thanksgiving (pie!) on New Years since we are not party people and we’re just going to hang out at home. I definitely hear you on that being at home part!

    • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

      Sometimes an “Exactly!” means precisely that (“Yes! This!”); sometimes it’s a hug; sometimes it’s a “Yeah! You go get ‘em!”. And sometimes it’s an echo of “Pie! Yes.” ;)

      That’s a great way to celebrate (& make up for missing out the first time around)!

  • Jessica

    Oh my goodness, I am so right there with you on this. We made the very tough-for-us choice to spend Christmas together, alone, just the two of us at home. It’ll be very hard to not see our parents (especially because his are fairly close by), but then last night we were talking about how awesome it will be to see each other all day and not have to be content with a 30-minute phone conversation, and we both got all smiley and happy.

  • JoAnna

    One of my favorite Thanksgiving Traditions is getting everyone to the beach and just hanging out there while the food cooks away in the oven. Brings me so much sanity to be in the salty air and out of the house!

  • http://www.squirreled-away.com Ashley

    Amen. I’d love to spend the holidays with just my NEW family, just me, my hsuband, the dog and the cat. I can’t wait to have babies, because we aren’t going anywhere for Christmas when we have babies. They’re waking up, opening presents under the tree in their living room and that is it.

    For now, it is the annual juggling. It makes me resent the holidays, which isn’t a good way to feel about them I’m pretty sure.

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      Why wait till you have babies?

      • meg

        Amen to that. I think that was more or less my point, in so much as I had one.

  • p.

    We stayed in SF and had our own Thanksgiving this year, too! My husband works weekends and I work weekdays so Thanksgiving offered us our first two days off together in many months and we decided not to spend those days traveling. Like you, we had a really relaxing day (we took a walk in the Presidio — it was such a gorgeous day) and loved being in the empty City.

    • Sarabeth

      Us too. It was kind of magical in the city, wasn’t it? I never realized how much traffic we usually hear from our street, until it wasn’t there.

  • http://www.anextendedvacation.blogspot.com Drew

    Thank you so much for this post! We are in the same place right now. I’m in the process of learning to live without Christmas, learning Hebrew and trying to embrace my husbands traditions while making new ones of our own. Luckily, since we moved to NY for his residency the families didn’t try to make us fly out or host since we have the excuse of his unreliable schedule and crazy hours. Because we had to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Chanukah on our own this year, I feel like we’re starting to get a hold of some traditions that are our own that will be in place when we do have a child.

    Right now, I feel is the time to lay the ground work so that when the child comes along you can say to your families that “this is how we do X,Y,Z” because you both created those traditions over your early years of marriage.

    I would also love to hear more about the process of finding an agreement over which holidays to celebrate. Especially since alot of hubs and my converations go like Ruchi’s!

    • meg

      That’s a long religious conversation that I’m not going to have here. It’s just not the place for it, for me. Suffice to say, David’s let me make my own decisions on the matter, and we’re in agreement on the choices that we made.

    • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

      I think the joining of religions is probably one of the most personal parts of a relationship. I know I’ve brought it up on here before (in regards to my struggles in my own relationship), but I’m slowly learning that it’s totally unique for each and every couple.

      My Fiance and I have had some really gritty conversations about our household, our future children, and our family traditions and I don’t think we’ll ever get to the “end” of those conversations. Meaning, we’ve established our list of wants, we’ve figured out ways to compromise and make it work in a way that we are both comfortable and content, but it’s an ever-changing thing for us. That’s not to say that one year we’ll celebrate Christmas and the next we’ll celebrate Chanukah, but just that it’s an open ended compromise with room for growth and change.

      I think it’s more about owning your choices and supporting your partner and being supported in the ways that you need to be supported when it comes to figuring it all out for your own baby family. Each partner needs to remain true to themselves and to trust with all their heart that their best interests can be placed in the hand of their partner.

      And, communication.

      • meg

        Well, all that, and knowing that sometimes our best interests change. That’s part and parcel of family (and not easy stuff).

  • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

    I can’t wait — can’t WAIT — to host a Thanksgiving dinner in our home. But alas, due to the travel aspect, who knows when that will happen. Still, still. For reasons not entirely our own, this year will be the first year that our holidays are just us. Just us in our home. It’s refreshing, and freeing, somehow. As great as family is, I strongly feel that everyone needs space to kind of do their own thing. (Some of us — ME! — need more space than others, but that’s another comment altogether.)

    Anyway, glad to hear that you were able to enjoy the being home and that you got the breathing room that you needed.

  • http://thinkingwedding.blogspot.com Rhiannon

    Yeah. Home is awesome.

    I read an advice article about holidays with children once – but the British kind of ‘holidays’ – vacations – rather than the whole Thanksgiving and Christmas shebang the thought of which is enough to send me into meltdown. Anyway, the author spoke at length about things to look for when staying somewhere with your children before concluding that actually a staycation would be as good, if not better. You know where everything is, you have the home comforts/distractions which take some of the weight off and you don’t have to rummage around telephone directories if you want to get a pizza (or whatever).

    That’s pretty much how I feel about Christmas. Having spent nearly 20 years piggy-backing onto other people’s Christmasses via boyfriends, friends, extended family (my mother’s partner doesn’t like me so I’m not invited to spend Christmas with them) the thought of staying home is just perfect.

