Who’s Starting to Plan the Newlywed Holiday Juggle?


It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?

by Kate Levy

Two brides' hands together showing their wedding rings

Growing up, the holidays were always a schlep from house to house for my family. Both sides of my family live in or near the Bay Area, which is generally pretty great, but also make it so that you have to go to EVERYTHING because it’s “not that far.” You end up eating appetizers at one house, dinner somewhere else, and grab dessert wherever you end up. For a number of years, prior to my parents’ divorce, Christmas dinner was hosted at our house, including some epic moments like when our two dogs ate the six pies my mom had baked prior to everyone arriving, or when the table caught on fire due to an elaborate candle tablescape disaster and then the figgy pudding my uncle’s then-girlfriend brought also completely went up in flames.

Newlywed Holidays, Part I

My first marriage coincided with my parents’ divorce finalizing, so that year holidays were needless to say quite chaotic and tense. No one wanted to be flexible about where or when we—the newlyweds—had to be places, and since I wasn’t (and still am not) able to teleport, it ended with lots of hurt feelings and frustration. The next year we decided to create a more solid game plan, to juggle the fact that my ex’s family was also huge and Bay Area–based. Thanksgiving was on a three-year rotation: my dad’s family, my mom’s family, and his family. From there we were able to split Christmas three ways: Christmas Eve, Christmas Morning, and a few Christmas night slots. That made everyone mostly happy. You know, mostly. Because obviously nobody can ever be COMPLETELY happy about the holidays, no matter how hard you try.

Newlywed Holidays, Part Jew

In my second marriage things changed quite drastically in terms of the dreaded holiday breakdown because of one glorious detail: I married a Jew who is an only child. This immediately freed up the “but where will we go on Christmas?” dilemma. It’s actually made me look forward to the holidays. Last year for our first official married holiday season, Karyne’s family joined us in all the Christmas gatherings. Considering that every family event on my dad’s side ends with what we call “music time” (which is essentially a family band/recital situation that includes piano, drums, guitar, harmonica, tambourine, alto sax, and vocals) I was sure that they’d never come again. But they loved it! And my father-in-law even happily hopped on the mic to sing a few Sinatra songs.

We still rotate Thanksgiving each year, which mostly just makes me sad for the years I don’t get my Aunt Mary’s mashed potatoes. We actually hosted Thanksgiving last year in our tiny condo living room, which I completely loved and Karyne never wants to have happen again. Karyne’s family has a longstanding Family Olympics held on the morning of Black Friday, so even if we don’t get to see them for Thanksgiving proper, we still get to have time to see everyone all at once.

Now How About You?

Newlyweds, or even new couples, always have the struggle of balancing being together during the holidays and making their families happy. It’s a weird dance considering most of your family, parents especially, have been in your shoes, yet they never seem to be very flexible or understanding about it all.

I’m still determined to just skip it all one year and head out on a magic tropical vacation, or at least just spend it eating Chinese food and going to the movies, but until then, to grandmother’s house we go!

So tell me what your plans are this holiday season. is it planes, trains, and automobiles for you? or have you considered ditching everyone and sending a life-size cardboard cutout replacement?


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Kate Levy

This Bay Area native built her own business as a wedding hair and makeup artist, before shifting gears to work in marketing. She’s an avid iPhone photographer, loves all forms of social media (especially Instagram, #katesskylog), and makes a really mean chocolate chip cookie. Kate is a collector of spoons, enamel pins, and reusable bags she never actually brings to the store. When not getting sucked into the ASOS app or an Instagram hashtag blackhole, Kate can be found hanging on the Peninsula with her wife, 2 cats and 2 dogs.

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  • lamarsh

    We decided to skip Thanksgiving in the U.S. this year and will be travelling to Munich for 4 days (with a day trip to Salzburg). It’ll be wintry and cold, but I can’t wait. My family was going to be halfway across the country and Husband’s family usually just goes out for dinner on Thanksgiving, so we didn’t feel like we would be missing too much.

    For Christmas, we try to alternate, but usually spend more time with my family. Last year, we spent Christmas with my family in the Midwest and then celebrated Christmas in January with my husband’s family when we got back to the east coast. This year, we will be doing Christmas Eve with his family, Christmas morning with just us, and then hopping on a plane to spend a week skiing with my family out west. We tend to spend more time with my family during the holidays, because we both get along better with my family and they are also a plane ride away, so we can’t just pop in for the day. It’s pretty easy to travel for the holidays with just the two of us, but it should be interesting to see how things change if we have kids in the mix.

  • Alli

    First holiday season married here!
    We had planned on running away to fit in some travel for Thanksgiving, but I think we might just hide inside our house because of uncertain career moves right now. I figured we could make our own meal, or order from one of the few places open by us, play board games, and get a good start on Christmas. I dislike black friday deals that start on Thanksgiving but I know he likes to wait outside stores for them to open so who knows maybe we’ll do that.
    We hosted my mom’s family for Christmas last year, and it went so well my husband wants to do it again! And also host his mom’s family Christmas morning. And a new years party. He’s getting a little ahead of himself because he likes to celebrate but hates leaving the house, but I like that our little home works so well for parties lol.

    The weird thing is that our families are so split up (both our parents are divorced) so we’ve got all these different sections of people to see. My dad’s side has the same Christmas eve gathering every year (and I get to eat all them seven fishes, yum) so that’s pretty set in stone, though we could miss it if we had to. I just don’t know what we’re going to do when we start having kids, because I know we REALLY won’t want to be running around, and we’ll want to start our own family traditions together. And because everyone is within an hour of each other, it’s so easy to think “oh we’ll just hit up everyone in a 2 day period and we definitely won’t be exhausted!” but that’s not how it works.

    Subject change – Any cool gift exchanges here? Most years both sides of my family do a Yankee Swap, but last year on my mom’s side we tried a Favorite Things exchange, which was different and fun! Here are some instructions, we decided to do 3 items each with a limit of $10 per item. https://www.onegoodthingbyjillee.com/2011/07/throw-your-own-favorite-things.html

    • rg223

      That Favorite Things gift exchange sounds SO FUN! I might steal it for my birthday (happening right after Thanksgiving)! ETA: Because my family is pretty entrenched in their gift-giving routine, and my work is not into gift exchanges.

    • Lisa

      I like this idea. My husband’s extended family does a Secret Santa thing, and after he and his sister both got burned by members of the same family two years in a row, we have no desire to participate in it again. It sounds like the Favorite Things exchange only works if you’re able to exchange in person though?

      • Kaitlyn

        Ugh I was so annoyed last year because J’s grandma organizes a Secret Santa for all the family and I was left out (AND we were engaged). My grandma has been giving him his own Christmas gift for years at this point *insert eyeroll* It’s not that I was mad I didn’t get a gift, but it was the participation thing and just made me feel left out.

        • Lisa

          Yeah, it seems like my husband’s family has odd rules about who gets to be included in the Secret Santa. (It’s his mother, her siblings, their spouses, and children. Spouses of the children are not included.) His well-off uncle has “forgotten” to get presents for two of the children two years in a row, and with the gift total being $50, that’s not an insignificant present. My husband got forgotten last year after putting a lot of time and effort into finding a special present for this uncle (they happened to be reciprocal) so we’re begging out. My SIL got a really cheap gift from the uncle’s wife the year before. Now all of the children and some of the siblings are pulling out of the gift exchange because of this one bad apple.

          But of course they can’t just kick the offending family out of the Secret Santa because Family Dynamics.

          • Kaitlyn

            Awww that really stinks that that happened. Maybe they could be asked, “Are you sureeee you want to participate in this” with a hint of “you should leave” haha

          • Lisa

            Lol, I wish. Husband messaged the cousin, told her about getting stiffed even after she sent the uncle a reminder, and said he wanted out. She said, “Oh, that’s too bad! I wish you’d still participate, and we’ll miss you.” Maybe put some safe guards in place to prevent this from happening, cousin, and we’ll see about re-joining.

          • rg223

            Ugh, sorry about that – gotta love Family Dynamics. What worked to fix this issue in my extended family was to change the Secret Santa with something else – we switched to a raffle-type system where whoever wants to brings a wrapped gift, and everyone buys tickets (I think a dollar each) and puts them in a box to win whichever gift looks good to them. The money from the raffle gets donated to charity. Of course, in our system, some people bring gifts and don’t win anything, but you could also do “you have to bring a gift to be in the raffle.”

          • Lisa

            We’re rarely at my husband’s for Christmas though, which makes the in-person games hard for us. The Secret Santa thing takes place by mail (or in-person if you live in the Bay Area), and his Louisianan cousin organizes/picks the names. Unfortunately she has never had this uncle or his wife as her Santa so she can’t fathom why anyone would want to leave the gift exchange. We told her last year we wanted out when she e-mailed him with his recipient, but her response was something like “Oh, well, I already picked the names so you’ll need to participate this year! We can circle back on this discussion next year some time.” I actually just texted my husband to remind him to reach out to her because we are not buying another present for this grifter again!

          • rg223

            Oh sorry, you probably explained the long-distance thing around here somewhere. Yep, that makes changing up the exchange a challenge! Ugh, so frustrating for you. Also, I’ve added people in and out of a gift exchange before – unless people have already bought gifts, it’s not that difficult. But glad this reminded you to reach out to her!

      • Alli

        Ugh I can’t do Secret Santa anymore. I’m always the one that ends up with no gift (or one year, a hastily bought Snapple). I suppose you could rework Favorite Things to be not in person, maybe by sending things through the mail and making everyone include a note with why the items are their Favorite Things. It could get pricey though.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      We’ve kicked around the idea of going on a trip/doing a thing as a family, rather than exchanging stuff.

      • lamarsh

        My immediate family does this every other year and it’s the best. Two years ago we went to Palm Springs from the 26th till the 2nd and it was pretty much my favorite Christmas ever. This year we’re skiing out west.

      • Mary Jo TC

        Ugh, my family does this and I am trying to figure out how to say I don’t want to do it this year, or ever again. Scheduling it is so stressful for me, and I don’t really find it relaxing to spend time with my siblings. I don’t have much in common with them, and they either don’t include me or awkwardly work too hard to include me, which just draws attention to the fact that we don’t fit together. I floated the idea of not doing it, though, and they all pounced on me, so it’s likely I’ll have to suffer through it again.

        • Not Sarah

          We put our feet down and bowed out when my parents tried to do it last year. It resulted in my parents and sibling+SO going and my husband and I having a really quiet Christmas with my extended family. It was perfect! (Except the part where my parent complained for months that we didn’t like them enough to spend Christmas with them…)

          • Mary Jo TC

            Ah, but the problem is I would be devastated if that were to happen. I both don’t want to hang out with them, and I also especially don’t want them to hang out without me. I feel that way because I feel left out when I’m there, and double left out if they do it without me, even if that’s because I refuse. I accept that this is my issue, but it still just sucks.

          • Not Sarah

            That’s fair. I had plenty of emotions about putting our feet down but it honestly was the best option for us. Considering that my family couldn’t even find a convenient time to FaceTime us on Christmas Day out of their busy schedule, I’m glad we made the decision we did. Our boundary is to limit time with my family to max 3 days per instance so a 1-2 week trip is definitely out of the question.

      • Mer

        We’re doing that this year. My brother will be in Lebanon for Christmas and Thanksgiving so my parents and I are heading there and Istanbul for 2 weeks over Christmas and New Years. It’s. Gonna. Be. Awesome.

    • Mary Jo TC

      We did a re-gift exchange, with swapping.

      • Alli

        Omg we did do that a couple years ago! My husband still can’t live down the fact that he put in the third season of Lost, so he refuses to bring it back.

    • My husband’s family does a trash gift exchange. You aren’t allowed to buy anything and it’s a contest to see who gets the worst gift. There is present-stealing involved. Also you can’t open it until everything is over, so most of the theft is based on the wrapping. It’s pretty fun. One year I got one of my husband’s cousin’s old sports trophies. You can’t really be disappointed because you know it’s all going to be junk, but it’s fun to open things.

      • sofar

        THAT is genius. I love this. I would have so much fun with this.

      • JC

        We did this for my boyfriend’s work party last year, except it turns out that we were mistaken and people actually put thought into their gifts and no one liked our Trader Joe’s canned vegetables.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          I would be pretty jazzed if someone gifted me vegetables.

          • JC

            Me too!

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            I saw a dish towel this weekend that was screen printed with, “When you stop believing in Santa, you get underwear!” And I thought, Yeah, but that’s also about the time when you want someone to buy you underwear.

      • AtHomeInWA

        We do a $0 limit white elephant. Everyone has something in their house they don’t use but that is too nice to get rid of. Also, you don’t feel bad throwing away someone else’s garbage.

    • Jessica

      My family has vacillated between doing a gift exchange and just getting gifts for individuals. It’s kind of boiled down to “everyone do their own thing with immediate family, but all of you HAVE to give Grandma a gift.” It works out pretty well.

      • Alli

        Haha, yeah no matter what we end up doing, Mom-mom gets a pile of gifts. And someone always shouts “She’s the reason we’re all here!”

    • Mer

      For extended family we’ve stopped doing gift exchanges and instead pool the names of charities. We pick one and then everyone makes a donation.

      • Alli

        I like that! I’m wondering if there’s some kind of service project we could all do as a family, as another way to give back.

      • My boyfriend’s family did that two Christmases ago. Everyone gave an amount they could afford (unmentioned) to a charity of their choice. And then each person wrote a note explaining what charity and why. The notes were placed on the tree, and people took turns picking one and reading it to the group. It was really neat.

      • ssha

        We did this last year, it was really cool.

    • JC

      We’re doing a wine exchange for all non-immediate family members over 21. My cousins didn’t want to be given anything (and they’re kinda terrible gift-givers too), but I felt weird not giving/getting anything at all from the extended family. Wine was the great compromise. Everyone who wants to participate is bringing a bottle of their favorite. (We have a nominal $35 limit, but honestly no one likes expensive wine so we’re not concerned about overspending.)

  • Kaitlyn

    AH we have been having the holiday season discussion since July. Last year was the first time that we had to make sacrifices for the holidays. I spent Thanksgiving with J’s family in Boston and he spent Christmas Day with my family in CT (with Christmas Eve and Dec 26 being at his parents’ north of Boston, I was so exhausted we are never doing that again).

    Christmas Day is the most important time for me. My brother and sister-in-law host it and it’s basically just my immediate family, significant others, and nieces. I thought I’d be able to easily give up Thanksgiving (it ranks low on the totem pole for holidays for me haha) but found myself crying at least 3 different times from homesickness (I’d lived in MA for years at this point, too).

    J’s family has this insane rotation. They celebrate with all his aunts and uncles and cousins and it rotates every year between his family in MA and his family in CT. But occasionally, it gets thrown off the mark. Last Thanksgiving was supposed to be a CT family one (making it very easy for us to hop on the parkway to my mom’s for second dinner and dessert) but his grandparents decided they were going to go to Florida. This year, we’re lucking out. J already decided he’s okay coming to CT for Thanksgiving and his family is always going to be in CT for Christmas so we’re going to split our time normally (well as normally as possible).

    Frankly, it’s exhausting, emotionally and physically. Idk what we’re gonna do when we have kids cuz I feel like that adds another level of emotion (plus on my side, our kids will already have a bunch of cousins, they’d be the first on his side, etc etc).

    I’m on board for teleportation haha

  • rqued

    First married holiday season here too. For the past 3 years living together, we haven’t developed a solid schedule and I don’t anticipate that happening any time soon. We just kind of figure out how we can see the most people with an affordable amount of travel. Luckily much of our family is within a 1-6 hour drive of us, but there is still so much to balance with siblings all over the place and divorced parents. Plus I’m still pretty close with my extended family and have 3 living grandparents so I try to figure out a way to see them too. Having a job that basically gives me the week of Christmas-New Years off definitely makes things easier but my husband’s job isn’t so flexible. Sometime we have to resign ourselves to attending some holiday events alone.

    One of my favorite things that we’ve been able to finagle for the last couple years though is hosting various members of both our families at our house for Christmas Eve dinner. That’s been lovely.

  • AtHomeInWA

    Last year we decided to try something to make holidays more chill. We decided to make the Feast of Saint Nicholas (Dec 6) our Christmas day for just us.

    It’ll be the day we put up / first plug in the lights and we decorate the house and it’ll be ours. He and I have exchanged romantic or meaningful presents privately in the past then exchanged public utilitarian presents at Christmas with our families, so in future years we may make Dec 6 our special present day too. This will only be the second year of this tradition we are trying to create, but I think it’ll work nicely. I recommend it.

    • Lexipedia

      I love this idea!

    • Kaitlyn

      I love this idea! We’ve been saving Christmas Eve morning for us to just sleep in and exchange gifts and eat breakfast prior to the crazy. This year though, we’re supposed to already be in CT so I’m not sure what we’re going to do for “us” time.

    • Cellistec

      Love this!

    • AmandaBee

      This is a great idea. We also have our own private gift exchange, though previously it was on Christmas Day and we need to switch that up this year because of logistics. I like the idea of doing it beforehand.

