How Were Your Holidays?

Let’s hear about the good, bad, and glittery

In the nine holiday seasons that I’ve been writing APW, I’ve been working on figuring out our family holidays. (Given that it’s been almost a decade and counting, I suspect that it never really ends.) We’ve gone from the early days of being engaged and trying to make the rounds at our family homes to start the process of integrating the new person into family celebrations. Then there were the early years of marriage, where we tried to navigate being a “baby family,” and getting… really any measure of respect as a family unit of our own. We slowly learned the skill of telling people (nicely) that we were going to do what worked for us, and that was that.

It turns out the holidays, like weddings, are good practice in setting boundaries with your families, figuring out what works for your family unit, and even creating new traditions. And all that practice paid off when we had kids. With our first kid, we were still willing to haul ourselves all over the great state of California, with a screaming baby and exhausted parents. But by the time we had two small kids, we decided that the performance was over. If you wanted to see us in December, you knew where to find us… at home.

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This year was our third holiday season with no travel and the freedom to create the traditions we wanted (and toss the ones that we didn’t want). And just like the last two, it was magical. We got tiny toy grab bags for the kids for Hanukkah. We had our first school holiday recital! The kids discovered the magic of The Nutcracker. We decorated our bonkers white and silver tree with the collection of ornaments that I inherited from my grandmother—each one more beautiful than the last. We had friends over on Christmas Eve, had a splendid amount of cocktails, and ordered Indian food. We gave the kids just a few presents on Christmas morning, had a holiday breakfast, and then went out to join the other Jews (and Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims) enjoying San Francisco all to ourselves. We had a Boxing Day Open House. December was packed, and lovely, and perfect.

All that said, there are still traditions I want to kick to the curb. Christmas Dinner, and all its related cooking? I’m over it. And all the planning and present buying that the holiday entails? I’m starting that in September next year, to try to save my sanity.

Our holidays were not perfect… because, well, are they ever? There was an emergency room trip on Christmas Night, for starters. But after nine years of figuring things out as a couple, they were generally a delight.

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But as always, I want to hear about your holidays. What worked? What didn’t? If you had to balance the holidays between two (or more) families, how did you make that work? What traditions are you loving so much you think everyone should do them? What traditions are you just so over? And what do you want to remember to do differently next year?


HOW WERE YOUR HOLIDAYS? GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY, WE’RE HERE TO CHAT ABOUT ALL OF IT.

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  • Ashlah

    This was our first holiday season with baby and it was a lot. It was really good, actually, and super nice to be with my husband for all of Christmas for once, but woof. Christmas Eve with his parents (six hours, too much, holy god). Christmas morning at home, then an hour away for #2 with his extended bonus family, a quick stop at his bonus parents for #3, then the hour back to town for #4 with my family, then back to our house for #5 with just my mom (because she is bonkers about buying presents, especially now that there’s a grandbaby).

    It was all really good, but it didn’t feel like we spent enough time with any one group. This was the same thing we did for Thanksgiving, and I’m not going to be okay with my family always coming last on holidays. Plus, it was a rare one-off for my family Christmas to be so late in the evening, so that usually wouldn’t work logistically anyways. So some kinks to work out for next year… Again, though, positive overall!

    • Amy March

      You had 5 stops on Christmas Day alone?!?!!!! I am so impressed you seem chill about it!

      • Ashlah

        I certainly had my non-chill moments trying to get from place to place in a timely fashion, and trying to work around a baby’s “schedule” to do so, but everywhere we ended up we had a good time. It’d almost be nice if one of these families sucked so it’d be easy to cut them out! (Wah wah, too many loving families, poor me).

    • Lisa

      Ooof, that does sound like a lot. I’m amazed at how positive you sound about the experience. I don’t know if I could have handled that much on my own!

    • sofar

      You are a holiday warrior.

      • Ashlah

        Haha, thanks! I think maybe the joy of being together for the holidays for the first time outweighed the ridiculousness of it? And like sleepwakehopeandthen discussed in their comment, we’re both pretty comfortable around each other’s families at this point, so that helped it not feel as overwhelming to this introvert. But it was still a lot, and not something I want to do every year!

    • Teresa

      It was our first with a baby this year too, also with much driving! It felt very overwhelming in the weeks leading up to it all (which was made worse by the stomach virus decimating my daughter’s daycare class), and the actual driving was kind of a pain, but when we were actually at our destinations, it was wonderful. I see the value in spending holidays in your own home, just your family, but I am really not sure I would be okay. I think I would feel incredibly sad and lonely knowing that our families were all together and we weren’t with either family. I think it helps that both my husband and I always have that entire week off, so after all the driving, we had a few days to not get out of our pj’s and just hang out all together.

      • Ashlah

        Yeah, the advice of “stay home, make them come to you!” never felt right for me. I have no interest in hosting, and big family get-togethers (at someone else’s home!) are how I celebrate, they’re how I feel Christmas. I, too, would feel sad and lonely spending the whole day at home. It’s also important to me to claim some just-us time on Christmas day, but to do that exclusively just wouldn’t work for me.

  • Amy March

    I took off for foreign shores with a friend late in the day on Christmas and came back on New Year’s Day- would definitely do that again. The travel was not bad, I got all the fun traditions and the big day with the family, and as far as I can tell work didn’t miss me at all. It was festive and lovely.

    • sofar

      That is so smart. Were the airports pretty empty on Christmas?

      • Amy March

        Definitely quieter than usual, but not deserted. My flight was completely full!

        • Mrrpaderp

          Yeah I had the same experience. The international terminal seemed empty until I got to the bar. My plane was full too. I wonder if our paths crossed!

      • GotMarried!

        I second @amymarch:disqus’s assessment. I flew to Tokyo on Thanksgiving day this past year and it was slow-ish but far from deserted.

        • We find Thanksgiving an IDEAL time to travel internationally. Really slow.

    • We plan to do this with the kids some year soon. We travel a lot over Thanksgiving week… PERFECT week to travel to Europe, where no holidays are going on, other than early Christmas celebrations. But we need to get out of dodge during Christmas one of these days.

      • Lisa

        I first got the idea to travel internationally for Thanksgiving from your post about going to London with your toddler years ago. It took a while, but we finally made it happen! It was a lot of fun and very chill.

        • AP

          We did Rocky Mountain National Park just the two of us during Thanksgiving week this year, and it was amazing! Thanksgiving morning hiking in the park, followed by catered take-out Thanksgiving lunch. I really couldn’t have asked for a better holiday.

  • emilyg25

    We typically do Christmas with my husband’s family, but this year, he decided that he didn’t want to deal with the driving and the craziness so we did nothing. NOTHING. Well actually, we had a lovely little Christmas, just the three of us. And it was amazing.

    On Christmas Eve, I made tamales, which I’ve always wanted to do. And cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. We relaxed and opened presents and played with the new toys. We took a nap. I made prime rib and Yorkshire pudding for dinner with chocolate peppermint cake for dessert. We had a roaring fire all day and the guys never changed out of their PJs. My son’s birthday is New Year’s Day and we also had no one over and went nowhere for that. Best.

    I highly recommend having a private holiday, at least once in your life. It’s almost sinfully luxurious.

    • penguin

      This sounds amazing, and I think my husband and I are due for a stay-at-home-by-ourselves holiday. Every year we go to both families within a week of each other and it’s just exhausting.

  • Zoya

    We’ve somehow maneuvered ourselves into a tradition of throwing three parties in the span of two weeks during the holidays. (Christmas Day, followed by New Year’s Eve, followed by my birthday the weekend after.) On the one hand, we love entertaining and it’s awesome to have so many friends who want to celebrate with us; on the other hand, I am DONE with party cooking and cleaning for the next little while.

    • Sarah E

      Start saving now for catering?

      • Zoya

        Oh, I love party cooking! Our friends are also awesome at potlucks, so we eat very well generally. It’s just a lot. :)

    • PAJane

      Yeeeeeah, we considered taking on PADude’s family’s Christmas this year, on account of the person who usually hosted passing away, but we just did Thanksgiving, and weren’t chomping at the bit to do it all over again, even a simplified version. Fortunately a more distant branch of the family stepped up and invited us to their usual lunch, so maybe that’s the route we go for a while. If I ever move to Canada, it will be because their holidays are more reasonably spaced.

  • Sarah E

    What worked: Hawaii for Thanksgiving, duh. Even though Thanksgiving is usually the easier to holiday to shuffle throughout the weekend, any measure of family time is major travel for us, and without a big meal, I just feel like womp, womp.

    Christmas was small. We had incredibly cold weather, so it felt nice to hibernate, but I like more activity, more people, more doing things. Definitely need to actually throw a holiday party. I take the opposite tack of Meg: all the cooking is what feels festive to me. I baked a ton leading up to the holiday, so we had plenty of snacks. I love cooking brunch Christmas day, and I like cooking dinner, too. Also, A+ to go to the Christmas concert by our local nationally-known choral group.

    The tough part is, as a non-religious pair, the stuff that feels like a holiday for my husband is spending time with family. . .who are all half a country away. The 20-road trip vs. probably-delayed flight is a lose-lose. Plus, I have a hard time balancing and setting boundaries with my divided family. To which end, staying in and having a tiny Christmas is much preferable to the obligation olympics.

    • ruth

      Can I just say that “the obligation Olympics” is the best phrase ever, and i relate to it so hard! Thank you – I may borrow this line with my family ;)

      • Sarah E

        And my family isn’t toxic, just very “what are you doing? where are you going? Can I come? Are you free for lunch? Okay, maybe later? Here, I got dessert” Which is a difficult switch from zero together time on a daily basis thanks to geography.

      • Cellistec

        Now I’m going to spend way too much time brainstorming events of the Obligation Olympics. The decathlon is definitely in there, and involves 10 events of the competitor’s choosing over the holiday season. I’m also thinking a relay race, because obviously, and a biathlon, mostly for the shooting.

        • Jess

          Cooking dinner while your MIL gives you pointers (that you do not need. You are extremely competent in the kitchen).

          The 40m dash to the cooler on the deck buried in snow to get beer for everyone and back with arms full.

          Narrowly avoiding questions about babies.

  • ruth

    The holidays were…really, really hard this year. My parents are currently in the process of getting divorced after almost 50 years of marriage. This was our first year in my lifetime of having Thanksgiving and then Christmas with only one of them present. We went through the motions of our holiday traditions, but it just didn’t feel right. I really like what Meg said about how when you get married you create your own “baby family.” I’m trying to focus on my husband and me and the traditions we’ll create for ourselves. It’s the only thing that feels remotely under my control as I watch the family that raised me self destruct. But I’m also realizing I can’t rush this process; our baby family’s holiday traditions will have to evolve organically, and they haven’t yet. I don’t know what that means for future holidays. But in light of having no other ‘home’ to go back to now, making the most of our own home feels more important than ever.

    • sofar

      That’s so hard. I think that would crush me. Having to split up the holidays AND watch my parents try to adjust without each other. Damn.

    • Sarah E

      Ugh, sending internet hugs to you. My parents split up after 20+ years of marriage when I was 19, and that was rough enough.

      A heads up: it’s going to be rough for years. Practice your boundary setting, you’ll need it. And loop your husband into what kind of support you need (mine was a godsend in helping me figure out and set boundaries, then helping me stick to them, and put a drink in my hand every evening)

    • Zoya

      Internet hugs, if you want them. I don’t have much in the way of advice, except to really focus on doing stuff you genuinely find fun during the holidays (as opposed to holiday-ish stuff that feels like it’s the right thing to do). We started a tradition of inviting friends over for homemade Chinese food on Christmas Day, not because either of us is especially attached to the Jews-eat-Chinese-food-on-Christmas stereotype, but because we thought it’d be fun to have something cozy and homey to do for anyone who doesn’t have somewhere to be on Christmas Day.

      • Yael

        Homemade Chinese food on Xmas is the best. And generally easier to make than any sort of roast beast.

    • PAJane

      That’s so hard. Your attitude in light of it is incredible.

      • ruth

        Thank you! That means a lot to me today

  • Lisa

    We travelled for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and while I loved being alone just the two of us, I will admit that I found myself wistful for the traditions of each day. We also met a lot of people over our Thanksgiving trip who travel away every holiday, and I’m not sure I’d want that, especially for my kids as they’re growing up.

    I think this was potentially our final year “alone” for the holidays, and if it wasn’t, then this next year will probably be. We’ll probably do one last Christmas with my ILs, but then I foresee us transitioning into something more local where we can spend time as a little family unit. It was nice to have the chance to balance out family holidays with something for us as a couple, given that we expect kids in our near future.

    • e.e.hersh

      I hear you – I was thinking about this too. We have a kiddo and this was our first Christmas totally on our own with no family travel (both of our families are in separate other states), and even though it was LOVELY to be truly by ourselves as a family, I also found myself just… missing some things. People, traditions, etc.

  • ruth

    Meg, I’m really intrigued to hear more about how Christmas works in your household as a convert to Judaism. I’ve been seriously considering converting, and honestly, the only thing that is stopping me from just doing it…is Christmas. I have all this guilt (which is totally my own damage and is not coming at all from my incredibly supportive atheist, culturally Jewish husband) that if I celebrate Christmas I will never be a real Jew. But if I don’t celebrate Christmas, or just mark the day with Chinese food and a movie, I feel this deep hole in my heart. As I watch my parents getting divorced after almost 50 years of marriage, watching my family home sold and my parents move away from any place I ever lived with them, the only thing I have left as a remembrance of the family that raised me (which feels like it no longer exists anymore) are my Christmas traditions. There’s nothing inherently Christian about any of them – but I also know I’m lying to myself if I say Christmas is a secular holiday. I keep trying to find some way to make peace between these two identities, and I haven’t been able to. I’m curious how others have handled it? Thank you again for sharing your own family’s experience with all of us!

    • penguin

      My husband (and his family) are Jewish, his mom converted when she got married. They still celebrate Christmas. They don’t do much for Hanukah, but they’ll do something for other Jewish holidays like Passover. It works for them, you just have to find what works for you and your family.

    • Yael

      Both A and I are Jewish but have family Xmas traditions (I converted, his father isn’t Jewish). We both like green stuff and lights at Xmas, so we bought bulbs and a live evergreen tree (which we’ll keep year round) and my mom bought us a winter wreath and we lit candles. When I first converted, I considered getting an ornament stand so I could show off the few ornaments I had, but realized that that wasn’t for me. The big thing for me – besides the lights and greenery – is food. This year, I introduced A to my family’s traditional Xmas breakfast recipes, we got champagne, and he made Chinese food. In the future we’re considering having a Yule log because that was a wonderful tradition from my college and we’re going to link it to Tu B’Shevat.

      It’s ok to mourn the family and life you used to have. You have to do it when your parents divorce (my parents are also divorced) and you’d have to do it if you converted – yes, converting should be wonderful and spiritually meaningful, but it’s still a change. Change is hard. It hurts. Maybe start by living as a Jew for a while, and if everything else fits for you, convert. And give yourself time to mourn your old life and adjust to your new one. And just because you’re Jewish doesn’t mean you can’t like things about Xmas.