  • Amanda

    I would LOVE to be sick for Thanksgiving-well not deathly sick-but sick enough to where we didnt have to travel to 2 families in one day! I would love to have a beach/pj’s holiday. Hmmm….a beach/Pj’s Christmas sounds reeeaaallly tempting….if I didnt think our families would disown us if we didnt show up for Christmas. =P

  • http://townhousetohome.blogspot.com adria

    “And it turns out? What I really want? Is not so much.”

    Word. Exactly. Totally. Completely.

  • http://twentyfivetowife.blogspot.com Amanda

    We hosted Thanksgiving this year! His parents and grandmother came in from the East Coast, and his cousin and her boyfriend came across the bay, and it was lovely. I felt like such a grown-up, hosting my own holiday.

    But oh man, I’m sad to lose my old Christmas. My family gets totally excited about it, and his gets totally cynical about it, and it’s hard for me, trying to defend getting excited about what for us has been a pretty secular holiday, especially when I’m on the whole not all that into consumerism, and have always been entirely spoiled for Christmas. And… now I sound like a whiny brat.

    The point I was trying to make was that losing even pieces of Christmas is hard, I can’t even comprehend what giving up the whole thing must feel like.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      The different attitude about certain things is something that I have trouble navigating as I integrate into Husband’s family. Not just the holidays, but their attitude about relatives they aren’t too fond of and about one other’s parenting choices and about deciding where to go for dinner. It’s not necessarily positive or negative, it’s just *different*. I wonder if they think I’m nuts when I jump in with the “wrong” reaction to things. There are some aspects that I enjoy and hope to keep in my baby family and others that I am vigilently trying to keep out.

      Either way, it makes me feel like an outsider and it’s hard to talk about without sounding totally ungrateful or spiteful.

      • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

        Wow, you’ve just put words to something I’ve been struggling with for 5 years (and didn’t realize that was why). Honestly, this whole time I’ve been wondering what’s wrong with THEM for thinking there was something wrong with ME! (Especially the “relatives they’re not too fond of” thing—they actually have people in years-long fights who aren’t speaking to one another & can’t both be invited to family events!)
        When it comes to things like when and how often they get together, and the things they do to celebrate once there, I’ve been able to say “Everyone’s different, there’s no right or wrong way to do it”. (But my way is better, of course! *ahem*) But it’s been made worse by the fact that we’re in his country when we get together & I’m the only foreigner, in addition to being the new person.
        So, in summary, I feel ya on that one, Abby_Wan!

        • http://www.emlovesben.com emilyrose

          on behalf of someone with the crazy-political-not-on-speaking-terms-hard-to-deal-with-family, thanks for trying to be patient and understanding :) i often feel bad for being the half of our relationship with that mess, but lately his side has had its own little explosion so now i’m starting to really appreciate how well he has responded to my family for the past few years. not easy.

          and yeah! different does not (necessarily) = better or worse. now i just have to remember that when i’m feeling judgy of their ways, or too proud of my own. and i can’t think of a better opportunity for such differences to arise than during the holidays.

          oh wait, that’s right. weddings.

  • http://october12-thedayafter.blogspot.com/ October12

    I get waffle-y when it comes to travel and the holidays. I feel the pull of family, that lives in three very far away places, and the pull of home. This year home won, and I’m so excited. Husband and I have 10 days off work, together, with no plans of doing anything other than enjoying them. We’ll do the tree and gifts and phone calls, but the rest is ours. It’s a huge relief.

    Thanksgiving has been easier for us. Some years we go to one of the three family spots, some years we stay home. Staying home means a group of various sizes, as we have a lot of friends from other countries who have no family here and enjoy Thanksgiving. We make dinner for whoever wants it, never turkey, and get to enjoy a hassle free holiday that we make our own. Tradition because we’ve been doing it for five years now, but our tradition, not the family’s. I really look forward to it.

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    I love doing nothing. We do a crazy tour for the December holiday season that often involves 4 states and 10 days of not staying in one place more than 2 days in a row. And the people we visit always want to schedule events to keep us busy.

    Every time someone asks me “what do you want to do while you’re here?” I say we want to eat some food, exchange some presents and catch up. Drink some wine. That’s it. But it really never works, they plan outings and shopping trips and visits to distant relatives we’d never care to visit on our own and it’s go-go-go for 2 straight weeks. Plus airports.

    We truly relish a holiday (or long weekend, or one free evening) when doing nothing is an option. We love to watch crappy tv, eat at whatever hour we get hungry and not get dressed all day. I think our baby family needs that time to grow. Time to relax and not make decisions or negotiate compromises or share ourselves with the world.

  • http://loveyourway.net Lizzie

    My family is ALL about getting together every holiday – the extended family…the whole she-bang. Not only is it extremely, unnecessarily expensive…but it’s tiring! To be traveling across the country for Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter…too much. Isaiah and I just want a tiny little Christmas..just he and I, fireplace, small, thoughtful gifts, Christmas Vacation and some freaking chicken. Is that too much to ask for?

  • Veronica

    For the past three years, I’ve said, “THIS is the year where we stay at home for the holidays. No more travel!”