    • Rose

      Oooh, I like that. Because I do like celebrating just the two of us, but if I wait until too close to when we’re travelling for Christmas, it never seems worth the effort.

    • sofar

      Oooh a special secret holiday. I looooove this.

    • Abs

      We do something similar–not on a specific day, but ever since we started dating we have an evening where we watch Muppet Christmas Carol, drink eggnog and exchange our presents. Two years ago we also had a tree and it was awesome. Last year we didn’t have a tree because we were traveling so much in December and I missed it so much I was unhappy the whole month. This year the tree will be happening.

    • We’ve always had “mini Christmas” around the 21st (a couple of days before we start travelling to see everyone, and the solstice if that’s convenient) where we do stockings and big dinner and presents and a christmas movie. This year we’re staying home, and it’s going to be weird having mini-Christmas o actual-Christma.

  • savannnah

    Last year and this year we’ve managed to side step the holiday season by tagging along in Japan for my then-fiance’s work and this year we will be on our three week honeymoon in Morocco. My side of the family is Jewish and my mother has waged a pretty relentless war on having all the kids home for Thanksgiving. All of her kids have married non-jews so she feels like Thanksgiving is hers and we can do whatever we want on Christmas. This will work out well until we have kids and I grow hesitant to bring our Jewish kids to celebrate Christmas with their grandparents- which makes me all kinds of twitchy. So we’ll see what happens in the next few years. My strategy is to visit immediate family more frequently in general (everyone is going to be a plane ride away come Jan when we move from NYC to Portland) because its less emotional and less expectational at non-holiday times. That way if we miss one here or there its not a huge deal. Probably wishful thinking but that where we are at.

  • Jessica

    I hadn’t really thought about holidays post-divorce, but not having to negotiate and fight and worry about if he has purchased gifts for his family is making me do a happy dance.

    • Lexipedia

      Best thing about my last breakup was not having to emotionally manage ex’s relationship with his family (gifts, calls, etc). High five!

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Fortunately PADude’s people were already accustomed to not exchanging with him, because I refused to take on that chore. My family does a gift exchange with us, his does not.

        • Jessica

          Ex’s mom’s love language is gifts. One year all her kids went in on a really nice knife duo (like, REALLY FUCKING NICE KNIVES) and she was upset there were only two gifts, when she gives everyone several (crappy) gifts. She cried.

          I don’t have to deal with that anymore!

    • emilyg25

      Best. I don’t manage my husband’s gift giving, except when it comes to the little nieces if we visit them on a holiday. His parents get us a gift, but we don’t get anything for them. I’m not totally comfortable with it, but I prefer that to becoming the Social Engineer.

      • Jessica

        Since there is a lot of divorce in my grandparent’s generation, I went into marriage with the mindset of “we have to manage our own family relationships,” because my grandfather lost a lot of contact with his siblings when he divorced my grandma, and didn’t get back to them until they all started dying and they felt like they had to get together again.

        So, my fam got presents, his got nothing, and if I *dared* to ask what he was planning on doing for his family, I got an icy “I’m an adult and can take care of things!” response.

    • Amy March

      Didn’t your soon to be exMIL buy you cleaning supplies one year? Silver lining for sure.

      • Jessica

        Several years. There’s a sack full of presents from the missed Christmas last year, some of which is cleaning stuff.

  • CW

    Our first season together, I spent Thanksgiving with my family because FH had to work, and then we went to his for Christmas. My family flew to see us for New Year’s, which was nice. This year, we were going to reverse- Thanksgiving with his, Christmas with mine, New Year’s just for us. That is, until we became engaged and wedding planning and realized that we wanted to hoard vacation days for our NYE wedding and honeymoon. So we aren’t travelling and families are coming to us for the wedding! Plan is slightly more complicated now that some of my family is concerned about snow, and are thinking about coming early… like for Christmas and then to spend the whole week kind of early. I’m crossing my fingers that this won’t be too stressful. I’ve already made FH promise that next Christmas will be with my family and we can plan on always having NYE for us and our anniversary.

  • Lexipedia

    Our parents live in two different countries (Canada and the U.S) and on opposite coasts. This is our last holiday season unmarried and for the past two we’ve gone splitsies for actual Christmas and then one of us met the other either before or after for some family time. This means that one of us is traveling cross-continental smack in the middle of the holiday with at least one connecting flight. Not cool. We are trying to figure out a long-term strategy, but a wrench in the works is that his family will always get Thanksgiving because the Canadian holiday isn’t celebrated at the same time and isn’t nearly as big a deal. If we were both American we would trade back and forth, but this means that his family would always get one or both.

    We were just with my parents last week and I had to break it to them that I won’t be home for Christmas 2018 (!!!) which was a big deal. I figure that his family is coming to my hometown for a wedding that is convenient for my extended family, plus they are getting me for a shower, so we will have given them enough of our time that year. The plan is to invite both sets of parents, plus his brother, to our house for American Thanksgiving that year which means everyone gets a bit of time and we don’t need to travel.

    It’s crazy that we have to think about this a year+ in advance, but it will definitely cause an uproar so we thought we’d get a head start. Though this doesn’t create a long-term precedent…

    • Not Sarah

      Both of our families are Canadian. We are closer to my parents though and the timing of my parent’s birthday has resulted in us always spending American thanksgiving with my family even when we spend Christmas with them, which I find a bit awkward since we have been in the US long enough now that we either do nothing for Canadian thanksgiving or see my parents…

  • Amy Elizabeth

    Came to apw looking for community solace – I’m so upset, dissacoiated about the Vegas shootings. Was hoping there would be space here… I’m just 😭 What is there to say? What can we do? The guns he used are already illegal – laws can’t keep us safe ITS JUST GETTING WORSE – seems like it’s more about cultural change – but how ?? And how do I find my way out of this grief & trauma (I really need to do some actual work today)…

    • Alli

      Are the guns he had illegal? I read they were bought legally and he altered one to be fully automatic.

      Anyway, I don’t know how to keep your mind on work, maybe just try to keep the news sites away, listen to some music, and wait for clearer information and how people can help.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    It will forever annoy me that Christmas practically sits on Thanksgiving’s lap. We do it once, and then we have to do it all over again!My parents have become super flexible in the last few years, because PADude comes from a divorced family, and so does my brother’s ladyfriend. We celebrate whenever everyone can be home together, which takes some of the pressure off.Two years ago we hosted Thanksgiving twice, first for his family and then for his, as a sort of family housewarming for the house we had just purchased and moved into. We hosted for just his family last year. The only other person who was willing and able to host that whole side of the family was my SIL, so we were falling into a pattern where we did Thanksgiving and she did Christmas Day, but she passed away pretty suddenly a few months ago. It’s gonna be weird and sad to celebrate without her this year, and we’ll have to talk about whether we want to host both holidays. It seems like a lot to take on, but is that worse than one of the holiday dinners not happening at all?

    • Katharine Parker

      Canadian Thanksgiving is at a much better time–early October gives some cushion before Christmas. Thanksgiving, then Christmas is too much!

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Agreed!

  • volley10

    Even as a child, we always did two Thanksgivings or two Easters in one day. For Christmas, we do Christmas Eve with my dad’s family, Christmas morning as an immediate family, and Christmas night with my mom’s family. It’s all exhausting and leads to overeating. My fiance and I have been together for two years, and, as his family is local, it is only more complicated. His mom expects everyone to hang out for the whole day, which is just not feasible. My immediate family has never been warm or welcoming to my partner, so he’s not exactly thrilled at the prospect of having to spend his holiday in awkward or tense situations. Everyone gets very demanding about our time and is incredibly inflexible. One holiday, I would like to just not go anywhere or be at anyone’s beck and call. Maybe when we have little ones, we can call the shots more as to when and where we will be going.

    • CW

      You can do it now! There were many years when I was single where I told my family that I would only be visiting for one holiday and which would they prefer? Just because people are local doesn’t mean they get a monopoly. I think I’ve seen previous posters suggest things like “I’m afraid xyz just doesn’t work for our family this year.”

    • emilyg25

      Do it! Do ittt! This year.

      • penguin

        Definitely do it! Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean that you don’t get to decide where you go or when. You’re adults!

  • Lisa

    The past two years have been all about visiting family for us, and this year we decided to spend some time focusing on just the two of us. We have done Thanksgiving with my family for the past seven years and are changing it up this year by going on a Caribbean vacation to get scuba certified. Additionally, we think we’re going to make a three year loop on Christmas for now between celebrating alone, with my husband’s family, and with my family. It’s important to me that we include ourselves in the rotation and remain flexible with our plans. I don’t get much vacation time, and prioritizing reconnecting with one another over the holidays is something we had to take into consideration.

    Additionally, we’re looking to have kids in the near future, and flexibility is something I want to pass on to them. My family (mainly my father) pushed holiday traditions to the exclusion of all other possibilities up through my teens and then was frustrated when we didn’t want to entertain any other plans. Traditions are important to me but so is the willingness to consider other options. I hope we can strike a balance with our little family. It feels like we’re going to be constantly shifting and reprioritizing, and we need to learn to be OK with that.

    • Katharine Parker

      A three year rotation is smart. Someone advised me once to think about spending time with your families in decades, as opposed to years–some years favor one side, some years favor the other, you have to think long game in balancing it. Including time for yourself and your husband in that balance is key.

      • Lexipedia

        I love this idea – now I just need to get our families to think of it the same way!

      • Lisa

        This is how I’m trying to think of this right now. My family lives pretty closely to us, and my parents are a decade younger than my ILs. I foresee that we’ll probably want to devote more holiday time to the ILs in the next few years just because they’re going to age first, and we see my family on a more consistent basis. My mother was particularly understanding when I discussed this with her. The ILs get bigger quantities of time with us more infrequently, but my parents get a lot more face time overall.

      • rg223

        My mom is trying to get us to rotate because she doesn’t want to travel all the time (she and my dad moved to a semi-remote island, my sister is in our hometown, and I live near my in-laws). But my grandparents are still alive and LOVE seeing my son, so for now my husband and I have been doing Christmas in my hometown. Also, I never want to go to remote island for Christmas because it’s kiiiiinda hard to get to (being a remote island). But I’d be up for rotation somewhere down the line!

        • Eenie

          I think when you move to a semi remote island, you need to be up for traveling if you want to see people!

      • Not Sarah

        I like the decades idea except that both sets of parents are the same age and convinced they only have one more good decade left. So the next decade seems stressful…

    • Jess

      I like the idea of the added “us alone” year. We don’t do that now, but maybe we should start!

    • Not Sarah

      Instead of the three year rotation, what we do is a long weekend by ourselves at Christmas, usually near where we live. You can often get hotel deals in December on not holiday days and that works out to a really lovely contrast! I can understand that not working if you are low on vacation days though.

      • Lisa

        Yeah, lots of mitigating factors, including my piddly 10 days/year (not including federal holidays) and that my husband misses out on any income if he takes non-holiday days off from teaching his private studio. Currently holidays are the best time for us to travel like most of the US unfortunately.

  • Angela’s Back

    It’s our second married holiday season and we got to avoid this question last year because we got married in November, thus neatly side-stepping the “but when will we see you?” problem. Only then we made this cross country move to the east coast, thereby necessitating flying to all family units, and just because it’s fun, my parents are possibly moving to Belgium but have yet to make a decision so who even knows what we’re doing this year… but you know who would love a year end trip to Belgium? This lady right here. Fingers crossed!

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      It’s weird and kind of an adventure to celebrate American Thanksgiving in a country that isn’t America. Highly recommended.

      • Angela’s Back

        Definitely possible as husband and I staked a claim to Thanksgiving as the Holiday On Which We Do Not Travel To Family back when we started dating, so technically, we could go anywhere and do anything! Only technically though, I think ultimately our laziness and desire to eat turkey in sweatpants will always win out.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Understandably.

      • Mary Jo TC

        My brother lives in Germany, so my mom had to coach him on how to cook a turkey and make gravy over Skype so he could host his friends from work and from his German classes. He had a great time with it!

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Ahhh, I love it!

        • Lexipedia

          My mom did this for me and my friends the first Thanksgiving I was away at college. I made the mistake of pouring a glass of wine at the beginning of cooking, not thinking that I’d be drinking for the next four hours… I needed some help carving.

          • Lisa

            I remember calling my mother in a panic when my friend decided that she would only need four hours to defrost a 30+ pound turkey. And then again three and a half hours later when I couldn’t get the gravy to thicken.

            Clearly my friend needs better planning/time management skills since I ended up fielding all of the crises at her grad school Friendsgiving!

          • Lexipedia

            I got The Joy of Cooking for that Christmas, and it became my bible for all of the “how do you thicken sauce”-type questions,

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Related to gravy: Last year I pulled out the neck and organs and made gravy the night before the official dinner. It was great because we used up the random organs, we had plenty of extra gravy, and it took off the stress of trying to make gravy from the drippings while everyone was circling the resting bird and praying that it will thicken properly.

          • Lexipedia

            MOAR GRAVY IS THE BEST! Did you mix in the drippings later or did you just do without?

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            I just made a whole second batch of gravy with the drippings, which fortunately turned out great. (We’ve had a couple dud gravy years, for various reasons.) We had two boats in rotation, and they tasted a little different, but nobody cared.

          • Angela’s Back

            Cooking drinking is the best drinking though… :D

      • aldeka

        One of my most drunk times was at a Thanksgiving hosted by my friend’s host family in Copenhagen. Think several-course meal with charming uncle refilling my wine glass forever. Then cognac after dinner. Then running through the dark for the last train home.

        • Jessica

          my favorite Thanksgiving was in Copenhagen! It was about 30 students in the international dorms from 12 different countries, and it was so much fun!

  • Jan

    We have to alternate for Thanksgiving by default, because my in-laws always go out of town for my FIL’s extended family’s celebration. We went with them last year, so this year we will likely spend it with my mom. Weirdly enough, Thanksgiving schedule drama usually happens not around my own in-laws, but my sister’s, as they have suuuuper rigid celebrations and we always end up having to find a good workaround for our side to get together.

    Christmas is always frustrating, because we end up having three different celebrations JUST ON MY IN-LAWS’ SIDE. One nuclear family event at his parents’ cabin, one meal together either on Christmas Eve, and another extended family event out of town the weekend after Christmas. It’s exhausting. We end up just celebrating with my side whenever we can all manage to get together since things are less, uh, intense on that side.

    • GotMarried!

      I feel you – every holiday we celebrate with my husbands family includes three events – due to death/remarriage. We visit two of his grandmothers, and all the aunts/uncles on the third side host an even that rotates among their 6 homes ever since grandma/grandpa passed away.

  • Travelling for Thanksgiving sucks so we never do it to visit family (but it’s a good time to do an international trip, which we have done before and might do again next year). I haven’t really gone home for Thanksgiving since I was a freshman in college because of flying. We do all of our smaller holidays (which includes Thanksgiving) with my husband’s family since they are local. But I do wish they would let me bring food to Thanksgiving, because I am not the biggest fan of the food my husband’s grandmother cooks and I miss some of our Thanksgiving sides. Although since my extended family in general stopped travelling home for Thanksgiving when they reached college, we do have all the good Thanksgiving sides at Christmas, also.
    Growing up, my family did both my mom’s side and dad’s side of the family for every holiday–they both live in the same city about 2 hours away from us. It helped that my mom’s side tends to eat very late while my dad’s side eats early. It also helped us leave my dad’s family things before the fistfights broke out (although now my dad’s brothers are old now and don’t really physically fight much). We also do a Christmas eve dinner with just our family and my dad’s dad and the one uncle who lives in our city. Last year, my dad’s family cancelled Christmas though because of some Thanksgiving drama, so we just did the Christmas Eve dinner and then did all day at my mom’s family, which was nice because there was less driving, although it also meant that I haven’t seen some family members in over a year (I come home 2x a year, but don’t always see uncles/cousins–especially on my dad’s side–when i come home for summer).
    Since getting married, we tend to fly home for my family for a week around Christmas (I’m theoretically fine with either Christmas or New Years at home, since my cousins do big gatherings for both, but in practice we have only done Christmas so far). His family does their extended family things usually not-on-Christmas anyway, so it works out. (His mom’s family has been doing things on New Years for a couple years, his dad’s family is less consistent). We do have trouble getting them to commit to their plans, since everyone else is driving distance (even out-of-town relatives) so they aren’t used to picking the day far in advance. I’m also not quite sure what we are going to do this Christmas, since a cousin died recently on my husband’s side, so we haven’t quite sorted out Christmas.

    • theteenygirl

      You should just bring a dish anyway (if you can)! They may say, “oh no don’t bring anything” but they’re not going to make you leave it on the doorstep if you just show up with it. Also no one can compete with, “Holidays make me feel a little homesick so I wanted to share some of my home with all of you!” with a great big smile :D

      • Well, I bring desserts, but I probably can’t just bring a large dish of mashed potatoes or stuffing made the way I like it because I don’t like the ones that grandma makes, which is the real problem. If it was sides that weren’t already included, I would already be all for making them (if I knew how to). I’m also a little concerned about being seen as a snobby/stuck-up person because they have definitely made comments about people like that not-directed-at-me, but I’m still a little cautious figuring out these family dynamics.