    • Lily

      My fiance converted to judaism (I’m Jewish), but we attend Christmas at his parents’ house and his grandma’s every year. Because my family doesn’t do Christmas, it makes it easier so we don’t have to split time. We won’t go to church or anything religious, but we come to see the family since all of his out of town cousins come from California. We see it more as a family dinner than Christmas. His grandma/ parents buy us presents and we get them presents, but personally we would never put up a tree in our home.

      When we have kids, we intend to make it “grandma and grandpas holiday” rather than one celebrated in our home. Who knows what that will look like in reality, but we still get to make his parents happy by giving them their tradition, while not really seeing it as our own.

    • littleinfinity

      My fiance and I are both secular/ atheists now, but he is from a very conservative Christian background and I’m from sort of a “culturally Christian” background. One thing we talked about this past year is the fact that Christmas as it’s celebrated in the US is actually an amalgam of Yuletide/ winter solstice traditions, mostly from Northern/ Western Europe, and many of the traditions we like about Christmas actually have nothing to do with the Christian religion. For example, bringing foliage or plants inside (Xmas tree/ Yule log/ holly), feasting and drinking, and the lighting of candles and fires (or you know, Xmas lights) all have their origins in pre-Christian tradition. So I actually don’t think you’re lying to yourself too much in saying that you can celebrate Christmas in a secular way. You could rename it, though, if it makes you feel more “in compliance” with your new identity — just say you are celebrating Yuletide or the winter solstice! (Google/ Wikipedia for more on the history of these traditions… they really do go back a long way and are deeply embedded in many cultures.)

    • SS Express

      I’m not Jewish so I don’t know how helpful this is, but to me Christmas really is a secular holiday. My husband and I are atheists, my parents would maybe tick the “Christian” box on a form but have never once prayed or gone to church or mentioned the Bible or anything, my uncle-by-marriage and his side of the family are Muslim but they sometimes come along to Christmas too (if they don’t it’s because they’re having their own separate Christmas celebrations). For us it’s purely about friends and family, gifts, eating, drinking – a few years ago I saw someone complaining that Christmas was too commercialised and people were forgetting about Jesus and I literally didn’t understand. I was like “I guess some people get too caught up in gifts, but what does that have to do with Jesus? Christmas is just a time for family, it’s not a religious holiday…oh wait”. I was like 24.

      Of course I wouldn’t use this as a justification for pushing Christmas onto non-Christmas-celebrators – I know Christmas technically *is* a Christian holiday even if that’s not what it means to me – but I just mean to say that if atheists and Muslims can enjoy trees, lights, gifts, roast dinners and the Santa Claus myth, probably Jews can too? I mean most of those things aren’t specifically Christian anyway, they’re just cool fun parts of our cultural heritage that got attached to Christmas as part of a marketing campaign.

  • penguin

    Our holidays actually went pretty well, although I think I’d like to have a holiday where we stay at home for a week. We had a Christmas party with our friends on a Saturday (we didn’t host), then Christmas with my husband’s parents the next day. Had a week of work, then left to go see my family Friday night and stayed up there for a week. It wasn’t too bad overall, but I wish we’d left my family earlier. We always stay for about a week because that’s how much time we get off from work, and we do enjoy ourselves and I think they expect us to come stay, but it’s a lot. We don’t even end up spending that much time with them the last couple days.

    Anyone have recommendations on how to cut down on presents from/to family? My husband’s parents get us a LOT of stuff, so they expect us to get them a lot, and it’s just overwhelming and a pain in the ass. My husband wants to cut back too, but considering that they can make anything into A Thing it may not be worth it.

    • Amy March

      Can you just scale back gradually? Like if they spend $300 per person, next year you spend $200 and make one gift an experience.

      • penguin

        This sounds like a good strategy for us, thanks! I don’t know how much they spend, but I know how much we spend.

      • Jenny

        Yes, I think with large long standing traditions you either need the support of a few family members to withdraw, or you have to slowly start paring back so that people kind of don’t notice.

      • AP

        This is what my dad’s family has done- every year the giving gets a little smaller and we all follow suit. We’ve gone from individual gifts over the years to one nicer gift per couple or family, and it has worked nicely.

    • Zoya

      My in-laws are more low-key than yours are (it sounds like), but they’re also VERY gift-y. My solution has been to ask for mostly consumable/edible/food-related gifts, and to reciprocate by bringing homemade food. I also leave any and all gift-purchasing up to my husband–it’s his family, his circus, his monkeys.

    • PAJane

      I give to very few people at Christmas, and they get small, thoughtful things. For most, I had a conversation in advance about how I’d rather grab a drink or go for brunch than exchange stuff, because I love them and want to express that, but the gift exchange stresses me out and makes me not like the holiday. And then everybody else, I consistently give small things, and eventually they follow suit.

    • Lisa

      Would you be able to scale back the family trip in the future or break it up with a smaller trip by yourselves in the middle of the week? We spent 10 days with my husband’s family two years ago, and it was way too much togetherness. If/when we go back for an extended period, I think it might help to break up the trip a little with a side-trip to do Thing alone.

      As for the gifts, that’s tough. Your husband should definitely be in charge of whatever gift strategy you two decide. I’d be tempted to go the direct route and tell them that you already have so many beautiful things (courtesy of them!) and would prefer to focus the holidays on spending time together and getting fewer/smaller presents for one another. Maybe a Secret Santa would be something they might be amenable to?

      We tend to buy one gift each for our immediate family members that is within a price range we set and let the parents decide how they want to handle their own holidays. If anyone has problems with this, they are blessedly keeping it to themselves.

      • penguin

        We actually tried a Secret Santa with them a couple years ago, and it was a mess, partly because they did Secret Santa gifts in addition to all the other gifts (not instead of). Also it included some friends-of-the-family who are basically extended relatives, but no one that we know well enough to get gifts for. So everyone ended up bugging my MIL for gift ideas and it drove her crazy apparently, and we haven’t done it since.

        What we do in my family (because it’s so many people) is that you do whatever you want with immediate family, but for all extended family you just make (or buy) small homemade things and everybody gets one of the same item. So we did homemade canned applesauce, and everyone got a quart of that. I like it because it’s still something, but it’s not a ton of stuff and money. Maybe we can combine this with Amy’s suggestion and just start slowly cutting back and bring them homemade stuff instead.

        • Lisa

          That sounds rough. My husband’s family does a Secret Santa that everyone complains about each year and threatens to leave, but we’re the first people who have actually opted out. (Besides his grandmother, who left many years ago because she gives presents to all children and grandchildren anyway.)

          I think your tapered cutback approach and supplanting some of the gifts with things that could be considered more time-intensive (comestibles, small crafts, etc) might be a good way to go.

          • NolaJael

            Ugh, I opted out of my family’s gift exchange for the first time this year (after bitching for many years) and they picked “booze” as theme!! (Instead of the previous terrible themes like used DVDs.) I just reminded myself that in the long run I’ll be happy to be out of the exchange, even if this was the one year it might have been fun. /sigh

          • Lisa

            That’s so lame!! We opted out after my husband got stiffed in last year’s exchange by his uncle. This wasn’t the first time this uncle has done this, and his wife is similarly inattentive to the gifts she picks. Instead of kicking them out of the exchange, everyone complains about how they frequently short the grandkids. We decided not to chance it another year and bowed out.

            It seems like these gift exchanges are such a mixed bag, especially as families grow and evolve. I’d rather keep my gift giving a bit closer to home and enjoy the time I get to spend with the extended families instead of fretting over the exchanges.

    • emilyg25

      I think I’d start with the direct route and say you’re overwhelmed and just want to get one or two things/spend time together/whatever. Or just decide what you’re comfortable giving them, give it, and DGAF about what they expect.

      • AP

        “Or just decide what you’re comfortable giving them, give it, and DGAF about what they expect.”

        This is where I’ve landed- it’s not really up to me what others give me, but I do get to control how much/what I give others. We give what we can afford and what works for us, regardless of what others get us. Every year my husband’s sister gives everyone individual gifts, even though every year we explicitly set the gift parameters before the holidays as either secret santa or yankee swap. No one else gives individual gifts except to the kids. I think it hurts her feelings that no one gives her an individual gift, but that’s really her problem.

    • Anya

      we started getting smaller presents as a “something to unwrap” but not any big thing? We also are fans of experience gifts where it could be a gift certificate for part of a meal, or a “get dessert at this restaurant” card. does that help?

    • Jenny

      I feel like I’ve been largely successful with the cutting down on presents thing, and it’s been really helpful. These have been my keys for success, which may or may not work exactly for you family, but I’ll try to include the WHY of them working, so maybe you can adapt.
      1. Set expectations early/ consider ways of weaning- like maybe the Christmas before if it’s long standing. In my mom’s extended family, my uncle announced that this would be his last year giving everyone presents, that everyone in the family could buy what they wanted and it wasn’t necessary. This was countered and for 2 years a gift exchange was run with names of people who wanted to participate going in in Thanksgiving. Slowly people just opted out. I think this worked because my uncle had more or less been saying this for years, and I think slowly my mom and I signaled that we would back him up. The gift exchange was a nice way of sort of weaning off the giant exchange.
      2. Clarify, offer an alternative activity. For a while it felt like I wasn’t sure of who was getting gifts for who, for a while my cousins would occasionally give a gift (leaving me being like, what, since when do we exchange presents??), same with some friends. So after 2-5 years of playing Christmas present Chicken I emailed them and I was like, hey all, I know we occasionally exchange presents, but this year because of grad school my budget is tight and I won’t be able to. I’m really looking forward to seeing you all, while I’m in town would anyone want to grab a cousins drink at ____/ wanna get manicures in the new year/ go on a run when I’m in town. I think this worked because it wasn’t long standing and was on a off, and offering another activity helped it feel like we were still celebrating our relationship.
      3. Use parents/other family to communicate with extended family. I feel like parents can drop the, “J and K are feeling really cramped in their new apartment, I bet they’d be fine not exchanging gifts this year, would you like me to ask them?” and it softens the blow/makes it seem like it wasn’t your idea.

    • Kara

      From my experience, Moms/MILs love things that bring the family together.

      Best gift I’ve given them to date — family portrait (well after weddings).

      I find a photographer, I pay said photographer, I figure out everyone’s schedules and how to get everyone to meet. Then, Mom/MIL is so happy because 1.) everyone is together and 2.) there’s photos forever.

      • Cellistec

        Such a good idea.

      • PAJane

        This is a fantastic idea.

  • PAJane

    Could. Not. Get into it this year.My Future MIL died in May. My Future SIL died 5 weeks later. My grandmother died, after a loooooong couple weeks in decline, in early December. I bought Christmas cards. They’re still in the box. The night my grandmother died, my mom and I went out running errands to feel normal and impulse bought a little live tree from the grocery store. I kept meaning to decorate the poor thing, and ended up only hanging the handful of ornaments people gave me as gifts this year. I invited over a friend for dinner Christmas Eve (because I think it’s nice to have a friend thing to do on a night that we otherwise would probably doing nothing special) but she had a family thing to deal with, so we ordered Chinese delivery and watched Gremlins (which is kiiiiiind of a Christmas movie). We visited my folks over NYE to do belated family Christmas, which was great because then two holidays became one. We did a secret santa sock exchange in lieu of normal gifts, which was simple and fun and tolerable. Anything more than that would have involved making decisions, and I just…didn’t care about anything enough to make them.Now that the holidays are over, I’m finally mentally thawing, a little bit. Still not on a regular schedule, because the weather keeps messing things up, but I’m excited to cook and craft and visit with people now, which is a nice change.

    • Zoya

      That’s a lot of grief for one year. Kudos for figuring out how much tradition you’re up for, and not doing more than that!

      • PAJane

        Srsly. Everybody stop kicking buckets for a while, they’re getting dented.

        • Zoya

          SRSLY.

    • sofar

      God I’m so sorry. Having also gone through a grief-fest during the holidays, the thing that struck me at the time is how jarring it was to go into a store, see all the Christmas decorations, hear the loud Christmas music and be like, “Wait … it’s Christmas? Um…OK.”

      I remember you writing about your future MIL. Didn’t know you got hit twice again this year. How awful.

      • PAJane

        That happened a lot at Halloween. FSIL was suuuuuper into the holiday, so it was really jarring to see reminders of her everywhere for a while. “Oh, she would like this— oh. Yeah.”

    • Jessica

      I’m sorry, that sounds really hard. I’m glad you got some holiday cheer on NYE, but grief is weird. All the best in 2018

      • PAJane

        It’s super weird, right? Like I think I’ve been operating with a low-level depression for a while and just…didn’t realize it? Until it lifted a bit? 2017 was a dick, here’s to a better time in 2018.

        • Jessica

          That makes sense–you don’t know how bad you felt until you feel a little bit better. For me, time moves strangely–like this year, July lasted forever, but September went by in a blur and I have no idea why.

        • Gaby

          We had a lot of deaths within our friend group’s families between February and July and I feel the same way. I was doing a reflection on your year type of work book and I honestly couldn’t remember anything we’d done during the year until around September. 2017 was just a survival year for me. Here’s to a better 2018 indeed!

          • PAJane

            I hear ya. A friend posted online at New Years about hey, what was your best thing about 2017, and I really drew a blank. All the big things that stood out were crappy. The good stuff was all solid, reliable, been there/still there good stuff, for which I’m doubly thankful.

    • Lisa

      That is such a rough year, and I can totally understand why you might not be in the mood to celebrate. I’m glad you were able to take care of yourself and not worry too much about what you should do. The great thing about the holidays is that there’s always a next year to try again and find what feels right for that time. Those Christmas cards will be there later this year if you still want to send them!

    • Anne

      Just wanted to say that we also have a box of unsent Christmas cards and really no good reason for not sending them – it happens.

    • GotMarried!

      I delivered a Christmas card to a friend literally yesterday.

    • Anya

      This sounds like a really tough end of the year, and I’m so sorry to hear that.

    • rg223

      Late to this, but I’m sorry for your losses this year. I think it’s funny you watched Gremlins, because I find that watching weird, scary, or melancholy “Christmas” movies helps when you’re not in a holiday mood and it feels like everyone is celebrating around you. My go-to for that is A Very Murray Christmas. Anyway, cheers for a better 2018!

  • Laura C

    Our plans were up in the air and changed so many times — we were always going to stay at home, but for a while it looked like my MIL would get back from India right before Christmas, so she’d host the dinner but we’d have been responsible for planning; her brother’s family (but not her brother) was slated to be there and then they canceled because my husband’s cousin decided he had to go to India for Christmas to see his grandfather one last time; then my MIL also didn’t come. So it was us and my parents and my BIL and it was fairly relaxed. Went to my husband’s other cousin’s house for Christmas Eve, had an old family friend for dinner on Christmas Eve Eve and then saw the friend who officiated our wedding and her fiance. It was all good, just none of the things we’d expected.