    And, of course, I’ve traveled more on the holidays in those three years than ever before. One year, our travel schedule was NY -> Dallas -> Austin -> Dallas -> Kansas City -> Chicago -> NY in less than a week. We’ve been struggling to make traditions as a baby family and to do the holidays how we want them. Yet, the guilt from our extended families is so strong that we’ve suppressed our desires of independence for them. I’ve also thought that if we have kids we could stay at home, so I’m glad I’m not alone in that!

    At least this Thanksgiving we did something a little different. My husband is in his last year of grad school at UT Austin, and we decided to go to the football game on Thursday itself. We spent the day cooking side dishes to take to our friend’s house for dinner, and it was perfect. I kept thinking, “This is EXACTLY what I want from a holiday!”

    Well, the game was awful and we left at halftime to drive to Houston. The rest of the weekend was spent with my husband’s extended family, which was nice. But I cherish our quiet, little holiday. And next year we’re moving back to the East Coast, and people can travel to us if they want to, dammit!

  • http://homegrownwedding.wordpress.com/ Liz U.

    “You see, since we got married, I’ve wanted nothing more than to have holidays in our own house. Us. Maybe just us two, maybe us and family, but us hosting.”

    I too feel totally torn between spending holidays with family and want to spend some quality time with my little baby family. It seems no matter how we try to approach it, some one is always offended, but this thing is it isn’t about them, it’s about us and creating our own traditions that we can share with our babies when they join the picture. So, until those babies provide us with the necessary excuse we will continue to travel, and feel really blessed that the trip doesn’t involve any airplanes.

    Once again Meg, thanks for you honesty and reminding me that I’m not alone with these little struggles :)

  • JUST JENCIL

    Unplanned intimate holidays rock!

    Not married yet, but I’ve been splitting holidays between the families with my FH for the last six holiday seasons now. About three years ago I got sick on New Years Eve and we had to opt out of the big family party about an hour before we were supposed to go. At first we were a bit bummed out, but we decided to take on a project that we hadn’t had time to do (make our own beer) since we were running around going from family function to family function. We finished the project about an hour before midnight and I fell asleep cozy next to my FH. He woke me up for the countdown and with every count to the new year, I lost more of my voice so my “Happy New Year” was only a tiny squeak. We both remember that as our favorite holiday together and I think the unexpectedness and spontaneity of the moment added to the fun.

  • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

    I love this post, Meg. It really speaks to me. As part of my custody arrangement with my ex, we alternate the Big Holidays with the kids. So, for example, on even numbered years, I get Thanksgiving and Spring Break, and he gets Fourth of July and Christmas. That meant that last year was the first Thanksgiving when I would not have my kids with me. Normally, we pack up the family and take them to my mother’s house in Arizona for the Big Holidays with the whole family. Family doesn’t travel here because it’s expensive, we don’t have enough room for everyone, and my mom is sick and doesn’t travel well, so I take them to see her at every opportunity. Last year, I did not want to go home for Thanksgiving without the kids.

    The week before Thanksgiving, I invited my kids’ babysitter and her kids to an early dinner, and I made Thanksgiving for just us at our house. It was quiet and joyous. Then, on Thanksgiving day, my fiance and I just had a quiet day together. We watched some movies, made a nice non-Turkey dinner together, took a long walk, worked on our mutual hobby, took a nap, and generally enjoyed each other’s company and the quiet.

    This year, my kids are with their Dad for Christmas day, and we’re planning on another very quiet day at home. As much as I know I will miss my family (and especially my kids), I am really looking forward to our quiet Christmas.

  • Heather

    Sigh. I just have to say that I love your posts on Baby Families. :) My husband and I celebrated our 2nd anniversary the week of Thanksgiving. We got cards in the mail from our parents and our grandparents and I broke down in tears because I finally GOT why we had a wedding instead of eloping. Because our parents and grandparents know exactly how moody, mean, and sh*tty we both can act and they not only watched us get married, but they freaking believe in us! How insane is that? These people have literally seen us at our worst and take the time on the week of Thanksgiving to send us cards because they believe in us as a couple. This past year I cried on the phone with my mom and claimed I wanted a divorce. (I do NOT recommend this. It is stupid. Don’t do it.) Yet, despite this, she still loves me AND my husband AND has faith in us as a couple. And that is why we had our wedding. For my mom. For his mom. For our grandparents. So they could support us and have our backs.

    So, anyways…um…the baby family. Love it.

    • meg

      This.

    • peanut

      I firmly believe that our wedding was for our loved ones and the honeymoon was for us :)

      • Heather

        Yep! Although, I did feel wonderful at our wedding, even if all aspects didn’t feel exactly like “us.”

  • http://madeline.eisenhart@gmail.com Maddie

    Oh Meg. I’m so happy for your solitary holiday. We had our first this year too and it was the most amazing feeling ever. We typically have to balance seeing four families EVERY holiday (they all live within 15 minutes of each other by car, so there’s no real negotiating who we’re going to see. We just see everyone without real quality time).

    This year we went to Florida with some of my dad’s family, but we stayed in a little apartment by ourselves, woke up when we wanted to, walked to the beach when we felt like it and then played monopoly with my little cousin next door if the mood struck. It felt to me like what I wish holidays could be every year. Maybe you’re like me in that you couldn’t do it every year, but it would be great if perhaps we could take every *other* year off just for ourselves.