        • Not Sarah

          My mom used to do our own Christmas dinner when we had it with my dad’s family. So she would make a turkey with her sides on either Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Maybe that would help though then you would end up with a lot of turkey leftovers for just you and your husband?

        • Maybe you could make the dishes you like before or after holidays just for you and your husband? Or invite some friends too?

          • Yeah, that is what I have been doing. We eat a lot of stuffing the week after Thanksgiving (and it is wonderful).

  • emmers

    We’ve mostly pared down on driving, and we’re planning to do a Thanksgiving celebration for my husband’s dad’s side of the family on Thanksgiving at our house, or possibly a couple of days after. My husband and brother in law may try to roast a whole pig (!). I traditionally do Black Friday shenanigans with my side of the family while my husband works.

    For Christmas, we’ve been doing Christmas breakfast at home, just us, for the past few years, and then we’ll drive for a joint celebration with his mom’s side of the family and my parents, probably with a Yankee Christmas Swap (bringing a cheap gift, and then a game that involves trading and stealing). We end Christmas night with some cookies at my husband’s mentor’s house, who are pretty much like family.

    It obvi doesn’t work for most people due to relationships and distance, but it’s helped us so much to be able to combine family events. It’s not perfect- it means that we don’t get the special one-on-one time with everyone that they crave, but it does mean we get to see lots of people with less driving than we used to have to do.

  • Emily

    Aw. My poor mom is struggling with the realization that our immediate family of four is changing. I’m pre-engaged as we say here at APW and already alternate for Thanksgiving. She said, “I will try my best to handle whatever changes come around the Christmas holiday traditions but you have to accept that I’m going to be a little bit weird.” That seems okay to me- I think I’m going to be a little bit weird too.

    • Lisa

      It’s a rough transition when you’ve been devoted to a tradition for decades! That’s why you would have found me about sobbing behind the IL’s church’s dumpsters, trying frantically to get hold of my mother, the first year I spent Christmas away from my family.

    • emilyg25

      I cried the first Christmas morning that we did stuff with my fiance-to-be’s family instead of mine. It was really tough! But you’ll all figure it out.

    • Jenny

      Firsts away from our families of origin can be hard and weird, and I think it’s good to acknowledge that up front. If possible, you might brainstorm ways to either incorporate important traditions or think about things that “make it feel like Christmas/Thanksgiving” (for example, I make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning to open presents because it makes it feel like Christmas morning). We go to Christmas eve service no matter where we are, my husband plays Alice’s restaurant on Thanksgiving. It took a few tries for me to figure out how to make things feel like a holiday even if they weren’t with the same people, in the same place, doing the same thing.

    • Not Sarah

      I’m glad your mom recognizes it! Mine doesn’t but still gets sad and it makes it harder to work with!

    • Angela Howard

      The first Thanksgiving I spent with my husband’s family, I called my family surreptitiously from my MIL’s kitchen and told them to save stuffing for me because my MIL’s was ALL WRONG. :)

  • S

    This year is the first year we’re traveling together – we’re spending Christmas with my family. I feel so much responsibility to make sure my partner has a good time or at least not an awful time! Any tips RE: being that half of the couple? I plan to check in with him regularly about how he’s feeling and set aside time for us to unwind. It’s not his first Christmas not spent with his family, so at least on that front it’s chartered territory.

    • NolaJael

      I get that feeling but remembering that you can’t micromanage your partner’s feelings is important too. In our experience having permission to skip smaller things is key. Family visits tend to be over-scheduled with a feeling of forced togetherness, and allowing the non-family of origin partner to stay in and read or veg in front of the TV for one or more of the lesser events (like breakfast / shopping / wrapping party / church / visit to Aunt Mildred’s nursing home) gives them more emotional energy available for the actual big stuff (dinner, presents exchanges).

      • Jess

        Yes to having permission to skip things. Or just a code word for “I need time right now, let’s go for a walk” or something.

    • Rose

      Having been that partner, I tend to feel like we can lose touch a bit when around a larger group of family, especially when we’re staying with them. And I don’t see my family much and we’re close, so when we’re there I do kind of want to focus on them. But I think it’s still really valuable to set aside a bit of time for just the two of us.

    • emilyg25

      I think it really depends on your partner. I’m not totally comfortable with my husband’s family, so we talk together before we go to decide on limits (we’re going to arrive after presents and leave at 3 pm, for example) and he’s had to learn how to read my looks better. But my husband is super easy going and likes my family and is happy as a clam with them. So talk about it up front, and check in a bit, but don’t sweat it too much.

    • Not Sarah

      We always try to make sure we go for walks to get out of the chaos and find some alone time! It can help a lot. Plus, it gets you out of the house. One year when we did that, we missed everyone showing up oops.

  • theteenygirl

    We’re going into our first holiday season as a married couple (!!) but it’s our second season as a Serious Relationship and I gotta say, we are pretty lucky. In my family the tradition the last 7 or so years has been to go camping on Thanksgiving (Canadian) so he tagged along with my mum and sister last year for his first Canadian Thanksgiving in October. Then in November I flew to San Francisco to celebrate American Thanksgiving with his family. So Thanksgiving isn’t an issue for either family, which is great, as they’re important holidays to both families!

    Christmas though.. that’s another story. We’re still not sure how we’re going to split our Christmases going forward, and since children aren’t in the picture of us that at least makes it easier again. Last year he spent it with my family, this year we’re not sure. He’ll probably spend it with my family again just because of the proximity, but he may also fly back to Montana. I’m fine not seeing each other for Christmas, since to each of us it’s more important for our families than it is to us.

    Our big day is New Years Eve. We have started a tradition of celebrating it together and I can definitely say it’s more important to us than Christmas!

    Sidenote: I’m loving reading these comments. Holidays were a non-issue in my family growing up because we essentially didn’t speak to my dad’s side of the family. I remember in my senior year of high school talking in sociology class “The Family Unit” about how to split holidays and manage family expectations and it totally flabbergasted me that that was something I would probably have to think about one day. On the bright side… yay to everyone creating new family traditions that makes me so happy!

    • Lexipedia

      I’m jealous that your family does a Canadian Thanksgiving thing. Mine doesn’t really care, otherwise it would be the perfect solution for an international couple. Americans seem to see it as equal in importance to Christmas, which I just don’t get.

      • theteenygirl

        It wasn’t usually that big of a deal before we started the camping tradition. My mum’s parents are divorced so typically we would do Thanksgiving with her dad and his partner, and then we’d do Christmas with her mum and her husband.

        I wish my dad would join us on our camping trips, but he just isn’t into it. And my one sister usually spends it with her partner’s family. So really it’s my mum, other sister, me, and now my husband. Although this year we have to skip womp womp.

  • Mary Jo TC

    Can we have another open thread sometime in the next couple of months about how to talk about politics with family members–or, more likely, how to avoid talking politics with family members?

    • Lisa

      I like this idea. My dad felt the need to comment on whether our southern town should remove the confederate statues that are near where the old slave auction site used to be over my birthday weekend (spoiler: the words “white-washing American history” were used by him), and I can feel my heart beating faster with just the memory of that conversation.

      • Katharine Parker

        My heart is beating faster reading this.

        Also, at your birthday dinner? COME ON, DAD.

        • Lisa

          Not the birthday dinner, thankfully, but on the way to Sunday brunch where we were going to celebrate my youngest sister’s birthday. The restaurant was downtown, and he saw the statues, which roused in him the need to comment on the situation.

          • Katharine Parker

            White men need to take a step back from those needs to comment on the situation.

          • Lisa

            Yep. He said, “Well, do you just want to whitewash history? Those statues have been just fine there for decades, and there haven’t been any problems until people started making trouble.”

            “Just because something has been somewhere for decades doesn’t mean that there was never a problem,” I responded.

            “WELL I DON’T SEE ANY PARKING SPACES ON THIS STREET. YOU’LL WANT TO TURN HERE, FIL, AND CHECK THIS WAY…” said husband. Husband managed to go on for a while with parking instructions until the subject was dropped, but he told me that he was ready to come to my defense if my dad didn’t drop it.

            Since husband is a white man, you see, his opinions are to be respected.

          • Katharine Parker

            Am I laughing or crying about your final line? I can’t tell. (You know it’s the same releeeeeease–me and joni mitchell)

      • Lisa

        Ugghhhhh. I hope the rest of your birthday turned out nicely though; after following in Happy Hours, I really don’t want this to be the outcome. So sorry this happened.

    • Katharine Parker

      My in-laws are Republicans and I do not want to deal. In a less politically fraught time, I’d be willing to accept calmly that my husband and I have different philosophies on the relationship of the state to its citizens than my in-laws do, but right now I just can’t. (They were Jeb Bush supporters and I don’t think my mother-in-law voted for Trump, but I also don’t want to know if she did.) Thankfully my mother-in-law also does not want to go there, so we just don’t talk about anything political.

      So my advice is have a conflict avoidant WASPy mother-in-law, I guess.

      • Lisa

        I wish that were the case in my family. Last Christmas my father’s wife basically forced us to stay at a restaurant for over THREE hours arguing politics. And while I feel like it is important to discuss race, politics, and other social issues, it was about two hours too much, especially given that she wasn’t interested in actually listening. Everyone wanted to leave and we tried to shut the conversation down multiple times to no avail. My father actually paid the bill and his wife then ordered another glass of wine in order to keep going. From now on, I’m making plans for a nightcap with a friend after meals with them so that I can say I have somewhere to be. Or making lunch plans alone with my father. It’s been 9 months and I still haven’t totally let it go.

        • emmers

          Gross. I think you should totally do the nightcap thing. Or even, “well, we’re tired, so we’re heading home. Thanks for dinner! See you soon!.” Because that is super gross.

        • I had to take a break in a bathroom for like half an hour in a restaurant in Ireland last year because my husband’s family would NOT stop talking about very specific politics. Also they wouldn’t let me join the conversation? Just did not notice (this could have been the case, his grandfather is pretty old so I suppose he legitimately could have not heard me) or didn’t care to let me talk. I’m still mad.
          Edit: also I couldn’t actually leave the restaurant since I would have had no way to get back to our B&B and if I had gone wandering the streets (which were very lovely and wouldn’t have been odd) I also would not have necessarily known when to come back to get the ride home.

          • Lisa

            Solidarity.

        • Katharine Parker

          Oh god, that sounds nightmarish. I enjoy debating about politics, but I don’t want to engage with someone who won’t listen to any points I make or who always needs to have the last word.

          I hear you on the value of discussing race, politics, and social issues, but there’s discussing and there’s yelling at a brick wall. Your father’s wife sounds like a brick wall.

          • Lisa

            Nailed it.

        • Lisa

          Oh, I feel you. People need to be able to walk away when the conversation is no longer productive. In the future, maybe take two cars to the restaurant or order an Uber from the bathroom?

          “Oh, sorry, Awful Politics Person, but I’m rather tired, and I’ve got a car waiting for me outside. If I don’t go now, I’ll have to pay a fee. Ok, thanks, byeeeeee.”

    • Cellistec

      Yes please. I have a graduate degree in conflict resolution and I STILL get a fight-flight-flee response when someone starts throwing political barbs around.

    • Yes, I had some struggles at a funeral (a funeral!) last week. Luckily, just pretending not to hear it successfully changed the subject, because no one wanted to make a fuss at a funeral. But I would like ideas on how to talk politics with in-laws. I can handle my family–I know which arguments to use and when I can tell them to stop and when I should just physically walk away and what arguments are crossing a line. Also my family has a pretty fully formed opinion of me already, so even if they disagree with me, I think it would be hard to say something to make them hate me, but some of my husband’s family doesn’t know me all that well yet and so I am Very Concerned but also definitely do not want to let some of the things they say just slide.

    • Eh

      Two years ago at Thanksgiving my FIL made a comment that a specific group was going to blow us all up (said very nonchalantly), and last year at Christmas there was a conversation (started by my husband’s grandfather, and egged on by my FIL) on Christmas about how aboriginal people (not the words that were used) should get jobs and be kicked off the reserves. I cringe at the thought of what might be discussed this year.

      • Lisa

        I can’t even. Holy sh*t. How do you even deal and continue to go there? That is insane.

        • Eh

          We go because my husband loves his family (even though they treat him like dirt). My line is our daughter. My husband and I are adults and understand what they say is wrong. My daughter is two now and starting to repeat everything we say. Two years ago my husband’s cousin changed the topic (and I gave an FYI to my SIL since my niece was sitting next to my FIL). Last year I told them that the history behind the reserve system and how aboriginals are treated is complicated, and gave some background about a project we have at my work that is bridging the healthcare gap. I remember my grandfathers saying racist things when I was growing up and my parents would debrief us afterwards. With everything going on in the world and my daughter growing up in a multicultural neighbourhood (instead of a very white, Christian small town) I can’t be passive about it.

    • sofar

      My SIL married into a completely nuts family, so my husband and I have agreed on the following statement for future encounters. My husband had dinner with them recently, and the father was using the N-word and my husband (who is a person of color ) was just completely frozen and dumbfounded. So we sat down the other night to figure out how we want to proceed when it happens again.

      Family member: Says something racist or uses a slur.

      Me/him: Well, this foul language is getting a BIT much for us! We’re going to step out for a moment. You just get all your wiggles out out of your system, and we’ll come back in 20 minutes. We’ll be praying for you. *big smile*

      If it happens a second time/they argue with us, we have agreed to call and Uber and leave.

      • Lisa

        I love the idea of coming up with a game plan for how to deal with racist/rude family members. That way you won’t feel as panicked in the moment because you already know your escape route exists.

      • topscallop

        I would like to be brave enough to use this with my new in-laws (we’re all white) but I’m not sure I am.

      • Eh

        I have talked with my husband about leaving my inlaws if my FIL (or other family members) say racist things other inappropriate things and they refuse to stop when our daughter is around. So far the first measure of shutting down the conversion has worked so we haven’t gone that far.

        • sofar

          I can’t imagine having to navigate these situations with a kid. How awful.

          • Eh

            I didn’t realize how having a child would change how I handle these situations. Since it’s not my family, and I am an adult and I know better, so I used to let my husband handle them. It really hit home when my FIL said something that about Muslims and my daughter has a daycare teacher who is Muslim. She needs to feel safe at daycare and not think her teacher is going to hurt her.

          • sofar

            OMG … I …what? I don’t even know what I’d do.

            I know with certain members of our families, confronting them about it (even calmly) would inspire them to double down and be even more obnoxious, deliberately, in front of our (hypothetical) child.

          • Eh

            The first time he said something like that after our daughter was born I was shocked he would say such a think in front of my 14 year old neice (totally forgetting that he had been saying these things in front of her probably since my SIL started dating my BIL, when she was 6). I froze that time but someone else shut down the conversation. After that my husband and I talked about how to handle those situations.

            My FIL says things to get a rise out of people or to see how many people agree with him. I have found that he responds well to be presented with facts (eg we live on First Nation land and we kicked them off, we promised them things and haven’t lived up to it, that’s why they are upset with us). It helps calm down the conversation with him. I don’t think it changes his mind but he usually says that he learned something.

            Other times (eg the comment is just too inflammatory) and with other people (who will double down) we change the subject or remove ourself from the conversation (I avoid one of my husband’s uncles because he doesn’t have anything nice to say – he told a sexist ‘joke’ and brought up his very conservative political views at my daughter’s first birthday party, so he is never allowed in my house again). If the only way to get away is to leave we have that option too.

      • E.

        “We’ll be praying for you” – perfect. I may use that.

        My problem is that my in-laws (white, very conservative) are very willing to express their opinions but definitely will not hear ours (don’t let us talk) and then backtrack on everything.. They want to avoid conflict and I would rather be able to have a conversation. It drives me crazy.

        • sofar

          Yeah, it’s like hostage situation, isn’t it? It’s like they really just don’t have an outlet and are like, “Hey let’s mess with the ‘snowflake millennials’ on Thanksgiving.”

          With both our families, if they say something awful, and we speak up in response, WE are the bad guys for ruining the holiday dinner. Even though THEY brought it up, without caring if what they said was hurtful. If we ignore it/change the subject, they vocally gloat about “stumping” us.

          The only thing to do is get up and leave.

          • E.

            Yes, exactly!

  • Violet

    This year we get to play the “Sorry, will have a few weeks old newborn; not making any commitments” card for Thanksgiving, and it is Glorious. Then we’ll just see what we feel up to doing by the time Christmas rolls around. First grandchild on both sides, so everyone wants to be as accommodating as possible in order to get to spend time with the kid.

    • I did that last year when I was too pregnant to travel during the holidays and it was glorious!

    • Jenny

      that was me two years ago (sorry doctors orders that I can’t travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas!) It was pretty great!

    • BSM

      This is exactly what we’re doing this year, AND I LOVE IT. Being pretty pregnant during the heat wave last month has some perks.