    Learned some lessons about getting too many presents for toddlers — he was just kind of overwhelmed. We were trying to be disciplined and failed but I think (hope) that this year’s experience will lead to more discipline next year, since it really seemed like having too much stuff made it less fun for him.

    • Laura C

      Also, holy hell, are comments acting funny for other people? Things keep jumping around while I’m typing.

      • NolaJael

        Yes, definitely glitchy.

    • Mary Jo TC

      Our toddler did ok with presents, I guess, and I think the main thing was just that we didn’t rush him. Once he opened a toy, he wanted to play with it immediately, instead of putting it aside to unwrap the next thing. Like, he screamed if we tried to take a new toy away. So we let him play. I know that’s easier said than done when there are a lot of people watching and waiting for their gift to be unwrapped. It prolonged the joy of Christmas, really, so that made us happy.

      But the other problem with kids and holidays is changes in routines. And that gets compounded with travel and late events and skipped naps and sleeping in new places and time zones. And it makes kids grumpy. It makes re-establishing normal routines another chore when you get back.

      • Laura C

        We ended up prolonging it over days! I think we might have rushed him a little at first because everyone in India was watching via Facetime, but after the first few we gave him a long break. Also, he got a rocking elephant and seemed excited to pet it and just look at it at first, but then his uncle sort of unceremoniously put him on it and let got of him before he felt secure, so that didn’t help.

      • Trinity

        Oh my, yes! My daughter was so exhausted after two days of family and disrupted naps.

  • Anne

    Our first married holidays were something. We did a small romantic/adventurous Thanksgiving trip by ourselves and that was A+. We flew to our hometown for about 10 days and that was fine. Even though we’ve been together for a while, this was the first time we didn’t split up for the holiday at all, so we did a bit of everything: Christmas Eve with his family, Christmas Day with my family in the morning and my extended family in the afternoon, then short trips with both his extended family and the other branch of mine during the week after Christmas. It was tiring (and cold!), but especially his extended family is reaching the point where it’s unclear how long they’ll be able to all gather (increasingly dispersed, grandparents’ health is failing), so it felt very worthwhile.

    I surprised my agnostic/usually-disliking-elaborate-ritual self by feeling a little sad about missing church with my family on Christmas Eve. We might switch next year and do Christmas Eve with my family and Christmas day with his, I don’t know, but we did make it clear that in our first years of marriage we don’t want to set any holiday practices in stone just yet. His mom suggested as we were leaving that maybe next year we should spend part of the holiday with both of our families, but I have a hard time envisioning my family getting behind that.

    My biggest regret is not returning home until New Year’s Day. I hate spending NYE in our hometown because it’s such a friend group holiday – it feels weird to be there and we never know which party of the multiple we were sort-of belatedly/haphazardly invited to we should attend. We’ve hosted a party in the city where we live on NYE a few times and that’s always been wonderful, but this year the flight timing was too constrained and expensive to be able to do that with our extended family plans.

  • We went to California for my family Christmas and then came back to the Midwest just in time for cold (and also my husband’s family Christmas. Once again, my husband’s work overscheduled (but also tax reform made extra work) so he had to work from home the first week we were in California, so it was a nice relaxing time at my parents’ house (work 9-5 ish–or just read, then hang out, get dinner, etc). Actual Christmas celebrations are pretty busy–Christmas Eve dinner with my dad’s dad and one brother, Christmas day (and overnight) at my mom’s family with 30ish people (pretty small gathering this year–only 1st cousins) plus day-after Christmas hike. When we got back to the Midwest, we had my husband’s family celebrations–mom’s family on the 30th (SO COLD) and dad’s family on New Years Eve (even colder, also last minute planned so we couldn’t stay overnight like everyone else because of dog). Also, note no one is divorced, but both of our parents just have local families so they have always managed to work things out to go to both sides of the family. Oh, and also when we were in California I went to my best friend from high school’s 2 day before Christmas ravioli making party, which was also a lot of fun and family (just not mine). So 5 large family events :)

    But it was really fun. I think the nicest thing this year is that we have really reached the point after 3 holidays together (more Thanksgivings since we do his family for that because of travel) that we both get along well with each other’s family and fit in. So now the person whose family it is can enjoy hanging out with their family without having to watch the other person and the new person gets along well enough with the family to also hang out–or to go take a break and read or whatever they feel like doing at the moment. I’m also pretty much one of the most introverted of introverts but now that these are all my people, it works.

    • Anne

      We’re just reaching that point of inter-family comfort as well! It’s a good feeling.

    • Oh, and also I learned that my husband’s family gets me extra gifts because they like how excited I am when I open presents, so that was fun because I really do love opening presents (even if I’m not super concerned about what they are–I just really love wrapping paper).

      • Ashlah

        This is so wholesome and sweet, I love it. I, on the other hand, am so awkward about opening presents, even when it’s something I’m super stoked about.

        • Lisa

          Everyone groans when it’s my turn to open gifts because, like all things in my life, I must do it methodically in such a way that does not make a mess. Yes, I know this is the exact opposite of how the rest of the world opens gifts, but I just can’t make myself do it!

          • Laura C

            I have a pretty strict rule that if the gift is big enough to re-use the paper next year you better open it carefully, so methodical is a good description for us.

          • Lisa

            I am definitely a paper-saver/re-user; I bought a roll of Christmas paper to wrap my husband’s large present in 2011, and I still have large pieces of it! My family reuses bows and boxes every year but not the paper. Even if I know it’s going in the recycling, I can’t bring myself to tear anything purposefully.

          • PAJane

            My grandfather always carried a pocket knife with him. He would unwrap his presents by whipping out his knife and neatly cutting the tape. The paper could then be neatly folded and reused. Thanks for reminding me of that. :)

          • Eenie

            I have started not wrapping gifts for people and just using the shipping box to hide the item for the surprise factor. My SIL wrapped my gifts for her kids from me this year for me. I just can’t justify ordering a gift to my house, wrapping it, paying $10+ to ship it, and then have the wrapping paper be throw back away.

          • Lisa

            Yup, we tried to buy everyone’s presents on Amazon Prime so we could ship them to my ILs house for free. If they really want them wrapped, then my SIL or MIL does it.

          • I have some green 70s-era geometric print (green on green) fabric that I have used (and re-used) as wrapping paper. I have also made fabric bags that serve as wrapping for the gift but also as part of the gift since they are re-useable. (They work well as shoe bags when you carry your “indoor shoes” in a bag because you have an event at someone’s home and you are wearing boots because there is snow and ice everywhere.) And I totally reuse ribbon, bows, gift bags, tissue paper, and larger bits of non-damaged paper, if it doesn’t look used.

          • Kara

            I hate the sound of paper tearing/ripping (like legitimately cringe) so….I try to open gifts only along the tape. When people tell me to “rip” into a gift, I give them a dear in headlights look.

          • Lisa

            It seriously gives me such anxiety to intentionally destroy things. My family knows me well enough now that they get a withering stare if they say anything. My husband’s family still hasn’t learned apparently!

          • Kara

            Gift bags for the win? :)

          • Jessica

            I only do gift bags. I helped boyfriend wrap some presents, and used grocery bags and painters tape because I refuse to buy special paper just for it to be destroyed (and I only had painters tape in my apartment). He then colored on the paper with crayon to make it look like a child had wrapped the presents, and not his 30-something self.

          • Kara

            Genius! I had a full on sobbing fit a few years ago, when I had to wrap all the gifts for Xmas (something I also despise because, sometimes the paper will tear). I told my husband, since he was at work on Xmas eve while I had to wrap everything, that that shit was never happening again. I cannot stand wrapping either.

          • SS Express

            Haha I’m a slow and careful unwrapper too! It’s not because I want to reuse the paper (I still throw it out after) but I just…hate wrecking stuff I guess? Even when I was a very small child I always did it this way. Christmas morning used to be very tedious for my parents.

          • Mjh

            My husband is a methodical opener and I’m a waste reducer so when we gift one another things, we wrap them in pretty fabrics we already have at home (shawls, headwraps etc). Win/win.

            My SIL is practical and frugal, and she often wraps family presents in the artwork my almost 6 year old nephew creates. I think that’s such a good idea, especially since kids churn that stuff out at an insane rate.

      • Zoya

        That is adorable!!

      • Lisa

        This is adorable! What a sweet story.

      • SS Express

        That is so sweet!

  • sofar

    My husband and I celebrate separately with our families. He catches a plane to his, I catch a plane to mine and then husband and I celebrate New Year’s Eve as “our” big holiday. I love it, and we’ve never actually spent a Christmas together, so we don’t miss each other more than usual. We would, however, miss celebrating with our families.

    His family and my family both bitch about this arrangement CONSTANTLY. Friends tell us we are weird. We say, “We do what works.” And we don’t have kids, which gives us the luxury of doing it this way.

    • Rose

      We did that for years of living together, and our first year married. Eventually we decided we wanted a change, but honestly, it made us happy when we were doing it! Good for you two for finding something that works (and a holiday to celebrate together, that’s part of what we were missing before).

    • ssha

      I might honestly be okay with This arrangement. Spending a holiday with my in laws meant I missed my fsmily more than I ever missed my husband when we weren’t together.

      • sofar

        Yep! That’s exactly how I would have felt, too. And we both see our extended families so rarely and see each other every day, so…

    • e.e.hersh

      We used to do this too! Everyone also thought we were weird, but it was kind of the best because we could both do the family traditions we loved with our own people and then celebrate with each other when we got back. I will say that this method does not work for us these days after having a kid, which is a bummer. But I still feel like the fact that we were ABLE to do this (enjoy holidays separately and also together in a flexible way) once bodes well for family/time negotiations in the future.

    • Transnonymous

      This is a great thing to keep in mind and I’m probably going to steal it in the future.

    • Zoya

      This was how we handled Thanksgiving for the first five or six years of our relationship. It worked really wel!. (As it turns out, his family stopped doing big Thanksgiving celebrations, so now my in-laws come to my parents’ house–the perks of everyone living locally.)

    • rg223

      Late to this, but sorry about the bitching – don’t they (both set of parents) get that if you spend the holidays together, they’re not going to see their kid every year? Then they’d bitch about that, I’d bet!

      • sofar

        You’re right. They would. We bring this up every time. I think both sides secretly hope that we’ll choose their side the first year and both find it to be so fun that we’ll decide, “Ya know, we should just do Christmas here every year and celebrate Memorial Day or something with the other side.”

        • rg223

          Exactly! Good for you guys for sticking to your plans!

  • K. is skittish about disqus

    My holidays weren’t so much holidays as tedious training of my in-laws–and my MIL in particular–regarding what appropriate grandparent roles look like to us. I also did heavy lifting regarding my own balance of how to respect my MIL’s culture (collectivist, matriarchal re: domestic realms) while still asserting my own values and true north as a mother. It was utterly exhausting and resulted in more tears from me than my 6-month-old. Saying it was utterly exhausting is an understatement, actually.

    It was a great crash course in picking battles though and learning how to deal with different communication styles. For example, during the first few days, my MIL would clap her hands in my face while I was holding my baby, and say, “Give her to me. I am taking her to the park.” And I nearly lost my shit, privately telling my husband how uncool I was with it. After lots of long, long talks, I eventually realized that the way to deal with it without an explosion (our mutually agreed upon goal) was to treat her declarative statements like questions and then redirect to a joint activity. So in this example (and many to follow), I would say, “No, thank you. We’re actually about to have story time/tummy time/etc. Would you like to read her one of the books/grab one of her toys/etc?”

    I also learned what wasn’t worth even mentioning. MIL insisting (and insisting and insisting…) that, say, baby is teething even though pediatrician explicitly told us she’s likely to be a late teether? And when she says that grandmas know better than “silly doctors?” Let it go. Just say, “Oh definitely could be!”

    All my MIL wanted was to feel like she had some knowledge and (perhaps problematic as it sounds) some ownership over her granddaughter’s world. They live states away and hadn’t seen her in 5.5 months when we visited (the surprise drop-in she planned never happened, thank god); there was pain and desperation behind her boundary-stomping and weird tics. If I viewed it with compassion, it really came down to a deep longing to be an important person to my daughter, and so I focused on finding ways to cultivate that relationship without being a doormat.

    Speaking of, I also found my voice where needed. Safety issues, walking out the door with my daughter without a word, and jokes/jabs about breastfeeding were ABSOLUTE NO GOs for me and my husband, and we stuck to that firmly and without apology. It definitely created tension more than once between my MIL and me, but I had determined my boundaries and where I was unwilling to “go along to get along” even if it upset her. Sometimes being a parent means you have to upset others in service of your child’s best interest.

    And finally, this holiday solidified even more the partnership between my husband and me. I talk mostly about my own dynamic with my MIL, but he was entirely the MVP for mediating in the background. He had more than one really hard conversation with his mom, defending us and his family and insisting on the respect we all deserve. And you know what? She listened, at least as well as she could. There was no explosion and there was even some grudging acceptance of what we were saying (more than I expected tbh). And at the very least, she knows that we are an iron-tight unit and she respects that (she told me) even if she doesn’t always agree with our decisions (she told my husband). Overall, I came out the other side feeling so grateful that my husband always has my back and my daughter’s back.

    And bonus? I didn’t have to see the Resident Trump Supporter because he came over when my daughter was napping on me! A true Christmas miracle.

    • Jessica

      “…but I had determined my boundaries and where I was unwilling to “go along to get along” even if it upset her. Sometimes being a parent means you have to upset others in service of your child’s best interest.”

      This is so hard, and I’m glad you stuck to your proverbial guns! And a big thumbs up that your husband backed you up, because it’s very easy to fall into the roles your family raised you for.

    • sofar

      You handled this SUPER well. I, too, have learned that boundary-enforcing becomes way easier when you choose your battles and have some quick go-to responses. It sucks you have to do that and always be on point (instead of having your boundaries respected from the outset), but not all grandparents are reasonable.

    • Lisa

      It sounds like you handled all of this really well and with a lot of compassion, given the circumstances. I’m super impressed by you and your husband!

    • Anya

      “…but I had determined my boundaries and where I was unwilling to “go along to get along” even if it upset her. Sometimes being a parent means you have to upset others in service of your child’s best interest.”

      Please share any tips! Good on you for doing this, because I haven’t yet figured out how to on my own and it’s driving me crazy.

      • K. is skittish about disqus

        Honestly, I think determining what I was willing to let go helped the most. Even if my MIL didn’t know I was letting stuff go, I could rationalize to myself that, no, I’m being reasonable and fair and not just trying to grab “power” or “control” for the sake of it. I try my best to have empathy, but to the point that I often second-guess my own actions because I want to make sure I’m being fair to everyone. So doing the work to figure out what really mattered to me and why, and articulating it to my husband, made a big difference.

        But even then, it’s still really hard. I’m cool as a cucumber about safety issues because I’m confident and stalwart in my knowledge, but breastfeeding is extremely personal and important to me so when my MIL would make little comments about how my at-the-time still exclusive breastfed baby “just really wants an omelet, mean mommy” and that she was going to “feed [daughter] behind [my] back,” it was all I could do not to start screaming right there. My husband eventually had to step in and have a big, long talk/fight with her about it when I went upstairs to nurse.

