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?