    • MDBethann

      You can do what we do: Christmas is where the kids are. We got to have Christmas morning under our own trees as kids and want that for our kids. We told our families that they were welcome to join us for Christmas Eve and Day, but that we wouldn’t travel until at least the 26th, since Christmas is 12 days. This year, our infant son will be baptized on Dec 31, so we aren’t traveling at all this year and everyone is coming here.

      Thanksgiving is easy this year because my in-laws will have just returned from overseas and don’t want to do anything on Thurs; maybe a simple meal later that weekend, so I will be one stop at my parents’ for the weekend. We are lucky that our parents live near each other, but even so, visits to PA involve lots of running around.

      • Violet

        I can’t wait until we have a house so that this can be an option for us! Having more than five adults in our apartment for any extended period of time isn’t really comfortable at this point. But I’m really hoping that by the time kiddo is old enough to care where it opens gifts, we’ll be in a bigger place that can accommodate the family on both sides!

  • Sara Sundberg

    This is soooo difficult! My fiancé’s family is really small, he celebrates with his mum, dad and brother. My family on a two year-rotation between mum and dad’s families. Fiancé’s family lives an 9 hour drive from us. For the last five years we’ve spent Christmas with our own families but it would be nice to spend it together, although I have no idea how. Both of our families would be devastated if we didn’t come for Christmas (I live in Sweden so we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving). I don’t think it’s a good idea to ask his family to spend Christmas with us. Can somebody solve this for us, that would be great!

    • Lisa

      Do your mum & dad’s families live relatively close to each other? Because if so, you could combine those (e.g. Christmas eve with one, Christmas day with the other, or morning/evening) and then rotate between your fiance’s family & your family every other year. And if you decide to have kids, you might have to change it again to whatever works best for your new family unit.
      Families are always devastated when you can’t come home for the holidays (and let’s face it, it can be hard on us too!), but they’ll understand in the end because they had to deal with it when they married. The rotation you’re currently living with was your parents’ solution. Now it’s your turn. It doesn’t make it any easier though; it just puts it in perspective.

      • Violet

        It’s funny, Kate made this point and you’re bringing it up as well- that parents should understand because they’ve “been there,” so to speak. But my mom and dad only spent holidays with my mom’s family because my dad’s family lived far away and were generally less family-oriented. My FIL’s parents both died when he was a kid, so my MIL always had holidays with her family, even when she was married to my FIL.
        Anyway, not every parent can relate/sympathize with the plight of dividing up holidays.

    • Lexipedia

      No solution, but solidarity. FI’s family is mom, dad, and brother so he would be very much missed. Plus his birthday is Christmas Eve and they have all sorts of family traditions for that. My family is bigger and much more flexible about these things. It’s not that they wouldn’t miss me, but that the subtraction of me doesn’t dramatically impact the number of people at the table in the same way.

  • So initially (aka pre-baby) we said we wouldn’t travel once we had a kid…but we’re traveling this year. BabyPi has two cousins on my husband’s side that are within 6 mos of her age, so this Christmas everyone will bring the babies to Atlanta and it will be adorable and whatnot.

    Thanksgiving is traditionally my family’s holiday. My grandmother passed away this January and so it seems like no one on my mom’s side even wants to get together, because my grandma was definitely the glue that got everyone to come together. So I’ve invited my mom to spend Thanksgiving with us and hang out with BabyPi which will be fun.

    And then I get a year to convince my husband that we shouldn’t travel during the holidays anymore…

    • NolaJael

      Oh man, that is a trap. The cousins will ALWAYS be within six months of age. Next year will be “but they’ll enjoy opening the presents this year!” the year after “they can play their games together!” and by then it will be a tradition…best of luck to you. ;-)

      • And that right there is what I’m trying to nip in the bud right now. I want to see my child open her gifts in her own house, and at some point my husband is going to have to tell his mom that we aren’t traveling. I’m praying that this year is our last year *crosses fingers*

        • Jenny

          we are navigating this a little, so I’m curious how it will work. our plan was also not to travel after the kiddo, but last year we made a last minute decision to drive to my moms for baby’s first Christmas (and invited his parents to join since it’s sort of half way between us). This year we are moving Dec 22, so we have a pretty good reason not to go. But now I feel like we sort of owe one Christmas to husband’s side of the family… who knows how this will end.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Can we talk about how much somebody’s death totally changes everything? The tradition on my mom’s side was to do a big family party the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s, and my grandparents hosted. They got older, and an aunt would host instead. And then my grandfather died, and my grandmother was moved into a home. The next Christmas we rented out a semi-private room at her home for two hours and had some snacks and thank heavens I thought to bring a board game, and we sat around and felt awful about how the first Christmas without grandpa was. Last year we didn’t even bother. I’ve seriously considered offering to pick up hosting, but I don’t have a bathroom on the ground floor, and my grandmother can’t do that many steps, so as long as she’s kicking, I guess we’re just not having family Christmas anymore.

      • Rose

        Yeah. My grandmother passed away in April, and I don’t really know yet how that’s going to affect everything this year. We were already planning on visiting my family for Christmas, and they all live in the same area, but it’s still going to be really strange. And sad. And it varies so much from family to family–the main change in my family will be how much we all miss her and who cooks what/hosts. But a couple of years ago, my wife losing her grandmother was the impetus for her to not want to go home for Christmas anymore. It’s so weird.

      • CII

        No solutions, just solidarity…it totally can change everything. My grandmother died when I was a teenager and, truthfully, I haven’t really enjoyed a Christmas since. I don’t mean to suggest that there haven’t been moments of joy, and my husband and I enjoy a lot of our own traditions now.
        But I truly dread spending time with my family at Christmas because it’s just truly sad.

        • In the last few years of holidays (esp. Christmas for me), I have been thinking how it’s just sad as an adult because people (grandparents only now for me) are no longer alive. And I guess as we age, that magical feeling goes out or at least diminishes? And I suspect having kids helps some and that it’s fun to see the magic for the kids. And that couples shift to doing things for the kids to create that magic. But if I don’t have kids…? I mean, I try to do traditions that I enjoy, especially for Thanksgiving, but also for Christmas, but it’s not the same and it makes me sad when I think about it…
          ETA: And my boyfriend and I are both only children, so that complicates things too.

  • Margret

    We traveled for Christmas last year to see our immediate families, my grandparents who live in a different part of AK also went down to the lower 48, and we had a HUGE Christmas with both families. It was exhausting and we explained to everyone that they would be welcome to come visit our little island, but we wouldn’t be traveling for the holidays again anytime soon. Surprise! Tickets to and from AK are expensive and no one wanted to come see us this year!

    I’m very much looking forward to hosting Friendsgiving this year (our usual friend group hosts are traveling back east). Christmas Eve will probably also be with said friendgroup because none of us have local family, I assume we’ll hang around home on Christmas day, just us and our puppy and Christmas Eve leftovers–I’m excited already. We may or may not exchange gifts with each other, last year we just did stockings and that was nice. We do have a secret santa with the friends, which has been the greatest thing ever the last couple years. We might do that exchange on NYE though, depending on whether other friends are coming in for that.

    Basically, the holidays this year are delightful and stress free and I can’t wait!

  • Eh

    We live 8 hours from my family so we don’t see them for the holidays. When we were dating, I went home for holidays and my now-husband went to his family’s celebrations (depending on his work schedule). My now-MIL would make comments about how it was so sad that I couldn’t spend time with them for the holidays and how her family wasn’t complete without me there. Luckily, my dad and step-mom are understanding. They miss us but understand that we want to spend the holidays together as a family and that since my husband has to work statutory holidays (the only day they are closed is Christmas) so the only way to do that is for us to stay home.

    My husband only has one brother. He is also married and her family is local. This means my MIL has to plan around one other family. For years there wasn’t an issue because my SIL’s family had Christmas on Christmas Eve and my MIL had Christmas at supper on Christmas Day. Last year was the first time when there was a conflict and that through my MIL into a tizzy. She cried and didn’t know what to do when she was told my SIL’s parents were having supper on Christmas Day. The thought of changing her plans was too much for her. We had to suggest that she have lunch instead. She refused to make turkey because we were having lunch and not supper.

    Also, last year, we were unable to go to thanksgiving on thanksgiving weekend because my MIL did not tell my husband the plans in advance (my husband needs 2 weeks notice to book time off). The week before thanksgiving my inlaws called my husband and said “I guess you guys aren’t available next weekend because your schedule is already set.” My husband said yes, but that we could have thanksgiving with them the weekend after. So it sounded like they moved thanksgiving to the weekend after so we could go. On thanksgiving my SIL texted me about something and then said “see you at supper”. I said, “supper?” she then said that they were going to my inlaws for thanksgiving supper that day. I said that we were going the next weekend. She asked my BIL and he said that his parents were having two suppers because we couldn’t come. My FIL had told him that we couldn’t come because I was visiting my dad. Then after supper my FIL posted on FB about how wonderful of a thanksgiving they had with the family and that it was too bad that me and my husband couldn’t come. (I restrained myself and didn’t mention that we were having thanksgiving the next weekend or that they just needed to give us more notice so my husband could book off the time.)

    • Lisa

      Your ILs clearly won’t be happy with anything you guys do unless it’s exactly what they want on their timetable. Petty me wishes you could comment back on all of those passive aggressive Facebook posts or not offer compromises when they can’t have their way because they waited too long to arrange plans with you. Or you know, not see them pretty much at all and devote the holidays to your family instead.

      • Eh

        Exactly, everything has to be their way and it’s never their fault when it’s not.

        Thanksgiving is this weekend. And since my MIL gave us two weeks notice for that (after the reunion debacle), I feel that Christmas is going to be a mess again this year.

  • Meredith

    Yes. Family in one place is great because you get to do it all! But it also means you MUST. DO. IT. ALL. It’s so exhausting.

    • Violet

      Exactly. I’m so done with eating multiple Thanksgiving dinners. Sometimes basically in the same day, since one family will call it “lunch” and the other will call it “dinner” but they’re both huge meals with all the fixings and dessert.

      • Meredith

        Yep! Since getting married we have finally stopped going to our hometown for Thanksgiving. The first year it was because we were an our honeymoon, and then we realized how nice it was! Now for Christmas it’s, Christmas Eve at my parents, Christmas brunch with my husband’s parents, Lunch at my maternal grandmother’s, dinner with the extended in-laws, and sometimes second dinner or drinks with my paternal grandparents. SO MUCH EATING AND TALKING FOR 24 HOURS.

    • Fushigidane

      I always hated sitting in Thanksgiving NYC traffic every year from NJ to 2 different boroughs. And then my cousin would complain about me being tired when just getting there from the previous Thanksgiving meal took 3 hours. I’m surprised I don’t remember any of us having to do a potty break during this.

  • Kara

    My husband and I have been married 8 years (well, 8 years tomorrow) and we’ve been together for 12 years.

    His parents live 4.5 hours from us. My parents live 1.5 hours from us (as of 2015).

    The day before Thanksgiving: drive to my parents, eat burgers/non-thanksgiving food, stay the night
    T-day: drive to husband’s parents’ house, eat, sleep, football
    T-day + 1: drive 45 minutes to my aunt’s house to eat again, football again

    Before Xmas: normally the Saturday before the actual holiday, drive 30 minutes and do Xmas with my parents + my brother’s family (husband is with me)

    Xmas eve: drive to my maternal grandmother’s 4.5 hours away (which happens to be about 45 min. from husband’s parents’ house), stay the night with husband’s parents
    Xmas day: leisurely day at husband’s parents house
    Xmas day + 1: drive home
    Xmas day + 2: drive to Big Bend NP for camping for ~5 days

    For the past several years, this has been the norm. This year will be different. We’re not going camping.
    We’ll either be spending Xmas in Dallas or driving to Kansas to spend time with husband’s brother’s family (first grandbaby born on that side this year).

    So, ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  • Meigh McPants

    Yes yes, holidays are complex, but more importantly how do I apply for a family that wants to have music time?!?! I am jealous, b/c that sounds awesome.

    • Come on over! The more the merrier!

  • ruth

    I’m really dreading the holidays this year. My parents got divorced last year (they announced this a few days before Christmas.) This is the first year I’m facing the adult-child-of-divorce holiday dilemmas that I’m sure all divorced kids know so well. The plan is to spend Thanksgiving with my dad in Mississippi (really looking forward to that in the Trump era!) and my mom is going to visit us for Christmas in NY. My hubby found out that he will probably have to work on Thanksgiving, so it’s looking like I may have to face Thanksgiving alone. I’m really terrified that my father is going to use the holiday gathering to bad mouth my mom in front of the whole family (which he’s been doing) (my mom and dad grew up together in the same small town, so all his relatives know her well) I’m trying so hard to not take sides in my parents’ divorce, but I feel like I can’t sit back and listen to untrue accusations being made at my mom either. If I speak up, I know i’m only picking a fight with my dad. It all just sucks.

    • NolaJael

      This sound awful. I hope maybe there’s some middle ground between picking a fight and letting him hold court? Maybe on the first offense pull him aside and say “I’m really enjoying spending time with you but I can’t be in the room with you if you’re going to speak about my mother that way.” Then make good on it, even if you have to get up and leave the table mid-bite on the second offense.

    • emmers

      Can you do a stay-cation and have Thanksgiving on your own this year? You can bill it as “celebrating with your husband, and not leaving him alone for the holiday.”

      Or, if you have siblings, maybe pregame some strategies for subject-changing, last minute wine-run, etc, for when things get out of hand?

    • Lisa

      I wonder if you couldn’t have a brief conversation beforehand, just letting him know that this divorce has been really hard on you and as their child it’s really difficult for you to listen to horrible things being said about your mother, or details of the divorce, or whatever. Try not to use loaded terms so it doesn’t escalate. It is not a bad thing to play on his emotions and remind him of the parent/child roles here.

      If you had this conversation early, it might give him time to think about the reasons for keeping his mouth shut around you, and even if he still chooses to engage in that kind of talk, you have a reason for abruptly getting up from the table and hanging out in the bathroom or a bedroom for 15 minutes. At the very least, this relegates you from “your mother’s co-conspirator” to “a child of divorce, who is in pain/crying.”

      You might also find someone in the extended family that you can talk to about it in advance so they can watch out for you, check on you, help you to shut down the conversation or switch subjects.

  • Staria

    I honestly don’t know what to do. My parents arrange Christmas with my brother and sister in law around her family, and get excited about seeing my two young nephews. My partner’s family were good the first year, but every year since Christmas is always interstate, and now my parents in law arrange Christmas around the most difficult set of one of their two daughters’ in laws. And they get excited about my young niece and nephew. I don’t have kids, I want them, and my partner isn’t that fussed about Christmas so doesn’t make a big deal about his parents. I feel like no one cares about asking us or me what we or I would like. I don’t usually leave such negative comments here, sorry everyone. Just felt like a safe space where I could actually be honest. The sad part is I love lots of things about Christmas… the food, gifts, carols, decorating. Just wish I felt more included.

    • Jess

      *waves quietly in recognition* R’s parents are very focused on what his sister can make, which will only get worse as they are expecting a kid next spring (first grandchild). This was the first year R admitted to feeling pretty shit about our plans (for their year, we alternate families, rotating Thanksgiving/X-mas) always being around his sister.

      My family will always do whatever my mom wants, which sometimes works out great and sometimes is a big hassle, but at least it’s expected.

    • Lily

      Have you thought about coordinating with your brother? It might be easier to say “hey, want to make sure I get to see my nephews for the holidays, what are you thinking” and then go from there. It cuts out one line of communication and then you can tell them directly if something doesn’t work for you. At some point you may have your own kids and end up in this situation, which would suck. It’s better, in my opinion, to show that you want to be considered in the plans early on now.

    • CII

      Just chiming in to say I have a similar situation with my in-laws orienting holidays around my sister-in-law, and so I understand how hurtful this can be, and it’s totally reasonable to feel hurt.

  • ruth

    Kate, I’m wondering how the “three year rotation” of Thanksgiving works for you guys? Originally my hubby and I alternated years – his family / mine – but then last year my parents got divorced. We were going to try a 3 year rotation of my mom, my dad, his parents – but his parents think it’s unfair that they can only spend Thanksgiving with their son every 3 years now, just because my parents chose to get divorced – and I do see their point. I don’t know what the alternative is though. And yet another reason why being the adult child of divorce really sucks….

    • Violet

      Omg. They’re giving you grief about seeing him one less holiday every 3 years because of something totally out of your control? Wow. I think the watchword in family facetime decision-making should be “equitable,” not “equal.”

      • ruth

        I should have noted – his parents have always invited my parents to join them for Thanksgiving on their “off year” – but my parents have never extended that invitation to his parents (which has always really upset me) So I actually kind of want to throw my in-laws a bone on this one, since it’s my own folks who have been really petty

        • emmers

          Ugh, I’m sorry. That’s so complicated. Just give yourself space, and permission to feel feelings. And you also don’t have to figure this all out immediately. My husband’s parents got divorced around 4 years ago, and each year has been different. It’s a process! You’re balancing both sides (+divorce complications +divorcefeelings), and your own sanity. It’s OK to do what you can, and it’s also OK to opt out and take time for yourself too (or to spend time with your preferred family, even if that’s in-laws).