        It’s hard. And my work isn’t over. As my daughter gets older, this issues will get more and more complicated and subjective.

        • AP

          Ughhhh I watched my MIL feed my 1 year old nephew cake a few months ago while saying, “I don’t think his mom wants him to have this, but I’m giving it to him anyway” and I was floored. My husband and I had a long talk about it later and what our boundaries around that kind of stuff will be. Sigh. And challenging-MIL-solidarity.

          • Lisa

            The audacity of some people to force their own choices on other people’s children amazes me.

          • Ashlah

            I do. not. get. this. I am so afraid of doing anything to/for/with someone else’s child that they haven’t expressly instructed. At my baby shower, my mom helped my cousin’s toddler into a kiddie pool, and when I told her that my cousin had told her not to get wet anymore, she actually went “pfft, whatever.” I was flabbergasted. She hasn’t actually pushed any boundaries with our baby yet, but I’m pretty wary.

          • Eh

            My inlaws give my daughter candy and say tell her that I don’t want her to have it and not to tell me. I couldn’t be bothered that they give her the candy other it’s the fact that they are telling her that I don’t want her to eat it (e.g., that I am the bad guy and it’s a secret). They believe that both giving her the sweets and making the parents the bad guy is their right as a grandparent since their parents did it to them.

            Over the holidays, my MIL was in the kitchen (I was in the living room) and she gave my daughter something to eat that she’s allergic to. (The reaction isn’t life threatening but we don’t let her eat things she’s allergic to.) We had a conversation about her allergies a few days earlier (and numerous times in the last few months) so my MIL knew about the allergy. I heard my MIL tell my daughter to sit down while she was eating something and I asked my MIL what she was eating. My MIL told me and I said that she’s allergic to that and can’t eat it. My MIL took the food from my daughter and said “mommy says you can’t have it.” UGH!

        • Anya

          I commend you for not screaming, because my response to those comments would have been “get out of my house.” I’m sorry you had to deal with it.

        • AGCourtney

          Disqus won’t let me comment under the original, but I just wanted to say that I applaud you. I would have completely lost my shit. (I still vividly remember the moment my MIL said “See, she’s not hungry!” as my 4-day-old baby frantically made hunger cues.) Solidarity from the other side of babyhood – my daughter is 6 now, and in some ways, it’s easier – the issues feel less fraught – but in some ways, it is more difficult and delicate.

        • Eh

          Your post gave me flash backs of dealing with my MIL when my daughter was an infant. STAY STRONG! I was told by both my MIL and her mother that when they were around that I wasn’t allowed to hold my daughter because I got to hold her all the time. I made it clear that if my daughter was hungry or upset (and they couldn’t comfort her in a reasonable period of time) that she was to come back to me. One time my MIL was holding my daughter and was standing near me and I noticed that my daughter was hungry (sucking hand and rooting). I mentioned this and she walked clear across the room. She brought my daughter back a few minutes later when she was crying and my MIL had tried everything to calm her down. Another time I noticed my daughter did not look well so I went to get her from my MIL. My MIL said that my daughter was fine and handed her to my SIL. My SIL checked my daughter and agreed that she wasn’t well and gave her to me. The poor baby was overheating so I changed her into something lighter and gave her back to my SIL.

  • Mary Jo TC

    My Christmas was wonderful. I think this is going to be one of the holidays I look back on when I’m old and remember. My kids are 4 and 1 1/2 and they are such a great, fun, sweet age. They were so thrilled and grateful and joyful about every single present. I intentionally got what to me is kind of few presents from us/Santa knowing that they would get a lot from grandparents and aunts/uncles. (At some point there will be a reckoning where we decide among my siblings to stop buying each others’ children presents, but I will probably be one of the ones pushing to keep that going because I see my niece and nephews so rarely.) We spent 5 days at my mom’s house, where she decorates a 20 foot tree and hosts a Christmas eve party. We got to see everyone we wanted to see, and went to mass on Christmas morning, as is my preference. I was a little impatient in the afternoon when my introvert husband wanted a break but I didn’t want to miss a party, but luckily my son’s naptime made us slow down. We also visited the Newport Aquarium on the 26th, which my kids loved so much. My toddler is at this adorable age where he just runs around pointing things out, and he wants you to repeat what he sees and validate him.

    I think one way I could improve holidays in the future is to be more intentional about what I want to get out of larger social gatherings, to think about specific people I want to talk to and connect with and possible topics ahead of time, so that I don’t end up feeling empty after these events are over and I feel like I haven’t made any connection with anybody. Also intentional about pictures I want to take. Like one posed pic per night, if I’m lucky. I got dressed to the 9s in a hot sequined dress for Christmas eve, got no pictures in it, then felt dumb trying to recreate the pictures with my family 2 days later.

    • PAJane

      Kids pump some of the magic back into Christmas, don’t they? I don’t have any, but it’s one of the times I’m so glad that people around me do.

    • Ashlah

      I want to be better about getting family pics too! Usually I’m all about candids, but a family photo that isn’t a selfie a few times a year would be nice.

    • Eenie

      My family has a cousins photo tradition. There’s only five of us, so we used to fit on a couch together, but we have them for the past 25 years or so with the later ones being us squished on a couch comically until we started just standing up for them.

  • Jessica

    Divorced Christmas was the best. I did kind of miss my in-laws, but my brother and SIL flew into the city on Christmas day to surprise my parents, and I got to spend a lot of time with them (and surprising the parents was awesome!) which took away any sense of anger or loss I may have felt otherwise. My parents took the now-boyfriend and me out to brunch on Christmas Eve morning, and we chose a very beautiful church to go to Christmas Eve service.

    I co-hosted an end-of-year brunch on New Year’s Eve Eve, and was able to thank a lot of friends for being there for me this year while toasting with mimosas, and then got to go to bed at 12:05am on New Year’s Eve itself (which was great!)

    • EF

      i did new years eve eve this year and early bed on NYE. it was the BEST decision!

    • Castillo Castillo

      Divorced Christmas was the best. I did kind of miss my in-laws, but my
      brother and SIL flew into the city on Christmas day to surprise my
      parents, and I got to spend a lot of time with them (and surprising the
      parents was awesome!) which took away any sense of anger or loss I may
      have felt otherwise. My parents took the now-boyfriend and me out to
      brunch on Christmas Eve morning, and we chose a very beautiful church to
      go to Christmas Eve service.

    • I’m so glad your Christmas and New Year’s went well!

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  • Anna

    We went to my in-laws for Christmas, which was lovely – they have this gorgeous house with tons of cozy couches and reading nooks, plus two electric fireplaces so we just had a fire going, like, all the time – with the possible exception of the interval during which Husband’s paternal grandparents were there. His grandmother is the most passive-aggressive person I have ever met. She finds fault with literally everything my mother-in-law does, but always phrases her incredibly rude comments in a sufficiently plausibly-deniable way that she can get all offended herself about how she “didn’t mean it that way” if you take issue. Mostly this just made me very glad to have as good a relationship with my in-laws as I do :-P

    Then we went home and had a NYE party with some friends, which was a lot of fun. It did unfortunately mean missing my family’s crazy awesome NYE dinner, but it was nice to not have the night end at 8 PM for a change :-P We had two bottles of really nice champagne that someone gave us as a wedding gift, plus a few more bottles of less nice champagne, and I decided rather than making arbitrary cocktails and therefore spending all night behind the bar that I would put out sugar cubes and a wide selection of bitters and show people how to make champagne cocktails, which worked really well.

  • CMT

    My parents came over on Christmas Eve to hang out and on Christmas for dinner. It was really nice. They’re older and I think we’re all getting to a point where we accept that and we’re less annoyed with each other at the aging. We watched 9 to 5 after Christmas dinner and my parents, who have definitely seen that movie multiple times, were just cracking up. It was hilarious.

  • Jenny

    The holidays went ok this year. Only one fight about how my husband hates Christmas, and how him saying that make me feel terrible because I love it. I don’t think this will ever get better. We finished our move (half of the stuff moved to Philly with me in Aug, and half moved Dec 22 and arrived Dec 26th). My mom came, and it was my fav kind of Christmas, low key, no where to go. We did establish some new traditions. St. Nicks day (new jammies, and an ornament for the tree). “rules” for buying gifts for our son 1 big santa gift, then from parents, something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. Between all the extended family members, we felt really overwhelmed with presents for him, so we may amend it in future years, or we may just roll with it and be really ruthless in doing a Thanksgiving weekend purge (I think a lot of the overwhelm had to do with lots of unpacked boxes from the move and the sense of foreboding of all the unpacking yet to do.

    What I loved: Celebrating St. Nicks day. It’s small, and it’s just ours. Doing an advent activity calendar i made up. It helped me portion out the things I love about Christmas to make sure I get them done ( watching a christmas movie, reading a Christmas book, baking cookies, decorating the tree). Glad I started it when my kid was too young to read or get it, because I definitely needed the flexibility of being like, yeah- tonight is going to be a movie night, not a crafting for Christmas night. I also was pretty good about following an online advent devotional and doing the advent wreath, which helped me “feel” like Christmas and helped me remember the reason I do like the season, plus I feel like waiting in hope, and reflecting on anticipation was something that made me feel better about politics in 2018 and it was nice to give myself the space for those reflections.

    What worked: Happy new years cards (mailed them dec 22 and felt on top of it), Cooking on Christmas eve, leftovers on Christmas, not traveling, hosting just my mom. Taking advantage of grandma babysitting and seeing 2 movies in theaters. Drastically cutting down people we bought gifts for. Doing monkey bread for breakfast on NYE, and then a spread of appitizers for lunch/dinner. Awesome because we had leftovers for New year’s day.

    What didn’t work: Feeling guilty about the people we didn’t buy gifts for (I was pretty good at the not buying part, but I wasn’t good at letting go of some emotions). Being in a new city with no real friends felt pretty lonely, we may travel next year just after Christmas, though hopefully we’ll also have some local friends.

    • LuckyLoveBug

      “Only one fight about how my husband hates Christmas, and how him saying that make me feel terrible because I love it.”

      I can so relate. I work incredibly hard to find fun things to do to create meaning around secular Christmas for our daughter (nevermind that I do 100% of the holiday emotional labor), and for him to basically tell our friends, “If it were up to me we’d skip it entirely, I hate everything involved” is just like the biggest slap in the face. Like, first, I’m sorry, what have you contributed? And second, thanks for completely undermining and dismissing my efforts.

      Ugh. We definitely had a Conversation.

      • CMT

        I can also relate! My mom mentioned a couple of times how much she hates Christmas. She doesn’t hate Christmas, she would hate what lots of other families do for Christmas if she were doing it. But we don’t. We have a very, very low key holiday and it’s nice and enjoyable and she knows that, damn it.

      • Jenny

        Yeah, This year my son was living with my, and my husband was in NC finishing up his degree, so other than coming with us to cut down the Christmas tree (which he admits to enjoying, which is why we did it together), he literally did nothing and didn’t even have to live in a place that had anything resembling Christmas. I’m fine doing the work of making Christmas magic, I didn’t buy any presents for his family (I did send them cards, but since we already have the address list, and I buy cards that come with recepient addressing, that’s not really work). We were listing to a podcast of holiday geniuses and fails and the host made some comment about how the holidays were almost here and therefore almost over (it was a parenting podcast, and said in jest, but also realness), and he was like I totally relate. And I was like dude, what have you even done? (my tone of voice was probably more assholey than nessesary, but I was serious, like this year you’ve only had the parts of the holiday you like- cutting christmas trees and eating cookies, without living with any decorations, I make sure not to play Christmas music most of the time when he’s in the house, I was like, dude?????). I think it’s partially on me, no matter how much I love them, and try to make them awesome, he will never like them, and although I know that logically, I think it’s re-crushing to me every year. He has real and legit reasons for not liking them, and I respect that. I think though, he needs to be better at saying that he hates crappy music in everystore he goes in and not that I personally make Christmas miserable for him (which is sometimes how his comments come off). The fight about Christmas has gotten better, but we still manage to have it at least once every year, which I think I maybe just need to accept. I think maybe we should also try to have some holiday conversations in like march, away from conrete parts and just set some, when you say/do this___ it makes me feel. What can we do instead. Because I think part of the problem now is that we both tiptoe around how we are really feeling and then one little think lets the dam break loose.

        • LuckyLoveBug

          Right – and I know a big issue for us was that my husband thought I needed him to get on my level, and I was like, NO, just don’t be an ass about it. I don’t care if you aren’t into it (in that I RESPECT that you aren’t into it) just don’t make me feel bad for BEING into it.

    • Jenny

      Also, not strictly holiday related, but I think we’ve finally come to the conclusion that we are either going to get an airbnb when we visit my in-laws, or ask them to repurpose their rooms to help host us better, because two not small people and a growing child do not fit comfortably in an office that has a futon. (thank you Judge John hodgeman for helping my husband realize it’s ok to not just deal with the guest accommodations of a family.

      • emilyg25

        I cannot recommend getting a hotel/AirBnB highly enough when visiting in-laws. So worth it to have your own space.

      • AmandaBee

        We listened to that episode on the road trip back and after 9 days of (not really) sleeping on air mattresses, fold out sofas, and a 30 year old excuse for a mattress, god was it relevant. Also, yes to airbnbs.

      • ssha

        I was musing to my husband about “I wonder if we’ll still stay at their house when we have kids?” and he was like “I don’t see why not!” … um, because we won’t all fit?

    • JSK

      Want/need/wear (or use)/read is my go-to for my son (and STB-daughter) next Christmas. He got so many toys this year and it’s overwhelming me and our small house.

      • Eh

        We do that for our daughter. It takes a lot of pressure off us to buy her tons of gifts. My inlaws are always buying her lots of things so we have a space crunch too.

    • Jan

      Mine hates Christmas too. It sucks. I tried to get him to help me make my favorite holiday treat and he rushed through it so much, I was finally just like, “This sucks, you’re making this terrible, just go.” We’ve managed to mostly strike a nice balance but every once in a while it causes a rift!

  • LuckyLoveBug

    Ugh. I have a lot of Feelings about cultivating Christmas traditions, so much so I’ve written and rewritten this post a number of times and ultimately can’t decide what I want to say.

    So, in short APW Hivemind: what traditions do you treasure from your childhood? They don’t have to be Christmas specific, and I know we’ve had threads similar to this leading up to the holidays, but I more want to know what your fondest holiday traditions were when you were a kid, or what are some of the new traditions you’re cultivating now for your children?

    For example, I feel like Liz had a post ages ago about how her parents took her family into the city to view fun Christmas things on a school day every year, and the magic of missing school for holiday fun really stuck with her.

    • PAJane

      On New Year’s Eve my family always went out to see a big movie. After midnight we would all put our hands together over my dad’s as he lit a bayberry candle, “To another year of health, love, and happiness.” We would let it burn out on its own overnight, safely in the kitchen sink. I don’t generally go home for NYE anymore, and that’s the one I really miss.

      • emilyg25

        I love this!