    In other news, do you love your Fuji Instax? It’s my best friend. :) I have like, 300 pictures to scan. Yours makes me excited to get started on that project.

  • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

    I can’t wait to host a holiday at our house. I think it will be really exciting to combine our families (luckily they all get along, of course!), and go a long way to cementing our baby family’s traditions and M.O. for holidays.

    All we need is enough chairs.

  • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

    We’re doing this for Christmas this year and I’m so happy about it. We’re visiting family before and after, but the holiday itself is ours alone… and we’re not filling it up with a bunch of traditions, we’re just planning a lazy day spent appreciating being with each other. (Being long distance, it’s the VERY FIRST christmas we’ll ever spend together.) Maybe a gift or two thrown in there somewhere. It’s a good precedent to set, I think.

    Hugs to you, Meg. Glad life intervened and you got the Thanksgiving you wanted. :)

  • http://lastamericangirlstanding.blogspot.com Kim

    I’m having a hard time not being able to go “home” for the holiday, so I needed to hear this today. Thanks. ♥

  • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

    So this comment is a bit off topic, but Meg, I just now saw your July 27th post On Finding Home (Here. Now.)! That week was probably the only week I didn’t check APW, because I was busy taking the bar myself! Evil, evil, bar exam. Ah, too ironic that I missed such a great post because I was doing exactly what you were talking about… So anyways, this is a belated EXACTLY to that entire post, but specifically this:

    “I realized that this is what marriage is. It’s making a home, where you are, no matter what the circumstances. It’s being home, whenever you’re with your partner. It’s not waiting for the one-days, and the might-bes, and mourning the could-have-beens. It’s being home. Now.”

    After four years long distance, 6 months of thinking I would be moving 3,000 miles away immediately after getting married, and not finding a clerkship in the same city as husband’s med school, I feel lucky to be HOME.

    And your Thanksgiving sounds lovely. :)

  • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

    Being home with my husband, our dog and a long stretch of time is one of my favorite things.

    • http://madeline.eisenhart@gmail.com Maddie

      I want to put this on a t-shirt.

      • http://www.emlovesben.com emilyrose

        i will buy that t-shirt.

        (okay, fine, i’m not quite married yet and don’t quite have a dog yet, but they’re both on the near horizon and THEN i will buy that t-shirt).

  • Ariel

    Hurray for quite and divergent-from-the-norm holidays!
    This year I just stayed home by myself while my fiance went to the family Thanksgiving (his family, mine’s far away), because I needed some time to rest. It was so liberating! It gave me the spaciousness to really think about what I was Thankful for in my life, which somehow always gets pushed aside in the chaos of large family affairs.
    I think that traditions can be wonderful when they are carried out with joy, but when they’re done because “that’s how you have to do them,” they can become cumbersome, inauthentic, and imprisoning. At first I felt anxious about letting his family down, and about not doing what I was “supposed to do,” but in the end it made me realize that (duh), I have a choice about which traditions I want to channel my joy into! I can celebrate holidays in a way that is meaningful to me, just like how I live the rest of my life! And if I’m too tired, I can still be a happy and complete person without them.
    Taking the time to re-charge and get some perspective on traditions was really important for me at this point, because we’re hosting Christmas for both of our families at our house this year. I think that now, after spending Thanksgiving the way that I did, it’s going to be a much different, more relaxing and enjoyable holiday. Also, it’s something that I’m going to keep in mind while we plan our wedding :)

    • Vmed

      Exactly AND

      We’re hosting Christmas this year and certain members of my family of origin pitched. A. Fit. Because this somehow is ruining the entire holiday season.

      But it turns out that my baby sister might soon be taking a job that will make getting the day off from work on a holiday impossible for at least a few years.

      So I am so thankful that we’re starting to shake up old traditions now, because FH and I can shoulder (and blast) the shame that might otherwise have been piled on my little sister, and next year we’ll all be ready for an alternative day of celebration.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    I just emailed the hubs to say that what I want for our (at home, not traveling or seeing immediate family) Christmas, besides hanging out together, is to make our bedroom nicer, and more us. Because even though we’re moving in 6 months, I need a pretty safe haven in which to be us. So, you know, yay for taking care of our baby families and making the most of where we are.

  • Amanda

    My fiance and I both come from divorced and remarried families. With everyone living near each other, and everyone having different parties, our christmas normally is traveling between 8 different christmases. its not as fun as it sounds, though as a kid i enjoyed all the parties and food.

    so we decided four years ago that if we have to spend so much time pleasing everyone at christmas, that noone gets us at thanksgiving. we have made that our holiday. we stay here in new york city and host some friends. we call it the “orphan thanksgiving”. if people want to show up great! otherwise, we will just have a lazy day.

    its a chance for us to start the holiday the way we want, so come christmas we enjoy those family moments, instead of just appeasing everyone (though that still happens as well)

    also, when we decide to start our own little family, we will already have a holiday that is ours and ours alone.

    • http://amusinglist.wordpress.com Christina

      You inspire me!

    • meg

      It was like that, but I specifically noticed that we didn’t feel like orphans this time, at all. It felt like home. (Our friends in New York also call it orphan thanksgiving. I don’t know if they are the same crowd.)