          • ruth

            Thanks for that! It’s really wonderful to see all the kindness and solidarity from the APW community!

        • Violet

          Oh man, I can see how that affects how you’re trying to accommodate your ILs. I’m sorry you have to go through this. Welcome to being the adult of divorced parents- no one wants in the club, but here we are.

        • Amy March

          Can you host yourself and invite everyone?

    • Lisa

      That seems rather petty of them to stick those feelings on you when you’re going through all of the emotional upheaval around the divorce. They don’t get to mandate your attendance at anything.

      Holidays constantly get renegotiated. There’s no guarantee that they’ll get to see their son every 2 years ad infinitum anyway so they might as well get used to the idea now.

      • emmers

        And um– the alternative is you just always stay home, and whoever comes to you who wants. They need to chill! Maybe you husband can also go to bat for you and explain that this is the plan for now, but stuff changes, and if they could just be cool since you’re going through emotional upheaval, that would be great.

      • ruth

        Thankfully my husband always handles them and goes to bat for me. He’s good like that. Also, i should have noted (as I wrote in a comment later) his parents have always invited my parents to spend thanksgiving with them on their “off year” – which I always thought was gracious and frequently my parents have taken them up on that – however my parents have NEVER extended that invitation to his parents on their year (which I think is really dickish of them) So it’s why I feel more compassionate to my inlaws right now. They’ve in many ways been more emotionally supportive during this divorce of me than my own parents have. And yes, you’re totally right – holidays are always in flux. I’m sure when we have kids it’s all going to change again

    • NolaJael

      Maybe you need to let them know the other option is a four year rotation, with one year as a break from everyone who complains about the three year rotation. ;-)

    • Lisa

      I don’t think you even need to talk about the rotation with them. I would just say whether you’ll be joining them that year or not. “Sorry, this year doesn’t work for us” is a perfectly succinct and reasonable statement. That also allows for changes. Maybe you want to host one year, or you’ve booked an amazing getaway. Maybe things change for a year or longer because of a birth, illness, death, wedding, whatever. You can keep that 3 year schedule in your head, but just tell them what they need to know for planning.

    • emilyg25

      Visit them another time and then just ignore it. They’re being rude and childish.

    • Hey Ruth! Ugh, totally feel you on this one. It’s not perfect and every year it’s like “ARE YOU SURE IT’S THEIR TURN!!???” (hi literally had this conversation with my mom over the weekend as she protested it’s her year, when it’s definitely not.) Also, totally ridic for them to be so petty, like yes of course they shouldn’t HAVE to deal with this since it’s not their divorce, but you’re also their family and not exactly being super supportive here. Being an adult child of divorce is complete crap – divorce sucks no matter what, but as an adult it’s like you automatically don’t get to have any of your own feelings about it! Are you close enough to do things like on Thursday/Friday? We’ve been able to move Thanksgiving with my dad’s family to Wednesday night most years now which has helped and for the parts of the family that don’t need to rotate, they’ve all loved actually having Thanksgiving as a day to relax and not have to do anything. Here to lend an ear any time! Sending you some good vibes – just be good to yourself as much as you can during this time!

  • JenC

    Our parents are pretty laid back about Christmas (not in US so no thanksgiving). My (divorced) parents live several hours drive away and his parents live in another country so we can really only visit location. We’ve done Christmas with my mum’s family (dad is usually Boxing Day if he’s not gone away with my brothers, step-mum and co) and Christmas with the inlaws. I much prefer Christmas with mine but it’s very overbearing for someone who is used to a quiet Christmas. We’ve also had a Christmas alone just before we got married, which wasn’t as good as we were expecting. Or should I say it didn’t quite feel like Christmas to me. My husband enjoyed it more than Christmas with my family.

    Last year was the first Christmas married and the intention was to spend Christmas alone but my aunt passed away in the summer and we ended up having a somewhat bleak and subdued Christmas with my family, partly because we felt we had to. So this year, it’s Christmas alone. We’ve moved into our own home this year and got our pup so it’ll be a year for firsts. Whether it will feel like Christmas this time with our own little family, I don’t know. I’m not sure I can create the feeling of Christmas without the chaos of my family. I also feel some guilt because my grandma is ill (mum’s mum and mother to the aunt who passed away), she has cancer and nobody is giving timelines but she’s not going to get better, so this year feels like the last Christmas to spend time with her, just in case she does pass away before next year. So there’s guilt on my side. Guilt for missing the Christmas before we got married (2015), the Christmas we got married (2016) being one family member down and this year being a potential last for another. But it’s mixed with wanting to find out what Christmas means for my relatively new family. I can imagine dealing with family expectations as well, although my father in law did the make comment that he didn’t want us to visit over Christmas. We can see them Christmas Eve and Boxing Day but on Christmas Day we need to go somewhere else – which for those remembering the beginning of my comment that they live in another country so I’m not sure where we go.

    • MDBethann

      Did they say WHY you couldn’t see them Christmas Day? Especially if you would be staying in their home? Definitely a reason not to visit your in-laws for Christmas.

      • JenC

        My father in law told us that Christmas was a special time with his wife and he wanted to spend it with just her. He’d had to share her when the kids were younger and now they’re no longer kids, he wants her to himself. Although if we had kids, they’d take the kids from us on Christmas Day and let us go off somewhere else.

        Basically my father in law is a dick and we largely ignore him.

  • Also, the best thing that happened to me with family holidays (and also other events like weddings) was when I just stopped caring and started taking breaks. I just bring my Kindle and sometimes take breaks to read upstairs for an hour or so at my husband’s family Christmas. My family is big into taking breaks during family time, so I was used to it (it is admittedly, significantly easier to take breaks at my grandparent’s house in Los Angeles, where you can just take a walk or hang out in the backyard, than it is at my grandparent-in-laws in Illinois where it is too cold to go sit in the car at Christmas and sometimes everyone is in the basement, but often they are also watching a different game in the living room upstairs and it is not my grandparent’s house where I am also fine just going and chilling in any of the bedrooms since this is not my house.

    • NolaJael

      THIS. My husband has a huge family and at one huge event (a Catholic wedding with the Catholic wedding gap) I was so exhausted I just excused myself and took a nap in the back of the car. That raised some eyebrows but felt SO GOOD.

      • AtHomeInWA

        Forget family, I’ve done this with my friends! I go downstairs, take a 45 minute nap, come back up. I feel refreshed, partner gets to keep partying, and I don’t have to be the nag who says lets go home.

    • emilyg25

      When we visit my husband’s family, we get a hotel and let them know we’ll be by for breakfast and dinner (or whatever we agree to ahead of time). It’s so worth it.

      • Yeah, luckily with my husband’s family, these are all local trips, so it’s just a day-thing. My poor husband does have to deal with staying with my family when we visit, but they are also 100% fine with breaks (although sometimes my husband refuses to take them even if he is tired) and having us go off and do things by ourself, so hopefully it balances out ok. I also personally think my family is easier to deal with, though. If we ever end up moving back to my hometown (which is the goal), I suppose we will probably stay in hotels when we come back to his family, since his parents do not let anyone who is not one of their children inside their house.

      • BSM

        YUP. Get an Airbnb, rent a car, make plans with family and plans with friends and plans for just yourselves. This is the only way to visit my family.

        Still trying to sort out what to do with my in-laws, who 20-30 min away, so it’s far enough that we end up spending allllllll day there on Christmas. Not my fave, especially when they (my SIL, really) require we get there by 7am to open presents…

        • Amy March

          20-30 mins away is not “far” by any definition of the word! Unless your SIL is legit 7 and overcome by the joy of Christmas at dawn, just don’t? If you show up at 9, will the day really not go on?

          • BSM

            Definitely not “far!” I meant (and explained terribly) that, even if we had previously put our foot down and gotten there at 9, opening presents took like 4+ hours (it is a Process…), and then extended family started showing up around 1 or 2pm for more presents and eventually dinner, so we’d end up with a bit of a wonky schedule where it didn’t really make sense to drive home and drive back, but it also wasn’t great to spend all day at their house. Last time we did Christmas with my in-laws, I insisted we go see a movie in the middle of the day to break things up, which helped a bit.

            Re: SIL, don’t get me started. She was 18 when this started, and I guess no one else seemed to care enough about doing whatever she wanted (no matter how inconvenient it was for everyone else; my husband included), and I didn’t want to be the spoiler and ruin the day for my husband’s family.

            Not this year!!!! We haven’t figured out exactly how the day will go, but we’ll have a ~6 week old and will celebrate with just the three of us at home for at least part of the morning. Can you tell I’m excited?

    • Jess

      BREAKS!!! I love being “the active one” because I can be like “going for a run. Peace out.” Then, later, “oh that run really tired me out. I’m going to nap”

      • jem

        Stealing this…

    • Anya

      YES BREAKS!!! my MIL hates them, but I need them. 100%.

    • ChristineH87

      Yes! Once I figured out how to say “I need some alone time right now” gatherings became so much better. My parents are awesome about it, my fiance’s family totally understands it – it’s just my sister and my dad’s side of the family that don’t get it and get offended. But they can deal with it because I just don’t care.

      • I think my husband’s family thinks it is a little odd, but they don’t seem to get upset and I don’t really care anyway.

  • Gertrude

    I dread this decision-making process every year. My nuclear family is only four people (wait- 5! sis got married) but my spouse’s is…12? 15? Yeah. And luckily my spouse is beyond reasonable about holidays (my parents are 10 hours away, his are 1 hour away so we see them every week), but it’s his mother. She is just. never. satisfied. And she is otherwise a lovely person, but all the manipulative-ish comes out when it comes to holidays. I’m a big believer in boundaries, but it feels trickier when she is in our home each week, helping with childcare (and making us food, and doing laundry, etc). All that to say, even though other siblings are on the yearly rotation schedule, or just can’t make it, she lays the guilt trip on THICK for us. And no, sorry, actually my parents don’t want to share holidays with you! You see your grandchild every single week – they see her once every two months, maybe? I really wish this whole “in-laws sharing holidays” thing was NOT a thing, because she brings it up every year and sounds all hurt that we never want to make it happen. [Thank you for the space to vent]

    • Emily

      I also don’t understand the “shared” holidays…maybe it’s something that would work if you had a really small family on both sides, but for my family we would have to rent like a reception hall to hold everyone. And who feeds all of those people?

      • savannnah

        Some people take it to the extreme too. My friend and her in-laws celebrated passover last year at her brothers girlfriend’s parents house. Cue lots of side eyeing on my part.

      • Amandalikeshummus

        I told my mom that my boyfriend’s mother said she wanted to go to mom’s for Thanksgiving some year, and her answer was, “Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”

      • emmers

        I think for us it’s worked because we’ve had a lot of disruption on both sides, so it made it easy to reset. We had divorce and remarriage on one side, and grandparent deaths on the other, plus us & another sibling getting married. We alternate who hosts– sometimes it’s a parent, sometimes a cousin, sometimes someone else. It ends up being around 15 people, so not huge.

        Oh– and we all bring a dish.

      • JC

        We definitely could not manage a shared Thanksgiving/Christmas because the two sides of the family are gigantic. But this year we’re doing a shared New Years with just the immediate family on both sides because my parents wanted to get out of town for the holiday. This has never happened before so it could be a huge disaster, but our parents all really like each other and no one has FEELINGS over NYE/NYD, so I’m hopeful.

        • Emily

          If you frame it as we’re just some people wearing sparkly hats and counting from 10 on a fun night, it’ll be fiiiiiiine. I think things get amped up when all of the pressure of HOLIDAY is added.

      • MDBethann

        So our parents and my husband’s sister all live within an hour of each other in PA & NJ. We live 3 hours away in MD and my sis lives in Boston. For big holidays, my sis and my family all return to PA. For the last couple of years at least, a shared Thanksgiving worked really well because my daughter’s birthday is around Thanksgiving, so for her first birthday, one set of grandparents hosted Thanksgiving and the other her first birthday party and then last year, we all just ate Thanksgiving dinner and had birthday cake at my in-laws’ house. Fortunately, everyone gets along well so it works, and there are only 12 of us (well, 13 now that we just had another baby). Some years my SIL’s family travels to spend Thanksgiving with her in-laws, but for various reasons they haven’t done so in the last several years.

        This year, my in-laws will have just returned from overseas, so we’ll probably just see them for a brief dinner at some point over Thanksgiving weekend and will spend the bulk of the weekend with my family.

        It’s all a “know your people” sort of thing though. I wouldn’t do it for every holiday or if people didn’t get along. I don’t think we’ll do it every year, but will keep it as an option for the future.

    • Knonymous

      And in my experience, there tends to be one set on in-laws who would be all over sharing – maybe they don’t have other family, or can’t give up a holiday with their kid – and one set who is like “Why on earth would I want to spend Christmas with your inlaws instead of my siblings?” or “Hell no, I’m not interrupting the family dynamic and adding stress by bringing extra people most of our relatives barely know.”

    • Marcela

      My ILs keep pushing the shared holiday thing because their daughter (my SIL) married an only child whose parents live in the same city as them. They can’t seem to understand why my folks can’t just join up in the family celebration every year. Nevermind that I have 4 siblings who are all married and have their own IL celebrations to manage in addition to trying to make it all work with work schedules and budgets. Plus I don’t really like how they celebrate…

  • Transnonymous

    We’re just not visiting anyone for the holidays this year. We live 2 hours from the nearest major airport and flights back to where our families live are 2+ hours, which is a lot for someone who a) routinely has trouble with airport security and b) gets horribly airsick. Plus, we both have limited vacation time and don’t want to expend what we have on something that causes us both a significant amount of stress.

  • rg223

    I have complicated feelings about Christmas this year. On the one hand, I want to travel to my grandparents so that they can spend time with my son. On the other hand, travel with a toddler is a challenge, and there aren’t super-great options for places for us to stay once there (aside from a hotel). I’d love to stay home and make my immediate family come to us, but I would feel bad if we didn’t see them if one or both of my grandparents pass this year (they are pretty co-dependent so I’m thinking one won’t be around too long after the first one passes).

    Luckily, Thanksgiving is easier. We can do in town at my in-laws, and I decided last year that I was going to start a tradition of Thanksgiving lunch for just husband and kid, with all the Thanksgiving foods I had growing up. So looking forward to that!

  • Amanda L.

    I feel fortunate that being in an interfaith relationship, plus having relatives in two different parts of the country, kind of takes the decision out of our hands. We live close to my family (45 minutes away), so Thanksgiving is always with them. Because I’m Jewish and my husband is not, we always go to his family for Christmas in Ohio. It’s nice to not have to fight over which holiday we spend with each family, as it’s understood that it wouldn’t make sense for us to fly out to Ohio twice so close together, plus it means a lot to spend Thanksgiving with my family and get that traditional American holiday time with them, since we don’t really do anything for Hanukkah (it’s totally not on the same level as Christmas). There have been challenges to navigating Christmas as an interfaith couple, since Christmas can be rough if you’re not used to it, feel as though your own traditions are being ignored, or are just feeling left out of it all. Through conversations and planning as a couple, it’s gotten better over the years, though.

  • toomanybooks

    Ohhh, hadn’t given much thought to this yet.

    For a myriad of reasons including thinking about time off from work the year of our wedding, etc, we spent the first couple Christmases (of being together – we haven’t had a married Christmas yet!) with my wife’s family with the plan to spend the next two with mine. So this year will be the second Christmas with my family.

    Currently our families don’t live too far away on either side but my parents are much closer (meaning we can pretty much just take the metro to them) and my wife’s are… also in a neighboring state, but further away and not in a city. So we have to factor in more time off for being with them, and renting a car, etc. They actually travel pretty far for her stepdad’s family Thanksgiving, which I’ve never yet been to because of the journey and also the fact that this particular Thanksgiving which was, of course, just after the election and a lot of trump people were up there. Noooooo thank you.

    As far as Thanksgiving is concerned, my ultimate goal is to pretend it doesn’t exist or just do Friendsgiving. I’ve never liked Thanksgiving in my life. I’d looooooove if this is how Thanksgivings can play out in my marriage.

  • lily

    Full Jew engaged to former half Jew part Protestant (he converted to Judaism last year- so now full Jew!) Fiance’s dad is Jewish, mom is Christian. Christmas is never the issue obviously, to grandmother’s house we go.

    For Jewish holidays (including the ones that just passed), we end up with his dad insisting that we split between him and my family. However, where we already see his family (well, MIL’s family I suppose) for multiple Christmas events, I feel like that is unfair. We live out of state and end up coming home for 2-3 days for the holidays. We do Christmas eve dinner and Christmas day lunch with Fiance’s mom’s family, and then Fiance’s dad wants another dinner for Hannukkah (they are married btw). We end up seeing my family for a few hours over the 2-3 days that we are home and I don’t think it’s fair. Fiance is also very close to his cousins on MIL’s side, so he wants to see them, which is why alternating between those events and FIL’s events are not an option.