    • Amy March

      1- decorating the tree with fancy snacks and Christmas music

      2- Christmas Eve church

      • CMT

        Decorating the tree is my favorite. We had an artificial tree and putting that thing together was my favorite when I was a kid.

    • Zoya

      My immediate family has a friendly competition each night of Hanukkah, taking bets on which candle will last the longest. (It’s surprisingly unpredictable! The candle that was lit first doesn’t always burn down first.) I’ve gotten my husband into it, and now we play the game with friends when they’re over during Hanukkah too.

      • PAJane

        Is there a prize??

        • Zoya

          Bragging rights for 24 hours. :)

          • PAJane

            Good enough. I want in.

      • Anna

        Hehe, my family has always commented on the “candle race” but we’ve never turned it into anything competitive – maybe something to consider :-) although surprisingly Husband and I were the only members of my family who managed to light the menorah all eight nights this year (including him – not Jewish – lighting it on his own one night while I was at a work thing). Chanukah may not be a particularly important holiday, but it is a very nice one; who can argue with candles and fried food?

    • Rebekah

      Christmas eve church service (the same every year) and driving home slowly through neighborhoods to look at lights

      My mom used to make this fancy cake she called “Jesus’ birthday cake” that was so good and sugary. Vanilla layer cake with raspberry jam layers and orange zest frosting.

    • sparagmos

      My favorite thing we did when I was a kid was that we had the “presents from Santa” unwrapped. As if Santa had plucked them out of his bag like that and left them for us. In later years, it made it harder to tell which gifts were supposed to be for me vs. my sister, but it was a very exciting thing to wake up Christmas morning, sneak into the living room with my sister, tiptoe around all the cousins sleeping on the couches and floor, and find out what “Santa” had brought us. This was especially good because it usually took until about 2:00 pm to get everybody in the same room together to open presents properly.

    • Anna

      We always did NYE at my aunt’s house, involving a huge, elaborate dinner that everyone would help plan days in advance, shop for, and then cook together – this year was the first year in my memory that I wasn’t there for it. I mourned that tradition a little, but honestly the only reason I was able to keep it going for so long – given that all activity basically ceases after dinner, which is a bit of a sad way to spend NYE as someone who really enjoys (reasonably-sized) parties – is that said aunt lives just 40 min from where Husband grew up, so since college I’ve bailed out after dinner to go to a party with the friends he’s still close with from high school.

      I’m Jewish, but my dad’s family isn’t, so we used to spend Christmas with his mom; when her Alzheimer’s got too bad to host anymore, her siblings hosted Christmas instead; but when her Alzheimer’s got to the point where she literally didn’t recognize any of us anymore, we stopped making Christmas a thing except usually to go into the city and get excellent Szechuan food and maybe see a movie. So now getting adopted into all my in-laws’ deeply entrenched Christmas traditions (most of which I find very pleasant, if new to me) is a bit of a trip.

    • Mary Jo TC

      Rolling out butter cookie dough, using Christmas cookie cutter shapes, decorating with icing and sprinkles.
      Opening presents on Christmas morning with my siblings. Sneaking out of our rooms early to see what was there, counting how many presents each one of us was getting (different wrapping paper for each one of us).
      Getting dressed up.
      Christmas morning mass after we finished with presents.
      Gathering at each grandma’s house and seeing my cousins.
      Specific foods–a casserole we call ‘fat potatoes,’ lasagna,
      Christmas movies and music

    • One of the things I loved in my childhood was driving around to see Christmas lights on Christmas Eve. My aunt would take us 4 kids, and I think it was really a ploy to get us out of the house so that my parents could wrap gifts.

      We also would all decorate our Christmas tree together, right after Thanksgiving.

      Also my parents were very intentional that we always had Christmas in our house, and then we’d go see grandparents & other family a few days later. This is something I’m planning to make happen with my kids.

      • Lisa

        The Christmas lights are one of my favorite traditions, too! We would do it on Christmas Day once it was dark out, and then when we got home, we would have Christmas dessert (chocolate trifle) since we’re always too stuffed to eat it immediately after dinner.

    • Cdn icecube

      I have a few. Every year FI and I take an evening, get fancy (stupidly expensive hot chocolate) and drive around and look at Christmas lights. I know its something that a lot of people do, but for us it’s a really nice break from our family and all the “fun-obligations” that surround the holidays. Plus I have always had exams around that time so it’s always been a nice break from studying and stress which I cherish.
      We also attempt to go skating.. but 6 years running we haven’t gone. Now it’s more of a joke than anything but it still makes me smile.

    • Jenny

      We are cultivating St. nicks day as a mini just our family holiday. In our house St. Nick will be leaving an ornament for the kid, and Christmas jammies. I was really happy to get my box of Christmas ornaments when I started doing Christmas on my own. As a kid, I loved hanging my ornaments, which usually reflected something I was into that year. This way you get one whole extra Christmas season with the ornament.

      Decorating the tree while eating cookies and drinking eggnog is a definite fav. As I got older I also really loved cuddling up under blankets and watching Christmas movies. As a kid I remember getting really excited to go shopping for my parents Christmas presents with either the other parent, or at the little holiday market they would set up at school.

      As a young adult, I loved going to craft shows/bazaars to get presents and shop.

    • penguin

      Decorating the Christmas tree with huge amounts of tinsel at my grandparent’s house. My grandpa passed away this fall, and when we were helping my grandma sort all their Christmas stuff (she wanted to get rid of all of it), I found a bunch of packs of tinsel. She told me that he always made sure they had a lot because he knew I loved it. I hadn’t ever realized that it was for me, I thought they just loved tinsel.

      • Alli

        That’s so sweet! Tinsel is just extra magical for kids I think

        • penguin

          I didn’t find out until this year that my grandma hated it (good naturedly), since it gets everywhere and you find tinsel all over the place until July. I kept those extra packages of tinsel we found. Maybe they’ll go on our tree next year

          • Zoya

            Tangent: our cat’s favorite toys are tinsel balls, which he loves to shred. We’re constantly finding tinsel all over our house, and in our clothes, and in other places tinsel should not be. This initially caused a bit of cognitive dissonance for me: “But we’re Jewish! I’ve never touched a Christmas tree in my life! Why is my life all about tinsel now?”

    • emilyg25

      When I was a little kid, we basically only ever had bacon for breakfast on Christmas morning. I don’t even know why. But for years, cinnamon buns + bacon equals Christmas, and it’s still my breakfast of choice.

      My grandmother sewed us an Advent calendar and my mom put treats in it up until I moved out of the house at age 25. I was really set on sewing my own calendar, but that just didn’t happen. I set aside my guilt and bought a cute one online.

      Growing up, we drove like an hour away to a tree farm where you can cut down your own tree. My dad was really strict about not getting it until like the second week of December. Now that I can do whatever I want, I get my tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We ride our bikes to a tree farm about a mile from our house.

      ETA: I love Christmas and I have so many great memories of various traditions, but I realized I was starting to run myself a little ragged trying to create The Perfect Christmas for my son. It’s not fun if I’m stressed and I don’t know what his favorite memories will be anyway. We’re mostly focusing on family time together and letting the rest happen as it may.

    • ZLMT

      Making/decorating a gingerbread house, plus making cookies was always a favorite of mine. I’d like to do it with my son, but it just didn’t happen this year. It must have been lots of work for my mom, although she was a college professor, so probably had more free time around the holidays than I do.

  • Bronze

    On a lighter note: I continue to comically fail in navigating my partner’s family’s gift giving customs. I am slowly coming to terms with his parents’ exceedingly generous gifts. I felt bad for encouraging my partner to buy his brother/sister-in-law “whatever off their Amazon list fits in your suitcase.” It turns out they gave him an incredibly thoughtful and detailed gift that took them a year to make. Thank god they didn’t go quite as hard on my gifts. There is some kind of Gift Olympics going on and we are definitely last place.

  • Mrrpaderp

    It’s been almost a year since I canceled my engagement but the holiday season was a bit difficult. I missed buying presents for his (once our) friends and family more than anything else.

    I anticipated having some Feelings about this time of year so I planned a fabulous solo European getaway. I left Christmas night and spent NYE abroad. I’ve decided Christmastime is my favorite time in Europe. The lights! The decorations! The fancy scarves! It was amazing.

    • PAJane

      Fancy scarves always lift my spirits.

    • LuckyLoveBug

      Christmastime in Europe…I have never thought of doing this and now all I can think of is doing this!

      • Lisa

        It is the best. We went to Germany for our Christmas honeymoon three years ago and loved it so much that we went back this year. There’s something magical about it!

    • Lisa

      I love your fabulous solo European getaway. Christmas in Europe is magical, and I bet you had a wonderful time!

    • sofar

      Now THAT’S how you bounce back from an ended engagement. Cheers to you, that sounds amazing!

      Solo travel is good for the soul.

    • Eenie

      I’m in Europe now and a lot of the lights are still up! And all the empty Christmas trees are just lying in the streets which I found very humorous.

  • None today

    I can honestly look back and say…Meh.
    This was our 4th Christmas married, 2nd one just us, and I was mostly ok with it but had some bouts of extreme homesickness.
    I turned 30, promptly came down with a cold and found a gray hair.
    We made it to my hometown after new year’s, where I discovered I don’t like my parents as much as I used to (post-election fallout) and my sister announced her second pregnancy. I then dealt with all my emotions about that – some good but many ugly (another story another time) and finally just wanted to home. I did not expect “home” to finally mean the place 800 miles away, in an area I don’t love, where it’s just me and my husband.
    I’m still wobbly from it, and praying 2018 is an improvement for everyone.

  • Jessie Buckmaster

    My husband’s parents are divorced and both remarried, and both of those families live within 10 minutes of my parents. After 10+ years we’ve finally got it scheduled – Christmas Eve with his dad, Christmas morning with my parents, Christmas afternoon/evening with his mom (ended with memorable rounds of Cards Against Humanity – his mom/step-dad have the perfect sense of humor for it). The first year we didn’t plan it out and went back and forth between the houses too many times. I often wish someone would just move out of state so we can alternate years and spend more time in one place! No kids yet so we do the traveling, though I plan to make everyone else to come to us once we do have kids. With the current set up though, everyone else cooks and I don’t have to do much other than show up. And since all the kids are adults without kids currently, gift exchanging is minimal – my family does secret santa with a limit. It takes a lot of stress out.

  • Abby

    My husband and I have strained relationships with our families (think alcoholics on one side and hateful bigots on the other side) but we commit every christmas to spending the eve with one family and the day with the other. We figured out years ago that this left us feeling just a bit sad (for the obvious reasons.) Since that realization we book-ended the 48 hours we spend with our families with happy things.

    Christmas Eve-Eve we select a fancy restaurant in our city and treat ourselves to dinner and champagne. We walk the city and bask in the beauty of christmas, winter, hope and each other.

    On the 26th we host dinner with our friends in our city. We cook dinner and toast the holiday season because it gives us a reason to get together and say the things we’re grateful for out loud.

    This has made all the difference.

    • Ashlah

      I love this. What a great idea.

    • ssha

      This is lovely.

  • Kaitlyn

    Oh god I’ve been waiting for this post hahaha Let me preface this by saying the holidays were good, but they’re insane. My family (immediate only) only really does Christmas Day together. I will trade a lot of things for that Christmas Day. J’s family does Christmas with both sides of his family. Sweet in theory, ridiculous in practice.

    It worked out to be a mixed bag. J’s originally from north of Boston, but has his dad’s family in CT. I’m from CT. This year for Christmas, it was a CT Christmas for his family. That means we had to do immediate family Christmas on the 23rd, then drive to his aunt and uncle’s on on the 24th in CT, go to my mom’s that night (half hour away), spend Christmas Day at my brother’s. Then, on the 30th, we celebrated Christmas with his mom’s family. Look I love Christmas, I decorate the day after Thanksgiving, etc etc but this is way too much Christmas. And it seems a little messed up he got 3 celebrations to my 1 (we did spend Thanksgiving with my family this year). Next year will be a MA Christmas, which means Christmas Eve with his mom’s family, driving to CT Christmas Eve night, Christmas Day with my family, then another celebration with his dad’s family. He will also get Thanksgiving. And I guess his mom suggested to him we drive back up on Christmas Day to see them?! WHAT. I may have started crying when I heard that haha All I want is ONE DAY. Jesus, don’t ask me what we’re going to do when we have kids. Staying home with just us doesn’t appeal to me either cuz I wanna see my family damnit.

    • Amy March

      Say no! “This year, we are coming to you on this date. Yup! We totally get that means not doing alllllllll of your celebrations! See you at Easter.”

      You don’t have to stay home with just the two of you to set the “one Christmas per family” boundary.

      • Kaitlyn

        Ah but this a one-sided feeling, J very much wants to attend all the celebrations and it would be very weird for him to go without me.

        • Amy March

          Welcome to compromise J!

        • emilyg25

          I’m sure he can manage a little weirdness!

        • PAJane

          Otherwise it’s one-sided that you are doing what he wants, though, right?

        • SS Express

          I might be mixing this up, but are you saying it would be very weird for J to go to his own family’s Christmas without you? That doesn’t seem even a little bit weird to me. I think it would be more weird if once you got married you could never see your family without your partner there.

    • Anya

      You need to set some boundaries because just reading that stressed me out. Hang in there! But i’m with Amy on saying no.

    • JLily

      This probably happens somewhat organically and is different for each family, but my sister and I were talking this year about how the organization of things seems to be falling to the next generation gradually. For example, my siblings and cousins and I are setting the menus more often, bringing different games each year, and our schedules are helping to set the timing for celebrations more often these days. Maybe there is a way you can be more involved in deciding how Christmas happens, which would make it better for you? Like if I lived within driving distance to my family, and especially if I had kids, I might offer to host something and combine the celebrations (depending on the dynamics of it).

  • Anya

    My holidays were just up and down rollercoaster, so apologies for the long comment in advance. I started them after a work week from hell (19-20 hour days with phone calls with boss at 1AM are not fun). But then my brother came out with his new girlfriend and that visit was amazing! I haven’t ever hung out with my brother without my parents around, and he’s matured a lot in the last year. We wandered SF on Christmas Eve, ending up with 2 free loaves of Tartine bread. We went hiking on Christmas. It was the most peaceful time I could imagine with plenty of fun. He and his girlfriend flew to New York…

    … where the next day we found out that my parent’s flight was rerouted to Halifax because my dad passed out on the plane. It made for a fun 12 hours which involved: conversations with Canadian doctors, booking tickets, cancelling tickets, organizing hotel only to have my parents be stuck in the airport due to lack of cabs… They made it home and I breathed a sigh of relief only to have…

    … my MIL and step-DIL show up. This was the first time they were going to spend NYE with us. NYE is the big holiday for Russians (yours truly), and I was slowly cooking to make sure that I have enough food for 20 people but also can do activities with in-laws. i got a great surprise when my best friend (G) from college and his husband (N) crashed with us also for just 2 days. G and N would spend the evening with all 4 of us, and then disappear to do touristy things during the day. Things were going fine with MIL, until my birthday (1/1) where I asked my husband to ask her if it’d be okay that I have 1 hour dinner with my best friend, and then we’ll come home for the big thing. I haven’t got to catch up with G&N and I haven’t really seen them in years. I was also reeling from a lot of oversocialization and stress (dad, dog in ER the night before, etc), and having a down time of 1 hour seemed amazing. Well, permission was granted, but we came back from dinner to packed bags and a hysterical in-laws who said that they felt unwelcome in our house due to me and my behavior, and that I made them feel like I can’t be comfortable with them as I am with my best friend. I took the blame on myself (any advice on how not to do that?), apologized, and then somehow lasted for another week before they left (14 day stays are way too fucking long).