    • http://madeline.eisenhart@gmail.com Maddie

      How have I not thought of this before? You are inspiring. I don’t mind splitting Christmas between a million houses because at least it lasts a few days, but to eat 5 Thanksgiving dinners is just an undertaking that is more fun in theory than practice (at least for me, my husband on the other hand lives for it).

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      Haha, our friends back in New York called their same tradition an “orphan thanksgiving” as well . . . performers, they are.

    • Olivia

      Our friends out here on the W. Coast have an “East Coast Orphans” Thanksgiving.

      • Amanda

        haha that is too funny. Meg i doubt we are in the same group. i gush about your site enough that someone would have said something!

        apparently this year the name”orphan thanksgiving” has more oomph than before. we used to get “Aww how sad you arent going home”. now we get the “oh man i wish i had thought to do that!”

  • http://somewhatbookish.wordpress.com Carrie

    Thank you for this. It was just what I needed today. For a number of reasons, this is our first holiday season that we have spent alone. My mother-in-law joined us for Thanksgiving and we did a joint dinner with our neighbors, who have a brand new baby and didn’t want to travel with him so little. Christmas, though, will be just us. No family coming, no neighbors around, friends out of town, and as much as I have wanted this for so long (a chance to have our own Christmas at HOME), I have also started to get nervous about it. What are we going to DO on Christmas all by ourselves? Especially since we aren’t planning to get each other presents, having just paid for some expensive work on our house. This helped me to remember why I’ve always wanted a Christmas at home – relaxing time with the one I love. Time to nurture our baby family. Time to start our own traditions and our lives. Perfect.

  • peanut

    We celebrated our two-month wedding anniversary the week before heading up north to celebrate Thanksgiving with my mom, dad, and brother. Hearing my husband refer to my father as “dad” and feeling the intimacy that I have felt within my nuclear family for the past 29 years include my husband gave me my first BOOM we’re really finally a family! feeling with my husband. Before, he was loved and included; now he is an integral part. It was awesome.

    • Amanda

      “Before, he was loved and included; now he is an integral part” I love this! My new husband is joining my small, close knit family for Christmas at my brother’s home for 5 days this year. I am so excited for him to be with us, as we have previously spent Christmas apart with our respective families. He won’t be considered *just my boyfriend* this year – he will be a brother, a son, and an uncle. I can’t wait for my husband to share in our traditions, and for him & I to take away from the time how we want to incorporate some of my old traditions with some of our own, new, traditions.

    • Melissa

      I kind of got that a little bit when my dad was here from across the country for our wedding reception (we’d had our ceremony earlier) and my dad was calling my husband’s phone directly to harrass and annoy him when my husband was trying to get dressed and ready just like he does to me! Haha. He also sent my husband a birthday card (a really funny one that had something to do with being so excited you pee’d your pants, or something to that effect) addressed to him and without any reminders as to the date. In fact, my husband’s Christmas present was thrown in there too (it was a magazine subscription notice), and there has been no Christmas present for me as of yet!

  • NC Heather

    This year we ended up with a very similar Thanksgiving. We flat out told everyone early on that we weren’t traveling this year. No one else in either family could come to us, so we spent the day doing whatever we wanted and it was so calm and healthy. A lovely break, and something I’d like to do at least twice a decade!

    For Christmas this year, my fiancé’s parents are traveling to spend the weekend with us and with my parents. We all live far away from each other (NC/OH/MA) but I’m hoping we can pull this off every few years as well, since it makes things so much easier.

    On a related note, My dear FH HATES Christmas with a passion (truly, hate is not too strong a word); his feelings are matched in intensity by his mother’s over-the-top love for/expectations related to Christmas. HIS mother. I’m left in the middle, with average (but slowly dulling) feelings about Christmas and a desire to broker a yearly truce and see my own, not-miserable family.

    Believe me when I say it makes for a uniquely complicated and stressful time of year. I’ve yet to ever meet someone in a similar situation but I wish I could.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I’ve been in this situation and it sucks. In my own family of origin, I tend to be the peace-maker or the compromiser, so the first time I felt a little tension in Husband’s family I tentatively tried to find the peace between him and his mom and his brothers. Bad idea. For one thing, they have their own communication system that they’ve been building for 30-odd years without me. For another, I end up feeling all alone and not having any fun.

      Now I try to either completely stay out of it (not always possible) or express my own opinion really clearly, really quickly. Letting everyone know where I stand keeps me from appearing as though I’m “taking sides”. Plus what usually happens is my mother in law’s excitement level is at 11, and Husband wants to be all grinchy at a 0, but if I can tell him I’m at a 7 before he starts up with his mom, he’ll come in around a 5. He’d way rather fight with his mom than me, so knowing that irking her will irk me too takes a lot of the fun out of it for him.

  • http://caitlindentino.com caitlindentino

    This was our second Thanksgiving without traveling – the first being last year in NY, we made turkey and all the fixings with our friends there.

    This year we had a small group at our place – my mom and his mom and step-dad – and it was absolutely lovely. We cooked, hung out, had lots of vino and it was perfect. What was so funny is how much the parents loved it too. They often have to go to their parent’s or siblings or host, and they really enjoyed the change. Little to no work on their end, and we didn’t get stressed over every little thing like others in the fam.

    I’m hoping it begins a new tradition!