    Last year (I think) Passover and Easter were the same weekend and we had some serious issues on what to do. Again, FIL insisted on a passover seder with his family, MIL insisted on Easter, and we didn’t really get to see my family because that was the whole weekend. From Fiance’s perspective, FIL does not get along with MIL’s family and it hurts him when we do the “Christian things” with his family and don’t recognize his dad’s traditions and only do the “Jewish things” with my family. But then my mom is angry when we spend 95% of the 2-3 days we are home with Fiance’s family.

    Any suggestions? It’s already making my head spin.

    • savannnah

      You should not penalize your side of the family just because your fiance’s parents never seemed to fix their own holiday/ religious issues (which sound dysfunctional af and you have my sympathy). You fiance now gets to work with his parents to come up with an arrangement where you split the time between his parents and yours 50/50. He can tell them if they want 66% or more they should get a divorce- because that’s how they are handling the holidays already.

    • Amy March

      Stop letting his father run your life. He insists, so you say no. Like, last year you only saw his family for Passover, so this year, your family comes first. Your mom is the reasonable one here!

  • Cdn icecube

    This year, life, rather than either of us is planning our holidays. I’m in one province and Future Mr. IceCube is in another. I have to work on Cdn thanksgiving so I’m staying here and he is staying there. During ‘family week’ I have time off so i’m going there to see everyone. Christmas will be spent with his family (mine got last year), and I’m going to leave the whole ‘christmas eve/christmas day/boxing day’ juggle firmly in his hands. If it’s with his family it’s his job to organize.

  • emilyg25

    The best year ever was 2014, when I was about a million years pregnant and declared I wasn’t going anywhere or hosting anyone for Christmas. Since then, we decided that we do Christmas morning at our place, just the three of us.

    My husband’s parents are divorced and last year, since it was too crazy to drive an hour for Christmas Eve and then 90 minutes for Christmas dinner, I told him to pick one and we’d see the other parents a different time. We typically do Thanksgiving with my parents because 1. that’s when my brother comes home, 2. it’s my mom’s favorite holiday, and 3. my family makes the best food.

    So we see one family at Thanksgiving and one family for one Christmas day, and we have our own family time. I’ve done the drive everywhere and see everyone thing and it just sucks. Fortunately, no one gives us much crap for this.

  • AmandaBee

    Our holiday split worked out pretty well. I have divorced parents but only really have a relationship with one of them. That side “owned” Christmas Eve, so we do my family on C. Eve and husband’s family on C. Day. We all lived within a fairly short drive of each other, so splitting the days wasn’t hard. It also helps that neither family has really rigid traditions, so as long as we get time in with both sides, they’re pretty happy.

    This year we moved out of state, so for the first time we’re in the position of having to navigate an out-of-state trip on the holidays. It’s still (barely) driveable in a day, but we need to figure out where we’re staying each night that we’re in town, if we’re staying with family or hitting up a hotel, if we want to see our friends as well since we’ll be in the area, etc. But mostly that’s a logistical hassle, and most of the emotional aspects should be pretty similar.

  • Mary Jo TC

    Can we talk about seating arrangements? There are at least 3-4 tables of people at our family Thanksgiving, and the hosts assign seats mostly based on age. So last year my husband and I and our kids were with my cousin and her husband and kids. She’s the one I got in a facebook fight about the NFL with. Not looking forward to spending the meal with her. Luckily the actual sitting-down eating part is a short part of the whole party. And we can probably just talk to and about our kids the whole time. Because it’s not worth it trying to have an adult conversation with a four-year-old in the room anyway. Seating at my mom’s for Christmas is less formal, but still maybe a little fraught, and I have to make sure my kids eat, so not relaxing. I’m the oldest one in my generation (if you don’t count the ones who married into the family) so there were one or two years where I thought I would be promoted to the ‘adult’ table and got annoyed when I wasn’t. One year it was because of surprise guests I wasn’t expecting, like the parents of someone else’s boyfriend or something, and sixteen-year-old me felt slighted.

    • Jessica

      You or your husband should text the host and just say “still chilly between cousin and self, could we be seated with my [parents, aunt, uncle, whatever]?

      • Lisa

        I keep trying to think of a way to do this without it coming off as dictating the host’s plans or being willfully obtuse if the host is aware of the issue. If you have a good relationship with the host, it might be worth it to have the conversation, but otherwise, I’d probably suck it up and eat as fast as I can. (Or have lots of bean dip recipes/subject changes at hand.)

      • Mary Jo TC

        That would take some guts for me to do that. In my family, acknowledging and talking about conflict is a huge deal. If I were to say I didn’t want to sit with a family member, that would be like me saying I’m having an open feud with them, just a single step from saying I won’t attend because this other person will be there and now I want the whole family to choose between us. We’re used to just pretending we get along great and things didn’t happen.

        • Lisa

          The only thing I could think of that might work within a passive aggressive model like this is to contact the host and say, “Oh, I’m so excited to see [interesting relative you like] because of [reasons]! Is there any chance we could be seated at her table this year to give us a little time to catch up one-on-one?”

          • Mary Jo TC

            Oooh, smart! Not, “I don’t like this relative,” but “I REALLY like this OTHER relative.”

          • Jessica

            yes!

          • Lisa

            Yeah, basically turning the negative into a positive.

            The issues I can foresee are that the host will see through this if she knows about the feud and, if you are always seated with this cousin, it will be glaringly obvious why you played this move once the host fields any questions about why you’re not sitting with Cousin Sally and her family this year.

          • aldeka

            *bad luck Brian meme*
            get seated between relative you like
            AND cousin you hate

    • NolaJael

      My mother’s huge family abandoned the kid table once everyone could feed themselves. They always make seating random but a game — like pulling a paper out of a hat and matching the second half of a literary quote or celebrity couple to one that’s been pre-placed on the table. It’s really fun and the prep work is something that someone can contribute who can’t bring a dish, etc.

      Then people get mixed up and sit next to different people each time and after the “kids” (12 and under more or less) are finished, they move along and the adults re-position themselves into more conversation oriented groups filling in where the kids left. It works pretty well.

      • sage

        That is so fun!

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      YMMV, but in my experience, things that are fraught online drop a notch on the intensity scale over the phone, and then another, bigger step in person. People in general are less prone to confrontation face to face. Maybe things will be less tense with her when you actually see her!

      • rg223

        Agreed – I was in a facebook argument/discussion with my cousin about whether Trump supporters were racist (and she voted for Trump), and in person at Christmas was totally fine.

    • sparagmos

      Seating is vaguely hilarious at all gatherings with my dad’s side of the family. The “kids’ table” retained its name, even as the youngest of us is mid-twenties, but now, since my mom would rather hang out with her kids than trying to steer around my aunts and uncles, she usually ends up sitting with us. And then my aunt, whom my mom is trying to avoid, wants to sit with us too! So now it’s kids’ table plus any significant others (I’m the only one married so far, of the four of us, but my sister is engaged and my cousin is dating someone) plus mom plus aunt.

    • Eh

      Seating is a huge deal with my inlaws. My MIL and her mother insist that everyone sit at the same table and my SIL will not allow there to be a ‘kids table’ because she believes that children learn how to behave by sitting with adults (which is true, but I also have great memories of being at the kids table with my cousins).

      I don’t understand the big deal about sitting at one table since you can’t talk with everyone when there are over 25 people (she was distraught that she couldn’t fit over 30 people at one table for our rehearsal supper). Anyways this more or less means that my MIL and her mother are the only people that can host holiday meals (we can only have 12 people in our dining room and my SIL can have 16 people).

  • Emily

    Crap, I had almost blocked out the holiday shenanigans of scheduling. My sister in law is making an aggressive push to host Thanksgiving for the first time in like 12 years. My mother-in-law is pretending that this is cool, but she is actually coming unglued. My mother’s birthday is the day before Thanksgiving and she can’t understand why I am not coming home (4 hours away) to spend her birthday with her. I haven’t even begun to think about Christmas–perhaps we’ll go skiing…somewhere remote….til January.

  • sofar

    My husband and I will continue our tradition of 100% separate holidays. He goes to his family. I travel to mine. Our respective families act like it’s the end of the damn world. We ignore this.

    Husband and I spend New Year’s Eve together recovering from our respective families and trying to top each other’s stories about whose family was more racist.

  • Rose

    Our families are fortunately really easy about this, and love each other. Which is all super helpful, especially given that our families live about 2000 miles from each other and right now we live right in the middle. So currently the plan is that we’ll fly to my inlaws for Thanksgiving, which we’ve done for a few years now. It usually works out ok, and given that I have a long break so we can travel a bit further from the holiday, should be pretty good.

    For Christmas, we’re planning on going to my family, and it sounds like my inlaws might join us there? Which would be awesome from everyone’s perspective, our families get along really well and it won’t be the first time they’ve visited each other. Currently I’m thinking that I might head out there a little bit sooner to get some more time with family, and then my wife and her parents will arrive (together or separately, not sure) a little bit closer to the holiday. Then I have to figure out how late I can stay–my parents always have a big party on January first (it’s my mom’s birthday). I’ve never yet had to miss it. This year is a big, difficult deal, because my mom’s mom died this spring and everyone’s having a hard time–I’m not sure if that makes me want to be there more or less, though. And classes start on the 3rd, so I’m trying to figure out how irresponsible it would be of me to plan to travel on the 2nd.

    I can’t believe how lucky I got in the inlaw lottery, though–my MIL has multiple times said very clearly that they don’t want us to feel pressured or torn, and always actually follows through on that. Makes everything so much more pleasant, and makes us more likely to visit, honestly.

  • Fiona

    My husband only had a single entry visa the first year we were married, so we stayed with my family for Christmas. The second year, we went to his family, and it was lovely, so this year we’re going back to mine. They are both long travel trips, but it’s so nice to spend time with them. The only issue with it is of course the family we can’t be with on a given year and that my older sister hasn’t straightened out how she and her fiance will be spending holidays. We asked that they try to get on the same schedule if they’re going to alternate!

    • Fiona

      Generally, we’ve spent Thanksgiving with my family because Dominicans don’t celebrate it, but we might claim it as our own or invite people to see us (we live in the Southwest and my family lives in the Northeast). This year, my sisters are coming and we’re driving down to Mexico for a bachelorette, which I vastly prefer to squicky colonialist celebrations and frustrations with racist family members.

  • Amandalikeshummus

    I made a two year play in order to spend my birthday with my partner both years and be with my family on Thanksbirthday this year. So I went with him last year, and we had a road trip on my birthday. I did feel terrible that he didn’t mention to his parents that I would be arriving on my birthday. His mom found out on facebook and got my a present and a piece of vegan cake. It was very nice of her. Spending the holiday with him and his family was worth it, too. I enjoyed making potatoes for a much larger group than we do at my parents’.

    So this year, we will go up to my parents’, and I am thrilled. When you have a birthday around Thanksgiving, it’s just really special the years it hits the holiday. I do think he could have picked a better time than he did to tell his mom he wouldn’t be at her place this year; but we did just go to two family weddings and a family funeral this month, so she got time with us.

    Christmas we split up for the foreseeable future. I sing services Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. As the choir director, I can’t get a sub for any of them. My parents are closer (2.5hrs), so I head there Christmas afternoon. He goes to his parents’ (5hrs) a day or two before. It is a little lonely on Christmas Eve that hour I’m not working or sleeping. But it works. And this year I got two days off after Christmas, so I can stay with my parents a little longer.

  • jem

    My MIL and husband are both determined to do the family mashup for all holidays (our families are both small and 20 min apart). But my parents and I… hate this plan. Mostly because my MIL insists on hosting and… she just doesn’t do it the way my parents do. Whenever I suggest doing family holidays separately/swapping years, husband gets super defensive and “why do you/your parents hate my family”-y. Not sure how to approach this without hurting feelings.

    • Lisa

      Can you frame it as wanting to devote your attention to his family and being really present for the whole day? (If you don’t really hate his family.) That reassurance with offers of equitable time distribution elsewhere might help to offset the hurt feelings.

    • CW

      Can you frame it as appreciating different traditions? Wanting to not burden your MIL? I pushed back via my parents a decade ago when my now-ex-SIL wanted to do Christmases as mashups. I wanted some holidays without her family- just to celebrate our traditions “our way.”

    • Violet

      If your MIL isn’t doing anything genuinely wrong, just different, I don’t think there is a way to communicate that without hurting feelings. Saying, “Sorry, I want to eat turkey on Thanksgiving and not baked ziti, so I’d rather not see you,” is going to hurt feelings. It just is. If you and your family could be flexible about doing it “differently” every other year, then could your MIL be flexible about not hosting every year?

    • emmers

      I would talk to your husband, and tell him that you like his mom, but you don’t want to have Thanksgiving over there every year– for the same reasons he doesn’t want to go to your family’s house every year. I’d explain that you want to have a compromise, where you’re not going to her house every year– either switching holidays, or switching who hosts them.

      I’d ask him how he felt if your family decided that they were hosting every year, and wouldn’t allow his mom to host.

      It will probably be an uncomfortable conversation. But it’s important! Try to approach it calmly. There are feelings on all sides, but if you can keep it calm and rational, hopefully that will help.

    • Knonymous

      It might hurt feelings, but it’s totally reasonable, for you and for your parents, to not have your Thanksgivings, traditions, family time, etc. subsumed by his family’s desire to both mashup AND host. What does your family get to keep? They bring a dish?

      Maybe suggest a 3-year rotation – your family, his family, mashup – and if you *all* happen to love the mashup, keep doing that. (But don’t present it as a test run, or they’ll be even more hurt if the outcome is “Nope, I can live without that.”)

      • Lisa

        And on that third year, you guys host the mash-up so it is on neutral territory. I think if the mash-up is going to work at all, it has to be in your home.

    • Amy March

      Do you have siblings? I love my brother-in-law, and his parents are great, but they are also not my family and I in no way am up for holiday-ing with them together every single year for every single holiday for the rest of time.

      Also I’m sorry but it is completely ridiculous for your husband to get defensive about alternating. It is not a mashup if she insists on hosting every year!

      • Laura

        Yes, this! My siblings and I are all on the East Coast now, whereas our parents are in the Midwest. For the sake of all of us siblings saving money and vacation time, my husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving for my family and his parents (he’s an only child). The “mashup” is the only way we could do the holidays without offending his parents, since we’re going to my parents’ home around Christmas for a family wedding. But I feel bad that my brother and sister have to celebrate with my in-laws. They’re fine people, and I have to put up with them because I married into the family, but my in-laws shouldn’t really be my siblings’ problem.

        • RNLindsay

          It’s at least nice that you feel bad :) I’m often stuck with my SIL’s parents (our husbands are brothers… so they’re the in-laws of my in-laws) and everyone thinks its fine and normal and why don’t I want to fly to DC at 8pm on Christmas Eve to hang out with my in-laws-in-law?? Haha

          • Laura

            Yep, this will never happen again. And actually, my brother and sister said they would prefer a mixed family celebration this year because it saves us all time and money. Of course, both sets of our (perfectly financially stable) parents complained about the expense of flying across the country during the holidays…..umm, what exactly did you think your children have been doing this whole time?

          • Lisa

            We were originally planning to do a vacation with my ILs for Christmas (we want to bike the Florida Keys), but when we started looking at plane tickets, they said, “Well, that seems too expensive for only a week! Why can’t you take another week off work? Or we could go in mid-January when tickets are cheaper.”

            Well, ILs, I only get 10 days of PTO a year, which have to be accrued, in addition to holidays. I’m aware that tickets are expensive over Christmas, but if I don’t take advantage of Badtown U’s closure between Christmas and NYE, then I miss out on a whole week of getting to travel and do stuff that I enjoy. Sorry that not all of us are retired with unlimited vacation time. (They did something similar when they came to visit over the summer–told us two weeks ahead of time that they were stopping by for Tuesday through Saturday morning and expected me to be able to drop four vacation days short notice to spend with them. I’d like to see them, but since they’ve been retired for over a decade, they seem to forget that other people have job obligations!)

      • Staria

        Truths of adulthood that no one tells you: if you have siblings and they partner off first, Christmas becomes dictated by your in-laws’ in-laws. I thought there would be more flexibility for me when I partnered off, but everyone continues to act as though my partner and I are still the flexible, single ones. Will be nice when we have kids and can claim the same status everyone else has.

      • jem

        I don’t have siblings, but he has a sister with a habit of ghosting holidays. So for the past couple of years, it’s been my husband and me, my parents, and a random assortment of MIL’s coworkers around the Thanksgiving/Christmas table. It’s just… not super fun to celebrate with a bunch of strangers.

        I also just have a giant sack full of resentment towards MIL that I’m working through post-wedding that’s compromising my ability to deal with this like an adult, and is making husband feel a lot more defensive than normal.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      Sorry, but his argument is bullshit. “Do what we want every single holiday even if you and your family don’t want to or you clearly hate us” is a false binary, and I suspect he knows it.