    And now, I’m happy to be back at work and no longer dealing with holiday stress. Any tips for in-laws are always appreciated, though I feel like mine are not the craziest.

    • Amy March

      How not to take the blame? Don’t ask for permission, inform her of the plan in advance, don’t apologize.

      • Anya

        I love don’t ask for permission. I need to be better about it! Thank you for the advice

        • SS Express

          My in-laws are normal (not perfect – actually my MIL can be quite sensitive – but they’re fairly normal) and it wouldn’t even occur to me to ask if it was okay for me to do my own thing while they were staying with me. It would be like checking if it’s okay to take a shower or read before bed or wear a blue top. When I got to that part of your story I actually went back to re-read and check if I’d missed something that would explain why you needed your husband to clear it with her. It is one hundred percent reasonable to have your own plans and one million percent unreasonable for them to flip out about it! You don’t deserve any of the blame. It’s like 1% on your husband for not shutting this nonsense down and all the rest on them for doing the nonsense in the first place.

          • Anya

            Nope. I was overwhelmed and with a shorter fuse, so thought that coming from him it’d be better. He really tried shutting it down, but you can’t calm the mom down. Seriously.

      • NolaJael

        Yeah, asking for one hour alone out 14 days is not crazy. Asking for an hour a day would probably be my minimum…

    • GotMarried!

      Where were your in-laws visiting from? Because to necessitate a 14 day stay, that’d have to be somewhere requiring at least a 12 hour flight. And even then, 14 days! I’m sorry!

      • Anya

        Pennsylvania to CA? I know, it’s crazy. My other set of in-laws and my parents stay for 5 days max

        • GotMarried!

          I mean, I get that’s across the US, but still … nope!

        • emilyg25

          lolno. I do this flight a lot and have stayed as briefly as two nights in California. 14 days is waaaaay too long. One week max.

      • JLily

        Honestly, not even my closest friends, NO ONE is allowed to stay at my house for 14 days, unless they are in some sort of crisis. Get a hotel, go explore the area, go camping, go see a nearby city. That amount of time would just be bad for my relationships.

        • Anya

          introverts unite! Trying to explain to my MIL that having people around (even if I love them) drains me was really difficult. Her response? “Well, you don’t get tired of Jeremy (my husband)”. I couldn’t even.

          • penguin

            “I don’t love you as much as I love him”.

            I know that wouldn’t be helpful to say, but…

          • PAJane

            I’ve had to explain this to friends and family. The people I am closest to are the ones who exhaust me the least, or more slowly than the rest, and they still have a go-away-now point. And yes, sometimes my partner and I also need time apart from each other. Extroverty people have just no point of reference for this sometimes, it’s something they have to believe in and look for and observe before they get it — and still don’t relate.

          • Yael

            So much this.

          • sofar

            My husband once tried to explain introversion (mine specifically, and introversion in general) to my MIL. It, similarly, did not go well.

        • Zoya

          Yuuuup. We have friends who occasionally crash with us when they’re in town/between housing situations. These are people I love and whose company I enjoy, and I’ve set a hard limit of 7 days per visit. Honestly, even that’s a bit much–I start getting antsy around day 4. Two solid weeks would have me crawling out of my skin.

    • Zoya

      “we came back from dinner to packed bags and a hysterical in-laws who said that they felt unwelcome in our house due to me and my behavior, and that I made them feel like I can’t be comfortable with them as I am with my best friend”

      Wow, manipulative much? I’m sorry you got a perfectly reasonable decision thrown back in your face–honestly, I’d probably have reacted the same way you did. Here’s a random internet stranger’s permission to let yourself off the hook, and to categorically refuse to host your in-laws for 14 days at a time (!!!) in future.

      • Anya

        That was my issue. Like, if you have a problem, talk to me. Don’t throw a teenager stint. And yeah – we are thinking 7 days max now.

        • Lisa

          After the first Christmas with my husband’s family, a co-worker told me, “Fish and family go bad in three days.” Totally true in my experience. This past November, we visited my ILs again, and since I had a conference in the area, I only spent four days with them while my husband had nine. It was the perfect amount of time for each of us to see them.

          • rg223

            Haha my grandma’s expression is: “Three days you’re fine, four it’s time” (the unsaid part is: to get the hell out).

    • sofar

      My in-laws have never done anything *that* dramatic, but they also get hurt feelings and taking it personally when I want to spend any time alone/with a friend during a visit with them. I was used to dealing with my own parents who would say, “Oh by all means, have fun!” to me saying, “Hey, I’m thinking of hanging out with a friend, how about if I’m back by 5pm for our family dinner? It’s been so long since I’ve seen her.”

      With the in-laws, I follow these rules:
      1) Tell, don’t ask: “I’m going to meet this old friend of mine, I’ll be back by 5, since dinner is at 5:30!”

      2) Keep it brief. If they protest, interrupt and say, “Got it! Anyway, see you at 5!” No explanations about why I want to meet this friend alone.

      3) Keep it positive. If they guilt-trip, say, “Well I am so looking forward our dinner at 5:30! It’s going to be delicious and fun.” If they keep bringing it up after dinner, say, “Gosh, wasn’t dinner delicious? I had so much fun with you guys!”

      4) Repeat if they protest or bring it up later. “Got it. Well, see you at 5. Can’t wait for our dinner, which will be delicious and fun!” Trying to argue your point/provide explanation for your motives in seeing your friend/getting alone time will only give them more substance to sink their claws into. Starve them of new opportunities to guilt trip.

      5) Don’t apologize. Packed bags and angry in-laws? Be all, “Oh I was SO looking forward to dinner, but if you’d rather leave, I understand.”

      We just deliberately booked flights/hotels separately from the in-laws for an upcoming family wedding trip, so you know I’m going to be all about this script!

    • Jess

      “that I made them feel like I can’t be comfortable with them as I am with my best friend”

      I just… I feel like it’s ok for you to not be as comfortable around in-laws as your best friend. That’s pretty much the definition of best friend – “Person I am most comfortable around and like being with more than other people I know”

      They were there 14 days. It’s necessary and reasonable for you to have some space in that time to do other things and see other friends.

  • Jessa

    I spent my holiday with my husband’s family in Quebec. My French is getting better and I was really able to follow almost all the conversations and participate, and I see an improvement every time I go, which is really positive feedback after all my practice at home. His family is so so welcoming and kind. I realized that all those other years where I thought I didn’t understand what was going on was also do to their poor communication and propensity to change plans at the last minute, which is a huge burden off my shoulders (since I used to be so mad at myself for not following along)! Another highlight was getting my husband to realize that his best friend isn’t always a great influence on him and others (I am not a huge fan of this friend myself). I’m looking forward to seeing how our languages and families will work if/when we have kids…

    • Totoro AND your husband’s family is in Quebec?! Quebec City? How fun! How are you studying French? Are you using it with your husband or taking classes/watching films/etc? (And I just watched Totoro over Christmas because my Quebecois-American boyfriend said it was his favorite childhood film and he wanted me to see it. I gave him and our cat a little Toturo keychain stuffed animal (one each), and Slinky, our cat, LOVES it. He can carry it around and it bounces unpredictably because it is not perfectly round (it’s Toturo’s head only). It is now Slinky’s favorite toy.

  • Arie

    We didn’t travel anywhere this year for any holidays. We took a weekend away over christmas and made all the delicious and weird vegan food we wanted to without having to hear one.single.comment about it from anyone in our families. That alone was a joy. We talked about making our tradition be switching off years: one year no travel, the next year travel to both families (fly to one for christmas, then fly to the next). I ran this plan past my mom (we have difficult relationships with the rest of our family in the town where she lives). And, you guys. Are you ready for this? Her response was “Eh, only come here if there’s someone in particular you want to see or something you want to do. I’m over it. I’ll just come to you from now on, especially at holidays.” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seeing as my master plan involves her moving to us, this was super encouraging and wonderful to hear.

  • We traveled this year, as Christmas is considered my husband’s family’s holiday.

    Positives: Phi got to meet her two baby cousins and it was adorable; it was warmer in Atlanta than it was in Mpls; my husband and MIL got me the awesome gifts I wanted; we got to see some good friends & also have some non-family time.

    Negatives: we were traveling with an almost 1 year old; everyone bought my kid way too much stuff, so much that we had to ship it all back; flaky friends screwed up our schedule; my kid was both sick and teething which is a terrible combination.

    We’ve agreed that 2017 was our last year traveling over the holidays for awhile and Phi will get to spend Christmas morning in her own house beginning with Christmas 2018 and I cannot wait.

    • rg223

      Ugh, the shipping stuff back is such a headache! This was my kid’s third Christmas and the first when we didn’t travel, and even knowing it was going to be easier, it was surprising how amazing it was. I hope it’s the same for you next year!

  • Kara

    If it weren’t for aging parents/extended family, I’d throw up my hands and stay home, but since we don’t know if some folks will be around next holiday season, we continue to drive around like crazy.

    This year was:
    12/23 – Xmas friend brunch (amazing as always), then drive 4 hours to inlaw’s
    12/24 – Xmas eve lunch at my great aunt’s house (mom’s side), drive 45 min. from inlaw’s
    12/24 – Xmas eve night at my grandmother’s house (mom’s mom), around the corner from lunch
    12/24 – drive back to inlaw’s around 9pm
    12/25 – Xmas at inlaw’s…low key, late lunch/early dinner, thank god for fewer presents this year
    12/26 – pack up and head to BIL’s house 6 hrs away, temp dropped to 12F (so effing cold) (windchill was -5F, that was definitely new)
    12/26 – celebrate Xmas eve dinner with BIL’s family, watched a Muppet Xmas Carol (which I love)
    12/27 – celebrate Xmas “day” with BIL’s family, gifts, kids, whole shebang–I was grateful for the nap to escape, and then dinner. **Saw one of our cats stuck on top of the entertainment center home (thanks Next cams).**

    12/28 – 10 hour drive home. Thanks to stuck cat, the 2 day trip would now be made in 1 day.

    Cat was safe, we were exhausted, but it was the first time we’d spent NYE and NYD at home in more than a decade. It was nice to have the weekend to ourselves.

    • Alli

      Omg how did the cat get stuck?

      • Kara

        She jumped down from the 2nd story landing on top of the entertainment center. She was too afraid to jump to the ground or to a lovely nearby couch (maybe 3 feet laterally from the entertainment center). She wasn’t smart enough (sadly) to figure out how to go back up to the 2nd story landing.

        She was stuck there for about 36 hours. We gave her food, water, rest, and we were prepared to rush her to the vet hospital, but she was totally fine. We’re very thankful she was only 6 years old and healthy. If she was an older cat, she could have had issues going that long without food/water.

        Here’s hoping she learned her lesson.

  • Eh

    This by far was the best Christmas for us yet (our 7th together, 5th married, before we were married we spent the holidays with our own families). I took my daughter to see my family a few weeks before Christmas (we haven’t seen them since August). We normally go at the end of November (for my niece’s birthday) but we ended up having other plans around that time. Just before we went, I found out that I’m pregnant so that put some urgency into going because I was very sick when I was pregnant with our daughter so I couldn’t travel much (they live 8 hours away). The quick trip home was just before my horrible morning sickness kicked in.

    We haven’t told our family that we’re expecting #2 yet (only a few close friends) but being pregnant and sick (and not just my “all day sickness”, husband and daughter both had bad colds and bad stomach bugs over the holidays) did help us make some of the best decisions about holidays yet. My husband’s immediate family has four birthdays in the two weeks around Christmas and New Years, plus supper on Christmas Day with his immediate family and another supper for his extended family a few days later (this usually results in at least four trips to see his family). Planning for the birthday celebrations (and the extended family supper) tend to be on short notice. This year we said no to short notice birthday celebrations and just brought the birthday gifts to the immediate family supper on Christmas Day and those four people had two presents to open from us. That saved us a ton of stress. Due to the late planning of the extended family supper (we found out a week before) we almost didn’t go and my husband made no promises that we would go since he was scheduled to work but he managed to adjust his schedule so we went in the end. To make it clear that we might not go, we brought our Christmas card for those family members to his parents house on Christmas Day and asked them to hand them out if we didn’t make it.

    So going forward we will not be going to last minute birthday celebrations in December/early January and they can get their birthday presents on Christmas Day. This means if someone plans a party in advance, say for a milestone birthday (my FIL turns 60 next December), and we are given sufficient notice and it fits into our schedule then we will still go, but we won’t stress over last minute plans during a time of year that is already very busy (when we frequently say no to last minute plans the rest of the year).

    • Lisa

      Congratulations on your pregnancy!! And great work on continuing to set boundaries. It’s kind of freeing once you realize that some of these obligations aren’t actually required and you that get to make the decision about whether or not to participate.

      • Eh

        Thanks! And it is very freeing. I have my birthday near a long weekend and it sucks that my birthday party always had to be on a different weekend. I always felt bad for my nieces (twp of the four birthdays) because I know how much it sucks. So that guilt always made us feel like it was an obligation to make more of an effort. When the real problem is the lack of planning ahead (which again, is not our nieces fault).

  • Trinity

    We had our first Christmas with a baby, and all generally went well. Baby Girl loved opening presents and loved the mechanical piano we got her. But I regret seeing family more than we saw our friends. And we’re over having a live tree. Anyone have any recommendations for artificial trees? (I’d love to talk my husband into a silver/white tree.)

    • ssha

      Reading and chocolate! Sounds dreamy!

    • Jess

      Book + chocolate + champagne + quiet sounds pretty darn fantastic

  • Alli

    Holidays were okay. Hectic but ok.

    Our best friend was supposed to stay with us from Dec 23rd through the new year, so we set up our spare room for her. Then she felt bad and ended up staying with her parents for most of that time, which was fine but also I was annoyed because we had prepared so much for a guest all week.

    On Christmas Eve a LOT of people were pointing out that it didn’t feel like Christmas. I agreed, and I wonder if anyone here also had that feeling? It came back Christmas morning when my husband and I were exchanging gifts but it was just weird.

    NYE we threw an awesome party that will probably be our last big NYE bash for a while, especially if we successfully try for a kid later this year. I’m still so happy about the taco bar we threw together.

    New years day we picked up the dog from my dad’s house while he was out, and he has yet to thank us for taking her. So my 2018 is starting out with a low level icing out of my dad. I don’t even have resolutions, just a grudge I plan to hold!