  • http://www.joshandeliina.us E

    Sounds like a lovely Thanksgiving Meg. I never really thought about it, but New Year’s Day is also kind of a quiet private holiday J and I spend together. It somehow feels more special than your average weekend day or other day off, and I can specifically remember just sitting in our favorite coffee shop together on New Year’s Day last year, him drawing in his sketchbook, me writing in my journal.

  • Clairelizabeth

    New Year’s day has always been “our” day too – dim sum with his dad, and then a long walk home along the lake, and movies and wine and left overs.

    We’re Canadian and so don’t have the fraught-ness of American Thanksgiving (just a much less-fraught Turkey dinner in October), but the Christmas/December hols are always stressful. Since junior high I’ve gotten wretchedly, wretchedly ill round about December 20th. The punishing toll of Nutcracker ballet rehearsals/performances, exams, work projects, and just germs through the years has never failed to fell me just before the major family gathering of the year.

    Frankly, much as I hate being sick, it’s really, REALLY nice to have an inarguable reason for bowing out of festivities when they get overwhelming. (And in my family, festive is not worth doing unless it runs you over like a freight train.)

    This year is the first Christmas that l’homme will be spending with my family, and while I’m looking forward to it, I’m really looking forward to next year, when we’re married, and it will be just him and (a likely very sniffly) me.

  • Tracy

    We live too far from our families to travel for both Thanksgiving and christmas, so we always opt for traveling at christmas and stay put with our friends for thanksgiving. Next year, though, we’ll be living close to our families so we’ll have to come up with a new plan. My fiance was saying this year how excited he is to have his dad’s turkey for thanksgiving next year, even though he’s made the most fantastic turkeys the last 5 years running and has been proud of them. I guess this conversation crystallized something for me about the difference between being a long-time committed couple and married, correct me if I’m wrong married ladies. There needs to/will be a transition of your first loyalty from being to the family you grew up with to the new family you’ve chosen. (Not that we don’t still have loyalty to the families we grew up with too, obviously.) It’s been coming on slowly for awhile, but it seems to me that marriage makes that a little more solid.

    • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

      I’d say this is true for sure . . . although for me it didn’t really feel like changing loyalties, it just felt like more of an understanding that it’s okay to make that (sometimes not-so-subtle) switch from the old to the new.

  • Amanda

    Meg, your Thanksgiving sounds just lovely, with the exception of being sick. It’s interesting that our bodies sometimes just know when enough is enough, and your heart, soul & body need a little healing and nourishment. And “not so much” as you put it.

    My husband & I hosted our first Thanksgiving together – for just the two of us. We cooked all day in our jammies, watched a show dog competition on TV, and basked in the joy of just the two of us. We’ve set a precedent I am worried we won’t be able to keep up!

    • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

      We totes watched the dog show too! I was rooting for the Affenpinscher. It looked like the anti-purse-dog purse-dog…

    • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

      Love the dog show! The parade and the dog show. That’s how you start a Thanksgiving.

    • Anne

      Yes! The Thanksgiving day dog show is a tradition in my family (inexplicably, because we have cats)! I actually got my FMIL into it last year, too. It’s my sister who’s had trouble justifying this to her boyfriend…”Let me get this straight. You want to go to my family thing an hour late so you can finish watching a dog show????”

  • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com ka

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one feeling a bit left out during that discussion, Meg. :)

    This post reminded me of just how lucky the boy and I are to have our quiet “just us” holidays. (We haven’t even decided yet whether or how we’re “celebrating” any holidays this year, but I can assure you sleeping in, long walks–weather permitting, wine, and lots of tv will be involved.) So as much as I get envious of people and their fun-sounding families, I can also see how much of a logistical and emotional stress it is, and in some ways, we’re lucky to be absolved of it. (Ways like getting to plan a wedding without any parental supervision.) I get to put that energy into our baby family, friends, projects around the house. :)

    Or that’s just what I tell myself.

    Because if I’m being completely honest, I want to one day grow our baby family until the time comes when I’m the grandma that hosts the Christmas that no one wants to miss. At which point I will probably look back fondly on all the years that it was just the two of us…

  • Ruth

    My husband and I work for a ski resort so unless one of our regular days off happens to fall on a holiday, we don’t automatically get it off. It’s just business as usual. Requesting time off during those key busy times is also difficult, so even if we have Thanksgiving Day off, we don’t necessarily have the days around it off to travel. So, as much as it’s hard not be with family on holidays, they all understand that this situation is just a part of life for us, especially since we live over a thousand miles from all three of our families’ gathering spots. I think we have a great opportunity to make the holidays special in our own way, even when that means fitting in moments of celebration around an 8-5 “normal work day.” Now that we have our house and ample space for visitors, we’ve entertained the idea of inviting them out here to experience the magic of the Rocky Mountains for Christmas one year… They loved being here for our wedding in August, so I figure they should experience the winter wonderland, too! Maybe next year?

    • Morgan

      How could anyone not love Christmas in the Rockies? It’s pure magic. (My husband took me to Banff for my birthday a few weeks ago, and it took my breath away, as it has every one of the thousands times before.)

      • Amanda

        Your comment just made me a little homesick!

  • http://cisteagusmilseain.blogspot.com/ Beth

    Perfection (except for you being sick).