  • aldeka

    Third set of holidays married and I finally feel like we have a good sense of what our baby family’s holidays will look like! A large part of this was having a discussion about what we liked about our childhood holidays and what we wanted to keep and what we wanted to ditch. It made explicit that I’d had this expectation for myself that we’d do Thanksgiving with one side of the family and Christmas with the other (switching each year) because that’s what I’d done as a kid–but that was only manageable because my family all lived in the same state! Now that we’re on the other side of the country from everyone that expectation just doesn’t make sense. Meanwhile my husband is *very* into doing the Thanksgiving cooking, and doesn’t feel that that holiday is too closely tied to family. We’ve hosted two friendsgivings now and they felt right to us. So I think our plan is to continue that tradition, with Thanksgivings at home with friends and anyone local who can make it and Christmases traveling to one side of the family or the other.

    • savannnah

      Yes. I wanna plug the Friendsgivings (we also do a freedom seder, which is like a friendspassover) They are our chosen family and we do a few, host one and go to another and it is joyous and without much drama and helps to balance out any crazies going on with our families.

    • Laura

      We moved this year. The current plan is to host a Friendsgiving for our new friends here, another Friendsgiving the following weekend for our out-of-state friends who are flying in to visit us (our old friend group takes Friendsgiving very seriously), and then actual Thanksgiving the following week with both sides of our families. I am SO EXCITED because this means I get to make at least 8 pies.

    • I moved far from family (and am currently in a different country), so I’ve been doing friendsgiving for about…15 years? Back when I was only about 12 hours from home, my parents would come too, so it’d be my parents and local friends. (I’m an only child.) But now that I am in Canada, well, Quebec, we don’t really do Canadian Thanksgiving, and I celebrate American Thanksgiving and invite all my local Quebecois friends. Thanksgiving was a new thing for them, so it’s been fun to watch them get into it!

  • Knonymous

    We’ve been alternating every year since the first year we were married. Alternating Christmases means that we go visit his family for several days after Christmas when it’s not their year, one day of which is treated as a full-on Christmas celebration with a ton of gifts, fancy dinner, etc. (Whereas when it’s not my parents’ year, since they’re local, we just go over one afternoon to exchange gifts for an hour or two.) So to me, it feels like we get to have Christmas with his family every year, no matter what, but we miss Christmas with my family every other year! I suspect it doesn’t feel quite like that to my husband. (Also makes it hard to remember whose year it is, as I remember “Christmas with the in-laws” as having happened EVERY YEAR.) This year is supposed to be my family’s year, and we should have a 10-ish week old baby, and I just want to say that we’re not going to do the extra post-Christmas trip to visit the in-laws, but I don’t know how well that will go over. Especially since we get a “Christmas” with them every year – but spend much more time with my parents on a regular basis, since they live nearby, so it feels unfair to deprive my husband’s family of one of our trips. My MIL has already started talking to my toddler about “when you come visit us at Christmas.”

  • Alex K

    Ugh. This year we have it (mostl) worked out but in previous years it was awful. My parents are very relaxed about holidays while my MIL is very needy. So when we would fly home from TX (we both are from NH) she would insist on time during my parents time. One year that meant thanksgiving with his family, what was supposed to be Christmas Eve with mine but she insisted we come for the afternoon, and then Christmas separately. This meant I spent 8+ hours in the car Christmas Eve crossing the state 3 times.

    This year we are doing thanksgiving with his family (which they conviently decided to do at their lake place 4 hours away from us, so we won’t see my family all weekend), Chistmas eve at our house with whomever is around (husband’s family is trying to hijack this event even though other people will be there), Christmas morning just us, and Christmas Dinner with my family. I know I’m going to be exhausted but hopefully the balance will be better.

  • topscallop

    Since we started dating, we have gone to my parents for Thanksgiving and Christmas, since my husband rarely visits his parents and I go home a lot. I’m not sure how much longer we can get away with this, though, as it’ll start to look unfair to his folks. His mom “gave up Christmas” in exchange for a weekend in June she’s hoping will become a routine where we all go visit her. That’s when I’ll have to bite my tongue or figure out the right way to clap back at the racist BS her husband believes, or her anti-choice religious ideas.

    My husband has bad memories of being carted around to his many grandparents’ houses as a kid on Christmas, so hopefully when we have kids we can establish a routine where our parents come to us.

    We’ll have limited funds and PTO this year, since we’re paying off wedding bills and going on our honeymoon in a few weeks, but if I plead “poor” I think my parents will send us plane tickets. I could ask my mom to make that our Christmas present, but based on past experience she will still go overboard on gifts – something that I think makes my husband a bit uncomfortable since he didn’t have much growing up. But since they contributed to the wedding, maybe we can push them to simplify this year. We don’t need much, and we don’t have much space, including in our suitcases since I imagine we’ll be schlepping wedding decor home for the next several trips.

  • Eenie

    I missed Thanksgiving with my family for the first time EVER last year. Booked plane tickets back in May for a week long Thanksgiving trip to see my family and our friends this year. I definitely won’t have enough vacation stored up to make the trip happen, so I may need to “work” for two of the days.

    • Eenie

      Oh and we decided that we’re definitely getting a hotel or Airbnb for when we visit his family for Christmas since his brother’s family of six moved in with his parents while their new house is built. I hope we decide this is a fantastic use of hotel points and continue doing it in the future years.

      • Lexipedia

        Visiting family, but also having a refuge to flee to = best idea ever.

      • Not Sarah

        We booked an airbnb that is a ten minute walk from my brother-in-law’s house and his fiancée said it was a great idea and could she come over too lol. Christmas isn’t fully clear yet but it seems possible it might end up being my husband’s sister, parents, brother+fiancée and all of his fiancée’s immediate family…

      • Marcela

        We got a hotel for the first time visiting my ILs when we had to go up there over the summer for a funeral and it was the best thing ever. 10/10 would do again.

  • We’re staying home this year! I am so excited to have our own Christmas in our own house.

    We’re using the wedding as an excuse, since it’s in January, so we’ll be seeing people shortly after Christmas and we can’t really afford to spend hundreds of pounds on trains up and down the country. My parents live 7 hours away, J’s 5 hours, and they live 4 hours from each other – we don’t drive, so it’s all public transport (which doesn’t run on Boxing Day). Every year up until now we’ve spent about ten days away (three days of which are just travelling), doing one family then the other, alternating which family Christmas falls with. It’s exhausting and expensive, but it’s more convenient than either family coming to us; we both have siblings that live closer to our respective parents, and they live closer to each other than we do to either. Both families have traditions surrounding Christmas as well as on the day (mine do a movie on Christmas Eve, J’s go to the football on Boxing Day) which we’ll be missing out on this year, as well as our own tradition of “mini-Christmas” where a couple of days before we go we have our own Christmas, with stockings and the full dinner and presents and everything. It’s going to be a weird year, much quieter, but also much cheaper and much less tiring.

    • Violet

      Now I kinda wish our public transit didn’t run on holidays. What an ace excuse…

      • It is genuinely easier to get a train on Christmas day than Boxing day. The net result is having to book more time off and stay at my parents’ or J’s for longer :/

        Even staying home this year, it would have been nice to get a train into the Yorkshire Moors for a boxing day walk, or to Manchester to see the footie, but nope! Can’t even see our friends who are also shunning the family merrygoround.

  • Anne

    This is timely! Both of our families live in the same area (where we don’t live). We are spending a lot of time flying there this fall for family weddings (ours and others). Given that, it was an easy decision to skip Thanksgiving this year and do our own thing.

    But we just had a first real conversation about Christmas and it was stressful. My family has very consistent and structured Christmas traditions, we’ve always done the same things, while his family has fewer traditions and is more flexible for various reasons. That makes it easy for me, at first instinct, to push for participating in my family’s activities and just finding ways to spend nice time with the in-laws but maybe not exactly on Christmas Day. Last year, we each did our own thing, except now-husband came along to my extended family’s Christmas Day afternoon gathering, and we both spent the weekend before Christmas at a resort with his family. But of course the holiday itself is important to them too. In our first year married I’d really like us to spend the holiday together. We’ll see.

    It is a problem to be grateful for – we both like both of our families and also have lots of extended family. But figuring out how to make these decisions together in a way that feels fair to both of us is hard.

  • Another Meg

    There are many coats of paint that make up the crazy that is holidays for us.

    I have five siblings, and only two of us live in the same city. Everyone is spread out between Chicago, Germany, Seattle, Connecticut, and St. Louis. Five of us have in-laws and most are also long distance. So it’s….complicated.

    Add to that the fact that we just had a baby. Suddenly the grandparents that get us are the WINNERS and either way, we lose because someone is unhappy. Ugh.

    Oh, and husband is an only child and his parents moved to another part of the country. So no guilt there, they’ll just spend their holidays alone.

    I really, really miss the holidays of my early twenties, when all of the kids still came in for Christmas and we lived in the house I grew up in and had a HUGE family party on Christmas Eve. I’m not enjoying the new normal.

  • rebecca

    Ugh. We both have giant Catholic families who live very far a part. We used to rotate Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year we skipped Thanksgiving bc his mother invited herself to our house for Thanksgiving (halfway across the country) then decided she didn’t want to come last minute when it was too late for us to book flights. This year I have no idea what’s happening since my husband wants to see his extended family but hasn’t been on speaking terms with his parents since our wedding in july.

  • Laura

    We moved across the country from both sets of our parents this summer. Cue me thinking it sounds like a brilliant idea to host everyone for Thanksgiving so we don’t have to spend $$ and, more importantly, vacation time, traveling back to the Midwest. Now my parents, my siblings, and my in-laws are all converging on our home. My parents like my in-laws, but my in-laws apparently don’t like my mom. But everyone is very Midwestern Polite, so there is a lot of delicious awkwardness ahead.

    • Alynae

      If it makes you feel any better I would trade Midwestern Polite awkward for my dads generic asshole any day. Last get together involved him sitting in the middle of the room, with sunglasses on scrolling through social media as he was directly addressed. His out to say whatever he wants “I’m being honest and if you don’t like honesty then you need to do your own emotional work”. Midwest polite sounds charming!

      • Lisa

        I’m sure I would feel differently if it were my father, but this is hilarious. Thank you for including the detail about the sunglasses too.

        • Alynae

          Laughing is usually the only way to deal with it…glad to share :)

  • This is going to be out first year doing Christmas together with our families… Ever! The first year we each were with our respective families, and then we moved out of province and Christmas flights are *expensive*! But this year his sister and brother in law and their year-and-a-half-year-old (!!!) are flying in from Bermuda and we’re coming in from BC to spend Christmas with his side, then driving 6 hours on the 27th up to my family and most of our friends for New Years. Its going to be busy, and I’m sure we’ll be completely batty by the end of it, but its going to be really nice! We haven’t been “home” since our wedding in June 2016!

  • sparagmos

    Oh, God. This will be our third married Christmas and…I’m not looking forward to the shuffle. We’ve decided, instead of swapping Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve as we’ve done the last two years, to do Thanksgiving with my family (permanently, for now) and Christmas Eve with my husband’s family (permanently, for now). This is mostly because Christmas Eve is the only time of year that his mom’s family gets together, and since we did Christmas Eve with my family last year, he hasn’t seen most of them in 2 years; this situation is untenable. I don’t look forward to my grandmother finding out we will never come to Christmas Eve at her place again, probably (even though we see that side of the family on Christmas every year!). I think I just…won’t tell her, and maybe one day she’ll notice.

    The worst part is that my mom is always guilting, asking for more time for holidays, making us feel bad for whatever it is we plan, wanting us to spend the night Christmas Eve when we all live in the same city, and my parents-in-law are super chill about all of it. They’re always like, “Oh, whatever works for you, we’ll see you when we see you.” So of course that makes me want to do more stuff with the in-laws and less with my parents…which makes her guilt harder…it’s a vicious cycle and I have no idea how to break it. I’ve tried to talk to her about how the guilting is making it way harder for us, but she keeps on.

  • Katelyn

    Holidays get more complicated every year. As my other three siblings have children/live far away, we still have full family holidays but not on the actual date. I am feeling increasingly pressured to entertain my parents on the day itself. Which is not a bad thing! I love them dearly and love the “Adult Time” bonding we have.

    Last year we started a Christmas Eve tradition with my parents and fiance’s parents having dinner at our place. We love entertaining and my fiance is a genius in the kitchen. It was fancy! There were tablescapes! Hopefully we can keep it up and it will hold off my guilt about abandoning them.

  • Leah

    Hi all. I’d love some advice on a holidays issue that isn’t quite an issue yet, but will be before too long, and I want to use this year to lay some groundwork:

    I’m Jewish, my husband is not, but we keep a Jewish household and are raising our kid Jewish – we are in a place with few Jews, so this takes some concerted effort and intention. We spend Christmas with his family, who are are active church-every-Sunday Christians. They are totally tolerant of, and vaguely intrigued by, my Judaism, but live in a part of the country where they really don’t know anyone who isn’t Christian and just…don’t really get the idea that some people aren’t. (for eg, every single year they ask me what my parents are doing for xmas, I politely explain that they don’t celebrate it, they give me a bewildered look, and we move on, to be repeated next year.) I usually go to church with them on xmas, because I’m an adult, and it makes them happy.

    Here’s the question: We now have a one year old. As he gets older and becomes more situationally aware, I’m worried about how to draw boundaries that make it clear (to him, though mostly to my in-laws) that we are ‘visiting’ Christmas, rather than celebrating it ourselves. I have no desire to keep my in-laws away from their grandson on xmas, but I don’t really want him to go to church while he’s too young to put it in the proper context, or be otherwise pressured.

    Basically, I don’t want to disrespect my in-laws or their religion, but want to make it clear that their grandson doesn’t share it, all while we are staying at their house for 3-4 days over the xmas holiday. I’d love thoughts on ways to start early with what will certainly be an evolving process.

    Thanks!

    • NolaJael

      One of my parents’ philosophies for raising us, which my husband and I have decided to adopt too, was to remember / believe that occasional experiences with another idea, belief system or outlook wasn’t likely to override what they taught, practiced and modeled every day. This kind of “belief in themselves” went for all kinds of things – like sleep overs with non-healthy food, vaguely educational field trips, etc. The point wasn’t to prohibit the activity but to talk about it afterward. Obviously the Jew at Christmas problem is more fraught because of the ubiquity of Christmas in certain areas. But I don’t think that taking a small child to a service once a year is likely to indoctrinate them, so long as you have age appropriate conversations about how this is Grandma and Grandpa’s tradition and it’s not what you believe; and children can learn from a very young age to be quiet and respectful in a house of worship of any faith.

      If you are worried about not over-celebrating Christmas, I would recommend not going over the Christmas holiday proper every year, as that sends mixed messages and would be asking your in-laws not to celebrate their holidays in their own home. Rather, tell your inlaws that you’ll be arriving on Dec. 26 and staying a few days but that you are not “moving” Christmas, rather just visiting over a few days while you are free. They are free to have Christmas dinner, go to church and do present exchanges before you get there, but shouldn’t wait for you. It would be hard to get as a pattern, but might be do-able!

      • Leah

        Thanks – and I am totally on board with the fact that occasional experiences don’t shake core beliefs/practices, and I’m not worried about ‘indoctrination’ per se. It’s mostly that, knowing my in-laws, I can foresee ongoing struggles over boundaries on this subject, with my kid kind of caught in the middle, and I want to set some good patterns from the get-go. Some variation on mixing up the timing as you suggest might be a good thing to think about down the road.

    • Lisa

      For what it’s worth – five things you might already be thinking about:

      1. I’m sure you’re already having conversations with your husband about it, but I’m just going to name it since being on the same page and a united front is definitely the most important thing.

      2. In terms of your kid, I think you can have conversations every year that are age appropriate. When he is little, you might make a birthday party analogy – you get to go and celebrate it with them, but it isn’t your birthday. As he gets older, the conversations will become more nuanced.

      3. Whether you and your son attend church is really a decision between you & your spouse, but it might entail more conversations about how much participation is appropriate and what grandma and grandpa believe vs what our family believes.

      4. Remember that this is just one day a year, so if you’re raising him Jewish the other 364 days that is what he’ll identify with (and he’ll come to see this as a family gathering). It seems like a huge deal now, but it might not be.

      5. Consistently invite your in-laws to Jewish holidays, services, life-cycle events (or even sending them a little article or explanation with holiday projects from the kid – photos of baby’s first sukkot, etc) so that they become more comfortable with Judaism and can get onboard with this as an important part of your child’s identity. This should be pretty easy since they’re already intrigued by Judaism, and understanding the holidays or going to services with you might help them see that it isn’t just Christianity-lite (Christianity minus the New Testament), but it’s own fully-fledged religion.

      • Leah

        Thanks for all the thoughts, and these are all good to keep in mind. A lot of this is a combination of 1) I’m nervous in general about how to raise a kid to feel connected to Judaism with only one Jewish parent in a very Christian part of the country and the xmas pressures just heighten that and 2) I’ve been really disappointed with the stuff you suggest in your point #5. I’ve invited them to a number of Jewish holidays/events, and they’ve always been like ‘oh, that’s nice’ but I don’t think they really actually consider going, and they haven’t taken me up on any of it. Not out of malice, I honestly think they just don’t really don’t know what to do with it. So that’s definitely something I need to work on from my end in terms of making it more accessible/welcoming to them. Thanks again!