    • Jenny

      I have mourned a little that the shift from making Christmas feel like Christmas has shifted from my mom/parents to me. I had several years where I felt like Christmas snuck up on me, and that I didn’t really “do” Christmas. As a result, the last few years I’ve been really intentional at making a list of Christmas stuff I want to do that year over Thanksgiving weekend, and then penciling it into my calendar. I think it’s helped me make sure I prioritize things that make me happy for Christmas.

      • Amy March

        Yessssssss. It was only when I started to be responsible for “making” Christmas that I realized how much work my mother did and does put into it.

        • Jenny

          Yep. drinking eggnog means, I have to make and clean up said eggnog. Decorating means putting up, rearranging current decorations/storing them, taking down and storing them, re decorating. Lots of things that I’d love to do, but the effort required>the pay off right now. So I focus a lot on lights, and watching/listening to Christmas stuff.

      • Alli

        Omg I definitely missed a lot of Christmas things this year. I missed my town’s parade, the macy’s light show, the german christmas markets. Dang that was probably it.

        • Jenny

          Are you in Philly? That sounds like a Philly Christmas list :)

          • Alli

            Right across the Delaware in Jersey!

  • jem

    We both had a terrible flu from just before Christmas through New Years and I am mourning the loss of our first married Christmas. Christmas just… didn’t happen this year and that made me so sad.

  • JLily

    My husband had kind of a rough childhood and his family has long done basically nothing for holidays, so he has never liked them much, but our new traditions are bringing him a lot of joy I think, which makes me so happy. We hosted a small thanksgiving again, which means my husband and I cooked everything just the way we like. We put the turkey in the oven and went for a hike with the dogs, which was wonderful before a big, cozy meal. There were a few low-key and super fun parties with friends. He put up Christmas lights on the house, and we went to the forest to get our own trees with another couple, which was really fun! Then we had white russians while hanging ornaments. He actually wanted to listen to Christmas music, too, which he always used to hate. He is finally happy to be festive throughout the season, and I am finally settling in to our home as my home, and him and my pups as my family. Overall, pretty much the whole season was such a sweet time for us.

    For Christmas we flew up to my childhood home, but stayed only two nights, which I think is perfect to get some good quality time in but not get too overwhelmed. There was no talk of politics whatsoever, which felt both disingenuous and like a relief, so I was very torn about that. It did make it easier to feel nothing but love for my family. We stayed until the day after Christmas, which was more exhausting and more expensive for flights, but I did it because it was the last year we would have Christmas dinner in my Grandma’s house before she moves into a retirement home. I’m glad we accommodated her this year, but think in the future I need to be better at suggesting time frames that work better for the many travelers in our family, i.e. Christmas breakfast and then hop on a plane. But who knows, with kids (hopefully) on the horizon, we may just do our own thing when we want to, especially in exhausting years like this.

  • Dr Em

    It was my first (of probably 2) holiday seasons being engaged! Which was kind of tough, since I recently moved to PA and he still lives in TX (a temporary, work-related situation). Which meant his Xmas was a quiet but tiring visit with his mom in Dallas (who is an alcoholic, and who he caught sneaking booze in her room–fun holiday conversations!) and sister, while I visited with my parents in NY–they are party animals, we had 25 guests for Xmas eve–and got completely barraged by questions about my fiance. Which were all entirely well-meaning and expected, although I was surprised at how many people asked about his future job status. Like, from people I haven’t spoken to since I was 3. In any case…while both of our holidays were filled with love and fun and family (and all the tiring things that come with it), we are both very much looking forward to starting our own traditions!

  • Cdn icecube

    Our Christmas/New Years was ok. This was my first Christmas living away from home so coming home to spend Christmas with his family and not mine was really hard at times. That was further compounded by the fact that his brother had his mother in law visiting and it seemed that everything was planned/scheduled around her. Usually not a big deal, but with FI’s family he often feels that he gets forgotten about. That was definitely the case this year. For the past months he had been going on about how excited he was for me to spend Christmas with his family and when Christmas rolled around it didn’t actually feel like Christmas at all. The night before we went to his brother’s house and hung out with them for dinner. We didn’t do presents, or carols, music, or movies or really anything that made it seem like it was different than any other evening. Christmas day we spent with his parents, and his brother, bro’s wife, and MIL didn’t come over until later so they didn’t want to open presents or do anything without them there. Which sucked because we watched 28 days later, which is not a Christmas movie or that happy. The whole day we just got the feeling that because it was just us there, as opposed to his sister and her FI or his brother and his wife that we weren’t worth doing anything Christmas-y with. Which was really hard for me.
    All in all, it wasn’t the worst Christmas ever but it definitely made me appreciate my family’s christmas traditions and look forward to next year.

    • NolaJael

      Yeah, that’s no fun, but now you know? Next time (if there is one) you can ask questions like, “When are brother and sister coming over tomorrow? Because if it’s later than 11am I’m going to bake cinnamon rolls for breakfast and cookies for us to decorate while listening to carols in the morning! Feel free to join, the more the merrier!”

      • Cdn icecube

        I really like this strategy. I was so torn because I didn’t want to feel like I was overstepping and trying to change their traditions, but now I have a better idea of what to do next time. Thank you. :)

  • Rose

    We did Thanksgiving with my in-laws, which was definitely fun, but with my longer-than-usual break I did discover that a week is the maximum amount of time I can spend in their house at a time. I love them dearly, but I just can’t imagine staying longer than we did this time.

    We spent Christmas with my family–also a fairly long visit, maybe longer than was quite ideal to be away, although I do love seeing them. It was hard, because it was the first year without my grandmother. Some things we did were new–instead of having dinner at my grandparents’s on Christmas Eve, my sister hosted in her new apartment, and it was fun. My aunt and uncle hosted NYE game night at their brand new condo. Sometimes we were all just sad. Or sad at different times. I was glad to be home, and my wife said it was a good visit, although I was a bit concerned about bringing her into the family stress.

    Probably my favorite part of the holiday season, though, was the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We got a tree even though we were gone over the actual holiday, and loved putting it up. We have a porch for the first time, and put some lights outside. We went walking at dusk to enjoy the neighborhood light displays. We went up to Chicago for the first time for a couple of days (we just moved to nearish-by the city this summer), where we explored the city, went to the art institute, ice skated in Maggie Daley park, and visited the Christkindlemarkt, where we had a lot of fun finding some really nice ornaments for our tree. In the midst of the family travels, it was really nice to do something with just the two of us, and I found that going somewhere helped us focus on each other for a little bit instead of everything else. We haven’t done a ton of vacations that aren’t to visit family or with family, but I’m thinking that we should change that.

  • kayceeee

    It was our first married Christmas and I was sick the last week of November and first week of December so I ended up not even putting the tree up. I still did some décor, but was totally not into having to drag all the crap out of the closet just to drag it all back in a couple of weeks later.

    Since my parents are divorced we usually do Christmas with my mom a week or two before Christmas about two hours from where we live. Christmas Eve has always been spent with my dad’s family (aunts/uncles/cousins), but this year M had to work that night so we skipped it. Christmas Day is spent at my mom’s parent’s house with my aunts and cousins which is about an hour from us, then we go to my dad’s house that night (an hour from my grandparents and then another hour from our home). By the time Christmas is over with I’m always exhausted. This year I took the day after Christmas off and it was the smartest decision I’ve made in a while. haha.

    We don’t really do Christmas with M’s family as they’re in south Florida (we’re in Texas) and traveling during the holidays is not something either of us want to do. His sister celebrates Hanukkah now as well as Christmas so maybe once we have kids we’ll try to join them for that at least once. I don’t even want to imagine how stressed and how much traveling we would have to do if both of our families were in the same state. Dealing with just my family is way more than enough.

  • Another Meg

    It was our first Christmas with a kid. Which was pretty awesome all in itself. He’s 8 months old (today!) so he’s pretty entertaining. Spent the week at my parents’ house and didn’t make many plans. My parents took the kid for the last night in town and we went to a hotel and had a wonderful dinner, really great scotch, and a night as adults who can relate to each other outside of parenting.

    It was, hands down, the best. We have NO idea what we’ll do in future years, although I’d like to spend Christmas day at home once he’s old enough that it’s a Thing to drive for five hours to see family. My family is one state over and my husband’s parents live on the East Coast (a decent plane ride from us) so it’s very touch and go for now.

    Does anyone have something that works when your families live in completely different parts of the country? And you live in the middle?

    • Pannorama

      We’re in a similar geographical situation. In past years we’ve taken a “one at yours, one at mine” approach, but (if I’m being honest) it’s much more pleasant to go visit his family in England than mine in California. Between the awkward family politics and small number of vacation days our approach has been “we’ll try to see you all at different times in the year when plane tickets aren’t 800$-1k$”

    • Chris

      yeah, both sets of g’parents are a plane flight away, so we alternate Christmases. My family gets even years, his family gets odd years. My family is getting ready to give up on Christmas-at-Christmas, so it’s looking like we’ll get even christmases at home, and odd christmases with the in laws, and some trip some other time to see my family. This feels sustainable for now.

    • Previous to having a baby, we’d travel to my family for Thanksgiving and his family for Christmas. We’ve agreed that this past Christmas is our last one traveling – next year we plan to spend it in our house and family is welcome to come join us. It’s really important to me that my daughter enjoy Christmas in her own house.

  • Yael

    We once again did not spend the holidays (any of them) with any of our family and I highly recommend it. Living in Europe helps of course. For Thanksgiving we made traditionalish food (chicken instead of turkey) and I worked and we had our couch delivered. We threw a Hanukkah party for our mostly non-Jewish friends which was so much fun. We made Chinese food and my family’s traditional Xmas breakfast foods for Xmas and watched action movies. I sprained my ankle *badly* and then got a UTI so we spent most of the week between Xmas and NYE at home (in the past 3 weeks I’ve only left the house to go to the doctors) but Germany allows individuals to set off firecrackers (like, real rockets and such) on NYE so the entire city lit up for almost an hour at midnight. And A got a possible job offer! So overall, not a bad season!

  • Pannorama

    It was our first holiday season not traveling to visit family, and I honestly really enjoyed it. My partner was out of town on a work trip for Channukah, which was a bummer, but my sister came down for Christmas and we did our traditional Christmas breakfast. And then for NYE we went into the mountains with some friends and hiked around in freezing temps and set off hilariously bad sparklers at midnight. So little stress, so much delight.

  • Jan

    This was the first year we didn’t travel three different places for various family obligations. Instead, we only had to drive 4 hours once for an annual extended-family Christmas with my in-laws.

    We stayed in Christmas Eve, I cooked a big dinner and we watched movies in front of a fire. Managed to spend time with both my parents and his on separate days (yussss). And NYE was low-key and spent with friends; I was asleep before 12:30.

    I also didn’t work the week between Christmas and New Years, so that was a win!

  • macrain

    For those of you with kids, how do you do Christmas and not spiral out with a million gifts? My son is under 2, and we are still milking the fact he has no clue what’s going on to save money and our sanity. But, as he gets older and starts to catch on, I really really do not want to get him a bunch of stuff. A few good gifts, but not just stuff to fill the space under the tree. I want it to be thoughtful, intentional, and minimal. Have any of you pulled this off? What works and what doesn’t?
    Also: what’s the protocol for gifts “from” your kid to grandparents, cousins, etc. I skipped that entirely this year, but he did get two gifts from his older cousins and I ended up feeling terrible he got them nothing, as if I failed in some way (I still got them gifts, as I do every year). But- he’s got four cousins total, all of whom I get gifts for every year. Do I need to get them gifts from my son too? Where does the line get drawn?
    I didn’t realize how hard it is when you have kids to not go bananas with all this stuff. I’m interested to know how you all have managed it!

    • Ashlah

      Here for other answers. Our baby was four months old at Christmas, and husband and I literally got him zero gifts because we knew he would get way too much from his grandmas (and he did). I think our struggle in years to come is going to be getting my mom to scale back or stick to a few big gifts instead of a ton of stuff. I’ve come to realize that gifting is her love language, so that’ll be an interesting convo.

      As for gifts to his cousins–give the same amount, but write both your names on the gift tags :)

      • Amy March

        I think gifting being a love language only excuses so much. It isn’t loving to bring bags and bags of gifts despite clearly expressed wishes that you not, it’s unkind and selfish, and I think it’s appropriate to set some limits and actually say “wow, this is excessive, we are taking half these back to your car now before kid sees” if you have to.

        • Ashlah

          Oh, I don’t disagree! I’m hoping that we’ll be able to get her to understand and cooperate before it comes to that kind of action. We didn’t ask anything of her this year, just let her gift to her heart’s content, so it’s not like she’s stomping on any boundaries at this point.

      • Eh

        My MIL’s love language is gifts. Every fall she asks us to send her a list of things that we would like. The last few years we have refused to send lists for me and my husband because it was causing us too much stress to think of things (there were complaints that previous lists were to boring). One year when we gave her the list a little later than she wanted she told us by not giving her a list we were preventing her from showing us that she loves us because she didn’t know what to get us. So now we say that we will appreciate anything that they get us and leave it at that (they still complain about the lack of list but it’s a boundary we enforce for our sanity). We do provide them a list for our daughter and they got her nearly everything on the list. I see the list of gifts for our daughter as a way to control the gifting in the future since there is no talking to my MIL about the amount of gifts (see above re: preventing her from showing love). She is willing to buy clothes for her grandchildren so that is helpful. I am trying to convince her that “experience” gifts are nice too (and that she could even take our daughter to the “experience”) but she is less into that (despite complaining about not seeing our daughter as often as she would like).

    • So I don’t have kids, but I do have a lot of cousins, so I can talk about that. Most of my cousins are around the same age as I am, so for a while, each family would get presents for the other kids. As a child, I never gave a gift on my own outside of the family present–with the exception of some craft-stuff I gave my grandparents. Generally, though our family would get one thing for our grandparents, etc. At some point (maybe when I was 8, possibly even before my youngest sister was born) we switched to cousin secret santa (on one side of the family) and that replaced all family gifts to that cousin (obviously when we were younger, my parents significantly helped with choosing the gift/did the work themselves).

      Also, with my two youngest cousins, they got a lot more individual presents even though we were doing cousin secret santa at that point, because they were little and new and it was fun to give them presents, so if your son is much younger than them, that might be it.

    • Jess

      Growing up, I had friends who got One Big Gift and a stocking of smaller, more silly things (candy, decks of cards, pj’s, small toys)

      I always liked that idea.

      • penguin

        We always got stockings like that, it was my favorite part of Christmas. My grandma (who made the stockings) always went out of her way to find interesting/weird stuff for that year (like grapefruit spoons, or those little sticks with honey in them).

    • RNLindsay

      I think the gifts to the cousins would come from you guys as the macrain family! I don’t see why there needs to be a gift from you and an additional gift from your child. Put both names on them!

      • macrain

        I honestly think I just needed someone to tell me this is fine! Gifts and holidays are a huge deal on my side of the family, and it somehow felt really NOT ok to have this mindset. But, as many of you have pointed out- one gift from the family is fine!