  • Marisa-Andrea

    I am foaming at the mouth the start our own traditions with our baby family. Thus far in our mariage, negotiating the holidays among our respective families has been pretty easy, not necessarily for good reasons. Seven years ago, I lost my baby brother and since then, my immediate family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. At all. Not so much as a call to say “Merry Christmas.” My husband has only visited his family in the SF Bay area for Christmas. So it makes it pretty easy for us — Thanksgiving with my folks (which my parents really like and every year pay homage to my brother on that day) and Christmas with my husband’s.

    But there is nothing like home and there is a yearning in me to create a Christmas for us in our home that has existed since my brother died and my family stopped the traditions we had. I miss them. I miss Christmas. When Chris and I became a family, one of the things that made me giddy was the chance to start traditions for my own family. So though it’s easy for us to negotiate the holidays logistically, it’s more difficult for me to still not have a Christmas of our own. I am hopeful that soon we will be able to. And not wait for a baby to do it, lol!

    • Kira

      Marisa-Andrea, I’m sorry for your family’s loss. My partner and I have a very similar story. His brother, who was born on Christmas Eve, died almost eight years ago now. His family hasn’t celebrated Christmas since. Last year he and I spent the holiday together, with my mother and stepfather. We had small presents, a few decorations, and a nice meal (including pecan pie, which his brother requested for his birthday every year). It was still a sad day for him, but we were happy to be together.

  • Laura

    Thanksgiving was strange.

    My future husband’s family was gathered as usual, and we spent the weekend with them. ( My own immediate family spans 5-ish states, depending on time of year, and I’m usually content to tell them that I’m not traveling at a time that my server self is usually needed in a restaurant.)

    The rituals at Thanksgiving felt empty. They belonged to someone other than my fiance and myself and the family we are building. Somehow, my fiance always feels like a child when surrounded by his family. The solution: we asked my fiance’s parents and brother to come to our house for Christmas. Yes, we live in a tiny house and the parents have a very large one. But, this will be on our terms. We love to cook, and get to put as much garlic into recipes as we please, and introduce them to our own family rituals. They are (unexpectedly) thrilled, and so are we. Sometimes, we have to insist on things. I’m excited for our baby family to have a Christmas.

    (Christmas is also the anniversary of the first time we made out. Exciting for many reasons.)

  • http://Averyhappyaccident.blogspot.com Alice

    I’m the opposite. I haven’t spent a single holiday back home since like 2006. We’ve done enough tradition establishing. I’d fall over myself with joy given the opportunity to magically appear back home for Christmas or Thanksgiving… but it’s just too chaotic and expensive around the holidays to travel from 7,000 miles away. But oh… I would kill for a cold Christmas (I’m not even asking for snow!) or a real turkey (not typically eaten where I live, impossible to find). So…. sadly, I’ll have to stick to cutting paper snowflakes, watching nostalgic Christmas movies, listening non-stop to Christmas music, eating roasted chicken, and whining profusely about the heat in my highly air conditioned apartment to get my holiday spirit on.

  • Liz A

    Our best Christmas was the Christmas Day we pulled a fast one on our parents, telling each that we’d be at the others for dinner and then set up a card table in the living room, cooked a gorgeous, delicious feast, watched Christmas movies and fell asleep early.

    Perfect.

    It’s now the one we aspire to.

  • TISME

    Interesting post. For me, participating in each other’s family celebrations during the holidays is so joyful because it serves as a strong reminder that we are part of something larger now than our relationship. Of course, this could be for any number of reasons. 1. We just got married two months ago so we are still figuring out what sorts of traditions would be meaningful for our baby family. What this means in reality is, we are still figuring out how to get our wedding thank you notes out the door by year’s end and if we want to bother with a Xmas tree for our apt. 2. Both of our families are local , small, and pretty laid-back about things so we can participate in the family stuff and still have some time for us during holiday weekends. We dropped some friends off at the airport the day before Thankgiving to catch a red-eye and my husband said to me, “I’m thankful we don’t have to fly to some godforsaken place.” I suspect if the celebrating with the families was more of a project, a more private holiday would become more attractive to us. 3. We are lazy and mediocre cooks with a tiny SF apt so if we can just bring the salad, wine and dessert, that’s cool with us. It will be interesting to see if our perspective on this changes once we have children.

  • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

    I really wanted to comment on this yesterday, Meg, but I didn’t get the chance.

    I really appreciate that you are drawing your boundaries on what you’re willing to discuss so clearly. That’s an excellent example and it makes me happy you’re being good to yourself. Second, I also really appreciate that you’re willing to put out that figuring the holidays is more multi-faceted than imagined, and that sacrifice and compromise is so healthy and hard and important. It’s something I think about a lot, and I don’t really have many models in my life of healthy sacrifice or change, usually it’s all one or all the other and not very good, even inside of the relationship (sometimes it can just look bad from the outside but be good inside). I just want to hug you!

  • Heather G

    Coming home for the holidays has always been a BIG, HUGE deal to my mom. My parents are divorced and have been since my teens. For many, many years we did the alternating thing–even into adulthood and even though we are scattered across the country. And then I noticed that with partners and other families, it was getting so difficult. A couple of years ago, I decided not to come home on Mom’s year. My mom was crushed and said, “but this is MY year!”

    I’ll never forget how I steeled myself and said, “No, it’s my year. I am 30+ years old. Every year is MY year.”