    • savannnah

      I’m anticipating being in your situation in a few years- married an atheist with lax christian parents who will want our Jewish raised future children to come home to the midwest for Christmas. My thoughts on this vary but untimely I think we’ll visit around Christmas but not on Christmas. There is just no way grandparents will keep to our ‘but don’t buy presents for your Jewish grandchildren who are also at your Christmas celebrations’ caveat. Its a dance and a constant conversation with my husband.

      • MDBethann

        Even if you aren’t visiting on Dec 25, grandparents may still have presents for their grandchildren. No Christmas presents may need to be an explicit conversation. Christmas is technically 12 days, not 1. Thats how we “rationalize” visiting family after Dec 25th.

  • Lindsey

    This. Husband and I live in Seattle. My parents live on an island near Seattle; husband’s family lives across the lake from Seattle. We’re too close not to spend Christmas with people, but just far enough that it is relatively miserable. For example, last year we had everyone at my parents’ house for thanksgiving (great and easy). But then for Christmas, we did “fake” Christmas eve with my parents on the 23rd (30 minute ferry ride), stayed the night and did fake Christmas morning with them on the 24th, rode the ferry back to Seattle and went straight to husband’s parents’ for real Christmas eve dinner, spent the night there, had Christmas morning with them, then drove to West Seattle for my grandma’s Christmas dinner, then the next day had to go back to inlaws’ house for dinner to see two cousins we had not seen Christmas morning. It was exhausting and I’m thinking of just going to Hawaii this year.

    • AtHomeInWA

      I. Feel. You.

    • ART

      We skipped it all and had Thanksgiving and Christmas at home (mostly alone) last year, then went to Palm Springs the first week of January. It was pretty cool!

  • Becky

    This will be our 7th holiday season together and 2nd married. The first few years were weird but we eventually worked out a system. Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas Day with his. Thanksgiving was always half the day with my family, half the day with his since our parents lived 2 miles apart.
    Last year, however, his family’s holidays moved to being celebrated an hour away from us so we cannot do 2 gatherings in one day. My mom has always had the rule that her adult kids have to come every other year for thanksgiving and Easter (always the odd years, so this year), and the even years we can spend with our in laws. It seems perfectly fair, and my in laws were ok with it LAST year since it was the off year. Now this year my MIL is upset that we won’t be there for thanksgiving, and there’s no way we can celebrate it a different day with the in laws because FIL leaves for hunting the next morning. My only thought of a compromise is leaving my parents’ a little bit early and driving up to the in laws, but I really really don’t want my parents to get the short end of the stick on the year that we are supposed to be only with them on the day of. I haven’t even told my husband about this yet because I know he will want to go to his family’s gathering. He is also emotionally depleted due to working 60-80 hour weeks all year. Don’t know how to figure this one out.

    • Amy March

      You agreed to every other year so don’t do it. There is a way to do it on a different day. If it matters that much your FIL can move his hunting plans by a day. Assuming your husband agreed to these plans, yeah, she might be sad and he might be sad but their inflexibility shouldn’t take away from your parents’ time with you.

      • rg223

        Agreed, plus, the in-laws were the ones who moved farther away, so it’s not fair to effectively punish Becky’s parents for that.

  • Eve

    I have no idea what we’re doing this year. Last year was easy because I had to work both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so we hosted Thanksgiving and then did the Christmas rounds (12-hour round trip to hit all the parents) the week before, and then had Christmas proper just the two of us. I’m pretty sure it’s a default this year that we’ll have Thanksgiving with my mom since we have our wedding menu tasting in the same city the day after, and fiancé’s parents might join us for that. No idea about Christmas though. I kind of liked having it just the two of us last year, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a teensy bit sad and I feel a little weird voicing that I liked it.

    Most excited for Friendsgiving though, since we live an hour away from friends of mine from high school who will have a baby too young to travel to their families. So that’ll be fun!

  • RNLindsay

    Some of you may remember the debacle that was Christmas with my in-laws last year! We bought tickets to DC (flying late on Christmas Eve!) to spend at my SIL’s parent’s house (yes… my in-laws-in-laws). And then they cancelled the whole thing right after Thanksgiving! That was still our Christmas with them though, so it was just a small gathering of me and my husband, MIL and FIL here in MA. This year, there’s rumors that SIL and BIL want to host Christmas but I don’t really care. You can’t cancel Christmas and then expect me to want to make plans with you again. I’m working Christmas Day anyway, so my husband can sort out what he wants to do.
    Thanksgiving will definitely be spent with my family – we’re very large and do a big Thanksgiving every other year. 70 people this year! Our biggest one yet :)

  • Jenna

    Another wrench in the monkey works is when one works on the holidays. I’m lucky because my employer has organized our holidays into half days, so it’s only a partial day, but still not conducive to traveling 3 hours to visit his family when I usually have to come right back the next day. My fiancé is VERY understanding of my work situation and has never given me problems. Does he wish I could come to his family Christmas? Sure, but he gets it. But, even as non-married people, his family ALWAYS asks “Well where’s Jenna?!” or “Jenna’s not coming in?” Granted they’ve never given us crap, but the constant questions about it make me feel a little guilty.
    My solution for now is to try and make myself available to visit his family as often as possible other times of the year. I may never see my in-laws on Christmas Day, but I will damn sure ask off another weekend close to it to exchange gifts and have dinner.
    Another long-distance solution: I Skyped my family the first Christmas I was away from home (I was in FL, they’re in OH) during the Christmas Eve dinner at my grandma’s and then Christmas morning at my parents. It was actually really nice because I was still able to participate in the chit-chat and they just carried the laptop to whatever room they were in!

    • Eh

      My husband has a crappy work situation (works evenings/weekends, little vacation, hast to work stat holidays). I have lots of vacation so sometimes I take my daughter to see my family without my husband. My step-mom asks if he is coming, partly for logistics, partly because she is sad he can’t come.

      We don’t visit my family at Christmas. I usually take my daughter for a visit a few weeks before. I like the Skype idea. My daughter is starting to understand the phone (she asked to call daddy tonight) so I think Skyping with my family on Christmas Day would be nice.

    • Marcela

      I’m stressing because this is the first year my husband is working (yay! #finallynotastudent) and he gets 5 vacation days total. His work has not started talking about the holiday divvy-up yet and I fear that as the youngest member of the team, he will get stuck working the worst days/won’t get even time off in a row to make a trip feasible. It doesn’t help that his job hasn’t started talking about holidays yet so we have no idea what to expect. AH!!

  • suchbrightlights

    I am culturally Jewish, and let me tell you, avoiding the Holiday Shenanigans is one of the best reasons on the table to marry a goy! Latkes with my family and stockings with his. We hosted Christmas dinner last year for both our families and will probably do so again this year. Thanksgiving we rotate. If we’re at my family’s for dinner, we go to his family’s for dessert… it doesn’t work in reverse because of traffic patterns, which is a bummer.

  • ughfamily

    I’m lucky my inlaws are so easy going because my mother said that since my grandparents are still alive they get priority on all holidays. I had a huge fight with her last year because I missed fathers day to go to FH’s cousin’s kid’s christening even though we were seeing my side 2 weeks later for a birthday party

  • Mrs H

    This is timely-at my son’s first birthday last week, my sister in law and I had very terse words in front of everyone about Christmas. My husband and kids and I live on one side of the country near his family and my family lives on the the other side of the country.
    We go to stay with my parents for Christmas because they miss out on everything else-our birthday’s our kid’s birthdays, every other holiday and just the week to week of seeing our family, which husband’s family gets.
    Anyway my sister in law (husband’s brother’s wife) said ‘Where will you guys be for Christmas?’ My husband said we would be travelling to see my family. She said ‘What? That’s three years in a row!’ I said, ‘Well, yes, but we live here.’ Her response was ‘That’s not how it works!’
    I just walked away, I was so angry and upset. I was already sad my parents were missing their grandchild’s first birthday-I just didn’t need it!

    • MDBethann

      it works however you want it to work. period. Full stop. BIL’s wife can make suggestions and be disappointed, but othwrwise not her call

  • Elise

    For the first 5 years of our marriage we lived an hour away from his parents, and a flight away from mine. We moved 2 years ago to a different state, and it made things a lot more complicated. It was almost like everything was reset: the boundaries and schedules we had in place went out the window (in our parents’ minds). So we’ve had to reaffirm that we alternate Christmases with each family (neither parents are divorced, which makes things less complicated) and we do not travel for Thanksgiving. They are welcome to visit us though!

    The hard thing is, neither of us want to spend the holidays with his parents. And now we’re wondering – when do we get to spend Christmas at our house? It seems like people understand that when kids come into the picture, traditions change. But why do we have to wait for that? We’ll be married 8 years in January and it seems like it’s about time. Maybe next year.

  • CMT

    I’m kind of shocked by how many parents make demands of their adult children’s time! I love my parents and spending time with them, but we’re pretty flexible about when we spend time together. And now that I’ve been living on my own for over a decade, I would not be pleased if they tried to monopolize my holiday time.

    • Eh

      My dad and step-mom have seven children who are all married and all have children. They are very understanding that we are pulled in multiple directions and we have to make choices.

      With my inlaws it’s not just holiday time, they expect to see their adult sons (DILs and granddaughters) on their birthday (or pretty close) and their anniversaries. And for these things they try to show up on short notice (which never works well for us, since we have plans since we are celebrating). My inlaws still want to be the centre of their sons’ lives even though they are married and have children.

  • erika22

    It’s our first married Thanksgiving/Christmas, and we are sincerely looking forward to not doing ANY family stuff this year, particularly since we can only handle them once a year and we just saw them at our wedding. Tentative plans include Hawaii, Universal Studios, or hosting a tiny Friendsgiving with a couple friends who have nowhere to go (but, being selfish, I’m rooting for something out of town). We don’t even feel bad! *dances*

  • Cbrown

    First Christmas with a baby. We live in Scotland, my mil lives in England, fil in Canada, and my parents are in the us. My parents are coming over. We offered to host everyone here but they declined which makes things easier.

  • NineChristmases

    I have no good advice, only sympathy. We had NINE Christmases one year. NINE. I come from divorced-and-now-remarried parents, both my families and my husband’s do the extended family shuffle, and all three sets of parents want “immediate family” Christmases, while all living about 3 hours apart. Thank god I get the week between Christmas and New Years off, and hubby can do some of that as “working remote”, because I literally don’t know how we’d fit it all in otherwise. I literally cannot wait until we have kids, if only so I can be like “Nope, not coming. Sorry-not-sorry.”

  • Lindsay

    I am beyond excited that this year we are going to visit my best friends and their new baby out-of-state for Thanksgiving. They are my family 1000x more than some people on my spouse’s side. It has been a several year project and lots of negotiating the alternatives, but I think it opens the door for us to be really intentional in future years about creating holiday space just for us. Both my spouse and I get really frustrated by juggling all of it, balancing family members who get it and those who don’t, traveling, my mother-in-law who wants everything to stay the same forever, etc. It took awhile – this is our 7th holiday season together – but each year we get a little further down the road of doing what’s right for our family of the two of us.

  • LAinTexas

    We moved halfway across the country three years ago, and since then, we’ve only been able to go home for a holiday once – we went home for almost two weeks over Christmas last year. Both of my parents have visited us around Thanksgiving since we moved here, though, which my dad is tentatively planning to do again this year. Also, my mom just booked flights to visit us for a few days over Christmas. (My parents have been divorced since I was in 6th grade.) We still participate in my family’s gift exchange (each person only buys for one other person; my aunt “draws names” and assigns people), and we buy gifts for BF’s family. We usually open gifts over Skype with my family and then just do our own thing here at home, just the two of us. We make a nice meal, but nothing too big or fancy.

    Before that, when we lived a 2-hour drive from my hometown and a 3+-hour drive from BF’s hometown, it was a lot of juggling. One year we tried to hit both families for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and it was a lot. So, the next year, we did my family for Thanksgiving (because my birthday is right before it) and his family for Christmas. That mostly seemed to work…but then, as I mentioned above, we moved.

  • ssha

    We JUST talked about this! And here’s the thing: Husband brought it up! I was pleasantly surprised, as ILs told us some of their tentative holiday plans recently -leaving me wondering when I should broach the EL of bringing up our holiday plans, whether I would be met with ‘but holidays aren’t for a few months,’ etc- when he brought it up and I didn’t have to. “Since we have to travel, we should probably plan ahead.” YES, THANK YOU.

  • Amanda

    This holiday season, it will go something like this: Halloween, have a baby, Thanksgiving by the tv (aka we are not going to MIL’s house no matter how many times she hints that we can leave whenever we want), wedding anniversary, Christmas with immediate family (aka skipping the big parties because newborns and cold & flu & whooping cough season don’t mix), New Years also at home (aka not going to the yearly board game party with friends).

    So we’ll be spending a lot of time as a nuclear family, snuggled up/trapped at home with a newborn and a preschooler.

    • littleinfinity

      Haha “snuggled up/ trapped” :) I hope it is more of the former, that actually sounds pretty nice to me!

  • Abs

    I feel like we’re in a middle ground of holidays that I hate, but I can’t move out of it.

    I am so ready to tell our families that we’re not necessarily traveling
    and the holidays are for us, but there’s a ton of complicated family
    politics on both sides, and my husband isn’t really up for rocking the
    boat–he says we should just wait until we have kids (probably about 2
    years from now). My family holidays are full of activities and events
    and magic and a whole ton of stress and no downtime, while his family
    are so chill they grow moss. No pressure on us to do anything, but also
    they don’t care about any traditions–they barely manage to get the
    tree decorated, and there’s no Christmas morning or Christmas dinner. I
    feel like the only way to have a holiday that doesn’t either stress me
    out or depress me is to do our own, but with my husband not on board to do something different, I can’t face dealing with my family on this.

  • Lain

    Our families live in the same town, so we’re trying to condition them to they will get to see their own child for most of the time, own child will sleep at their house, and child’s spouse will come over for a meal and an hour or so or socializing on one day. I can’t do the constantly splitting time back and forth, it’s too stressful.

  • Diane

    This is not our first Holiday season together but this year will be so much more complicated because we adopted our daughters in March plus my mother in law got remarried this year so she is pressuring we spend the entire Christmas WEEK with them. The plan is going over to my sister in law’s house for Thanksgiving because they only live 40 minutes away and our girls love their cousins (and their dogs). For Christmas, we are keeping it to just the four of us, and we will visit my parents during the Christmas break. Because it’s the girls first holidays with us, its important to keep it simple so they can adjust better. My in-laws are not thrilled with this, especially my mother in law because she wont be spending thanksgiving with her daughter. But I’m letting my husband deal with her, especially since she now lives 3 hours away.

  • Becca

    My husband and I have been together for 9 years, so we’ve been doing the holiday juggle for quite some time now. This will be our first married holiday season, but I don’t know if it’ll really be that different from holidays past. We’re still local to our families (the farthest we have to drive is about 20 minutes) but unfortunately that means everyone expects you to show up at their house, and then becomes super offended if you don’t. We usually end up making at least 3 stops during the course of a holiday, and it’s exhausting. It used to be more, but we finally decided to start alternating Thanksgiving and Easter – i.e. we’ll skip his extended family’s Thanksgiving lunch and go to mine, but then skip my extended family’s Easter lunch and go to his.

    Fortunately my parents are super flexible about holidays, but I almost with they weren’t! Because if I don’t have a set time I “need” to be at my parents’ house for lunch/dinner/whatever, the MIL will try her hardest to monopolize all our time. She’s one of those people who thinks her family is the ONLY family, and seems to forget that my family exists, too -_- Lately I’ve been not-so-jokingly suggesting to the husband that we take a vacation over Thanksgiving, but sadly he’s not biting.

    • Lindsey

      I think we have the exact same life trajectory! It is hard when one side of the family is relaxed about it and the other is not. My parents are very relaxed with our time, as well as holidays at their house are amazing because they ply us with amazing food and champagne, so it just makes us want to spend more time there. Then we feel guilty about not wanting to spend time with husband’s parents, who layer on the gilt pretty heavy. When we do go over to husband’s parents’ house though, they just want to sit around and chit chat about the same topics. To make matters more annoying, husband has a brother/sister-in-law in a different state who never come home for Christmas, instead choosing to go to tropical locations, and I don’t think they get any parental guilt. It feels a bit like the brother/sister-in-law are abandoning us to forever be the ones who have to be around for the holidays, just because we live in the same general vicinity. Ugh. I’m trying to convince husband that we should go to hawaii instead.

    • Eh

      I am one of 7 siblings/step-siblings so we have flexible holidays. Christmas is an all day affair and you drop in when you are available (lunch to late night – lunch and supper are served). We live too far away to go but it is a drastic constrast to my MIL who expects us to be there for supper and to stay late (we live an hour away, and have a child), and come early to have a visit before my BIL’s family arrive. And then for us to come back for an extended family Christmas a couple days later. We carve out time for our little family (Christmas Eve and first thing Christmas Day Morning) and my family (late Christmas Day Morning) and put our foot down if she tries to encroach. My MIL does not need to know that these times are set by us, we just protect those times (I like to call my dad and siblings before they head out for Christmas lunch, but I could as easily call them after lunch when they are all together).