    Don’t get me wrong. I like being home for holidays, but I felt it was so important to make it known that, even though I wasn’t married, even though I didn’t (and still don’t) own a home, and even though I didn’t (and still don’t) have children, it’s still MY holiday!

    And now that I have a baby family (love this!), I am holding to that. Every holiday is OUR holiday first. :)

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      That is such a kick-ass way to think about it.
      Instead of feeling guilty, it gives you the freedom to decide “whats in the best interests of OUR family this season”.
      Perhaps it will be that “we havent spent any time with X relation in a long time, so we’ll go to that city” or it will be “we cant afford to go away, so we’ll stay home”.
      And YES, I am an adult too. So why should I get all upset that our parents are upset at us not travelling to see them at Christmas? Especially when they could just as easily travel to see us?

      • Heather G

        What you said about the traveling is exactly what I was thinking. There may come a time when certain members of our family are not able to travel, but while everyone is still mobile, they could come here, too! I’m proud of our home and our Charlie Brown tree. Come see!!

        Oh, and I read your post below…Way to branch out and suggest something different!

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

    We are totally kicking Christmas at home this year.
    BUT
    Its not because we are a new baby family per se.

    We had already decided that even though we had Christmas with my family last year, we couldnt afford Christmas with his family this year after 5 trips to see them already, and the wedding 7 weeks out.
    So, when Mum started talking in more detail about it, and given we moved into our first home 10 days after we got home from honeymoon, I piped up and offered to host whoever Mum had been planning to have at ours for Christmas lunch.

    And it has now become (for us at least) an important facet of us being a baby family. Yes, its only my side that are coming (because his side dont like the city we live in and think the travelling is too expensive, yet expect us to go down there all the time… Sorry. /Rant), and yes, it will be casual as. But its a great start and I so cant wait.

    And I’m thrilled we didnt have to “wait for babies” to do this either! Bonus!

  • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

    Thanksgiving sort of stunk this year. Our first holiday, as newlyweds, and we had to spend it apart (for a long lengthy reason I won’t bother getting into here, but just trust me in that it was a legitimate reason). Neither of us are big Thanksgiving fans, anyway, which made it easier.

    We’ve finally solidified Christmas plans and have decided to have an early dinner at a favorite restaurant in my hometown (a somewhat swanky place, that we don’t go to often, but we both love) before spending the evening with my family. My mother and I are then going to get up *ss-crack early on Christmas morning, drink a sh*t-ton of coffee and open presents, then I’ll get my sleepy hubby up so we can drive the 4 hours to his parents house to open gifts there and then have Christmas dinner. We then plan to stay there for the week.

    Now that we have our plans solidified, I’m really excited that we’re carving out time for “just us” to create our own traditions. When I told my mother we’d be at Christmas Eve “late,” I even referenced this blog and our baby family! She seemed surprisingly OK with everything … though I think that’s because she’s still getting me on Christmas morning. :)

  • Kat

    Your “Reclaiming Wife” posts are my new favorite. I wish I had the wherewithall to figure out how to say stuff like that and make it sound just as intelligent. LOL

    • meg

      You may just have other gifts to discover, my dear. Writing takes no wherewithall for me, it just flows. But I can’t take a picture or write music…

  • Alexandra

    This is totally timely for me. My SO has divorced parents, and we’ve spent plenty of time at more than one place on holidays, the many years we’ve been together. (His family and mine.)
    We’re hosting Christmas Eve for the first time this year, our first-ever “hosting a holiday as a baby family”. We’ve been together for 9+ years and officially engaged over 1.5 years, but now that we’ve set a date and are officially getting married next year, we get to start our own tradition, a bit.
    It also happened partly because his aunt who usually hosts on the 24th can’t do it this year, and my married-with-kid sister moved away this summer, so we don’t have a toddler schedule or driving-issues to which we must adhere.
    The FH & I are both spiritual but not religious, and from Christian-type backgrounds. My parents were raised Protestant, my FH & his dad were raised Catholic, though my FH was never confirmed. I was raised secular Christian/New Age/Buddhist. ;p
    We’re excited to host at our home–it has been a long time coming!

  • JESS

    OK- totally late here. But Alicemay- reading through all of the posts I was thinking the exact opposite of your comment. I’m from the UK and live in the US and in London, without any intention to offend whatsoever, I have wished my Hindu taxi driver, my Muslim corner shop owner and Muslim and Jewish friends Merry Christmas. Before anyone gets upset with how offensive I may have been, I want to say that in the UK I don’t think this is considered offensive to do this at all and doesn’t come from any bad place or exclusive place, its more of an inclusive thing (promise!). All of these people happily and cheerily wish me a Merry Christmas back (and exchange Christmas presents no less). I mean I do wish them Happy Ramadan and Passover too, and whenever they have cheerfully replied Happy Ramadan back to me I’ve always felt kind of warm inside. (I’m a secular and atheist Christmas lover just to get my religious denomination clear) . So oooh imagine the terrible faux pas’ I was making when I moved to New York. I didn’t want to offend anyone but pretty quickly realized that that’s what I was doing, so I now Happy Holiday along with rest of America. It’s funny though that the reactions are so different in different places. I have to say I prefer the world where its not deemed offensive to wish anyone Happy anything.