    • Mary Jo TC

      My older kid is only 4 and we are not entirely successful on this but this is how I would answer those questions for us. I spent less than $30 on my 1 1/2 year old for presents from us/Santa. He got 1 Elmo toy, a stuffed Cookie Monster and like 5 Elmo books from the used bookstore. He was thrilled. I am returning or regifting a lot of the presents he got from aunts and uncles because he doesn’t know the difference and doesn’t remember opening them and hasn’t asked for them. I don’t feel any pressure to make our under-the-tree present pile huge because the kids don’t have anything to compare it to, and they’re so little they’re enchanted with anything. If there is any pressure to make Christmas gifting ‘bigger’ for our kids, it will be from my husband, who had much bigger Christmases than me as a kid. My husband and I emailed some pretty specific suggestions for present to my mom, his mom, and his brother. (Husband pushed to include bigger things like a Hot Wheels track that is taking up a lot of space right now, I’m not excited about that.) I think the email requests helped with the older one because he got stuff to redecorate his room (moving from Thomas the train to Mario), so it’s not really toys taking up space but just different stuff in the same space.
      My kids don’t “give” anyone presents. I purchase presents “from” them only for their godparents, but it’s really from me to the relatives I chose for this special role. I give presents to my parents and husband’s parents from our family as a whole, not from kids. I give presents to my niece and nephews, but my kids don’t give presents to their cousins. Maybe that would be different if they weren’t all little, I don’t know. Maybe once they’re old enough to pick things out themselves or save money or make things I would have them do stuff for their grandparents or aunts and uncles. But really, presents ‘from’ a kid is just another job for a mom.

    • AGCourtney

      I think we’re doing pretty well at this, so I’ll chime in. But at the same time, I’m not sure exactly how to explain it. We just…get her a few gifts. There’s really nothing more to it. We ask her if there’s anything she would particularly like for Christmas and/or start keeping an eye out in the fall for things that would make a good gift. The latter strategy is going to be better for you these next couple years. And that’s the gift, with a couple other little things that end up added on. This year was tickets to see Annie in the cities. I also threw in something else from craigslist – a doll bike – and ended up splurging a little on a really great deal for an Addy American Girl doll. I had warned my husband months ago I would get it for her if I found one – it just happened to be the week before Christmas. So this year there were three gifts. We also do a stocking with little things from the dollar store.

      We definitely do not bother with giving gifts “from” our daughter. If you’re already getting the cousins gifts, just add his name on them, or say they’re from the family, as was suggested below.

      It’s tough! As Ashlah and Mary Jo alluded to, it’s relatives that can really make the gifting crazy. I think we’ve solved this by giving specific lists to his parents – it culls down on the random (cough, thoughtful) crap.

      • macrain

        Thank you!!
        I think I went in with this mindset (just give a few things, done), and then Christmas came and I ended up in a shame spiral. It felt wrong to not get him more, like I was failing in some way. So I think for me it’s addressing both the stuff issue and the mental and emotional issues that come up.

    • Eh

      We do want/need/wear/read, plus her stocking. She’s 2.5 so she doesn’t have anything to compare to yet. Also, the “need” every year so far has been winter boots or winter clothes that she got in the fall. Since my family lives far away, the gifts under our tree include gifts from my parents and siblings, and some other relatives so that helps fill the space.

      We only get our parents, siblings and nieces/nephews one gift each from all of us.

    • Great question – I’m having the same issue. Phi got way too much stuff from her extended family, and I’m hoping it was because it was her first Christmas. I don’t want this pattern to repeat next year.

      • macrain

        In terms of what to ask for, I think I’m just going to go in WAY more organized next year! Clothes are always on our list, especially if it’s in a size he hasn’t reached yet and we have little or nothing in that size. They are fun to pick out and I have rarely ever felt like I have too much.

  • Lawyerette510

    Well for Thanksgiving I went to Texas to see spend time with my nephew (he was 2 months old that weekend), and I realized that just planning things with my sister that we invited my dad and his girlfriend to worked a lot better for my emotional health then trying to figure out what worked for him etc. Additionally, this let me somewhat dodge the issue of the fact that my brother-in-law’s significant other behaved horribly to me in my home a few years ago, never apologized or acknowledged it, and was going to be at Thanksgiving at my in-laws. That said, the BIL’s SO apologized to my husband for the behavior. My husband and I then had to have a long talk when we were reunited about how for me, an apology to my husband isn’t enough and I still refuse to be around him. I have consistently told my BIL this, and so either his SO can contact me, or he can choose not to, but my husband was not the person who was mistreated- I was.

    Then for Christmas, the husband and I were in Oaxaca with my mom and her boyfriend. We exchanged zero gifts and had an awesome time. It was really great to just not worry about gifts this year, and being gone was a blast. That said, next year I think we want to meet up with my sister, her husband and their son to celebrate. It will be tricky to navigate with his family, because they like their traditions, but ultimately, with them there is no compromise- it’s either attend what they want to host, or nothing. We’ve invited them to alternative things (like Christmas in Santa Fe in 2016 or in Oaxaca in 2017 or Thanksgiving various places) and they won’t come. They will go other places they want to go (like on a cruise in 2016, planned after declining our invite). I’ve just had to accept that for what it is. It does make me sad, but also I’ve had to get over my feelings about “disappointing” them and just embrace the choices that are right for my husband and I.

    • Lawyerette510

      Also, this year we even took our 8 year-old tradition of the combo husband/ holiday party on the road. While we normally though a big themed party in mid-December at our house, this year we went with 11 other people to Sayulita Mexico for 4 days to celebrate husband’s 40th. It was exhausting to plan, but once we were there it was a blast. That said, I missed seeing all the people we only see the one time a year we through our big party, so I’m thinking about throwing some kind of mid-winter-blues party in early February just to see people.

  • Katie

    This was the first Christmas my husband and I spent apart. I went to Russia to see my family, and he drove to see his. I was delighted to spend time with my folks (Christmas is not big over there, but NY is, and I’d missed a few), but I was sad to not see my in-laws and all the kiddos :(

  • penelope

    We spent Christmas with my family and New Year with his. Three years together and this is first holiday season since we got engaged.

    For us, the trouble with splitting holidays is we both prefer my family (which is a 3-hour flight) to his (which is a 6-hour flight). My family is big and kinda loud, but also know how to give us space and we can feel free to go off and do things by ourselves or with my old friends in my hometown. It snowed, my parents had my aunts and uncles and cousins over, we all cooked, and Mr. made eggnog with three kinds of booze in it.

    New Year was rough. Mr. is an only child, and his mother’s cut off most of her family, and she smothers us to death and gets resentful if we want to do anything without her, so holiday celebrations are just the four of us. MIL made passive-aggressive comments the whole time and was generally rude and overbearing. She also feels threatened by my family and was bean-counting the amount of time we spent with each “side” this year.

    We know we’re never going to split holidays between families like that again — it was astonishingly expensive. But beyond that, we’re at a loss as to how to move forward. We agreed that next year we will spend the holidays by ourselves with just the two of us to see how we like it, but the thought of that makes me feel a little sad and lonely — I love my big noisy family. If we really did what we both wanted, we’d spend a lot more time with my family than his, but his parents are his parents and he loves them (although he doesn’t like them very much sometimes) and he’s all they’ve got. So… we don’t know. Anyone with suggestions, please chime in.

    • Amy March

      Would an off cycle visit deal with the guilt enough? Christmas with your family, NYE the two of you, and his family for Easter/spring long weekend because “it’s cheaper to travel” and “we will get to spend more family time.”

      • penelope

        That could work for a year, at least! But we’d eventually start getting guilt about “why do we never get to see you at the holidays”/”why do THEY always get you at the holidays,” so for the longer term, who knows.

        • Jess

          To add on to Amy March’s strategy, we actually flip years. So this year: Easter with my family, Christmas with r’s. Next year, Easter with R’s and Christmas with mine.

          There is usually a visit in there sometime in January/February for the other family, but it works pretty well to keep things balanced.

    • AmandaBee

      So, I feel like this only works sometimes, but any chance his family might warm to the idea of joining yours? And that yours might be willing to have them join? I’ve seen that work before when one side is big and the other is small, but obviously only if everyone is into it.

      Otherwise, maybe rotate years even though it’s not ideal? But when you’re visiting them, I’d plan things to do out of the house even if it makes MIL upset. Ultimately, your partner might need to have a chat with his mom about that, but it’s really not reasonable to expect your guests to do everything with you all of the time (I say, as someone whose MIL is otherwise lovely but also fairly clingy).

      • penelope

        This was his hope when we first started talking about marriage — that both sides would eventually want to do this. Sadly, MIL and FIL came to an event at my parents’ house this year, and behaved so appallingly (following my parents around the house ‘correcting’ their efforts to clean and organize the house while they tried to prepare for the party, but also refusing to help; being unforgivably rude to several party guests) that they are not welcome to stay with my parents again for the foreseeable future. Their presence will be tolerated at the many events my parents are hosting for the wedding, but after that, my parents have asked me to keep them far away from my family if at all possible. Mr. saw all this go down, was likewise horrified, and understands why it has to be this way, but it makes him miserable.

        • AmandaBee

          Ooof, yeah, sounds like it won’t work then. Best of luck in finding a workable solution.

    • I actually echo AmandaBee, if you family are cool with it. Just try it out for one year, and have his family over for a portion of the time you’re spending with them (but don’t make that clear to his family) so if it doesn’t work out you’ve still got some space to chill with your side uninterrupted.

    • Eh

      I know someone who does a three year rotation. One year the wife’s family, another year the husband’s family and then the third year they do what ever they want. What ever they want has included going on a trip as a family or staying home or visiting one of the families (e.g., the year that their niece/nephew was born right before Christmas and they wanted to see the new baby).

      My family lives an 8 hour drive away (and flying is not an option). My inlaws live an hour away. My husband manages a restaurant so he works during the holidays (but has Christmas Day off). Before we were married I always went home for the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter) and my husband went to his family. My MIL complained about this because the whole family wasn’t together for the holidays. When we got married I put my foot down about spending holidays separately. I knew that this meant we would spend them with my inlaws since it’s unlikely that my husband would get the time off work to visit my family. My family is every understanding about this. When I was a kid we moved far away from my extended family and we never went to visit for the holidays (we “vacationed” there every summer for 2 weeks, and at least once a year someone would visit us usually at Thanksgiving or Easter). My dad knows that it’s too much to take the risk of traveling in the winter with the weather (this year they had bad snow storms Christmas Eve and New Years Day) so their is no guilt. Since my sister also lives far away, not visiting on holidays lets us visit when she is also home (which works out better with my husband’s work schedule), and lets us go to the annual family camp out weekend. My inlaws complain that my husband uses all of his vacation time to see my family and that we aren’t flexible when it comes to visiting my family (since those plans are generally made months in advance and his family plans things last minute).

  • AmandaBee

    This was the first year we really had to travel, having moved 10+ hours by car away from family and friends for my job. We decided to visit as many people as possible over Christmas since I have an academic break and husband hadn’t yet started at his new job and MAN was it intense. We did 9 straight days of visiting people and still didn’t manage to connect with everyone.

    Lesson learned: we need more frequent, shorter visits. And next year we might get a hotel for a night or two just to give ourselves some alone time in the midst of it all.

  • RNLindsay

    We spent the weekend before Christmas with my in laws (I had to work Christmas Day so that way I could leave my husband with his parents). My BIL and wife cancelled for the weekend on Friday the 22nd. As you can imagine, my MIL was pissed and I got the honor of “DIL of the year”. My husband was excellent at boundary setting, making it clear to my MIL that we would never be planning holidays around his brother and wife. They cancelled Thanksgiving and Christmas last year and Christmas this year. Supposedly they want to host next year in NYC, but nope. Don’t trust them, not happening.

  • ssha

    I’ve missed everyone! SO glad APW is back up.
    My immediate family celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas, but christmas is kind of the bigger deal- same day every year, more rituals, etc. we did a Hanukkah latke party/ gift exchange with my family and then went for Christmas at my in-laws in another part of thr state. This is our first married Christmas And guys, it was so hard. I missed my family and their traditions so much.and even around my family, love my husband, but I sometimes miss when it was just the people I grew up with, that cozy familiarity of parents and siblings. Anyone else feel like this?

  • EF

    scene: london:
    So the random uncle showed up at partner’s giant christmas gathering who votes tory and doesn’t like immigrants and that sucked for me

    then i had the bright idea of calling my sister to say happy christmas that night when we got back home, and turns out my mother (who I barely have a relationship with) was there for xmas…with the rest of my extended family, save for my awesome aunt. no one told me any of this was going on.
    conversation with my mom has left me upset since…how long has it been?
    when i got the xmas card from my mom once post was running again, i discovered that my new housemate got more words in her long winded chrismas letter than i did (how did she even know he existed!?) and that all that she wrote about me was that the subway I take to work had a bomb on it this year but I wasn’t on that train.

    my partner had furiously stormed out of the room when i was on the phone with her, and when i hung up exclaimed ‘it’s the lack of respect for you AS A HUMAN that bothers me!’

    I dunno why but it’d never occurred to me there was 0 respect there. but of course there isn’t.

    so um things were shit. really shit. we are talking about just going to italy next christmas and hiding out. but for now…i am still so, so sad.

    • Jess

      I’m really sorry that your mom (and the rest of your family save the awesome aunt) are behaving this way.

      The hurts of being an after thought are real and deep, and moms behaving badly are really tough. You aren’t alone in them.

    • suchbrightlights

      I am sorry. Your Italy plan sounds A+, and your partner also sounds A+, but the rest of this is a straight up F and I’m sorry that you had to deal with it.

      • EF

        yknow that’s a really good way to view this, as partner being A+. i think partially because i’ve been so upset over all this he and I have had a couple of big rows since xmas, but he was pretty supportive on the holiday itself.

  • Anonymous

    Christmas was chaotic for a variety of reasons, including navigating the holiday season as a new poly person with a husband and a new but serious relationship of almost a year, with a family that is supportive but skeptical.

    I went into Christmas with very little emotional reserve and didn’t have the necessary forces to guard against all of the dynamics that upset me. 2.5 days was enough to send me into a tailspin. But then we left and the three of us got to spend NYE together watching fireworks and drinking champagne so that was quite lovely and set me up feeling good for 2018.

    As difficult was it was, it was also instructive and I have a much better idea of what I need to enjoy the holiday season next year!

  • Eenie

    Breakthrough activity with my parents-in-law: bowling. It was enjoyable for EVERYONE. Also the hotel was perfect except the first night when I was ready for bed about two hours before we ended up leaving for the hotel.

    My parents visited for after Christmas and NYE, and it was so much fun. They even rolled characters to play D&D with our friend and we decided to do this every time they visit from now on!! We saw the lights at the Atlanta botanical garden and I discovered that buying a ticket ahead of time doesn’t guarantee parking! It was beautiful and I highly recommend.

  • Transnonymous

    Christmas itself was excellent. We spent it just the two of us (the snow would have made travel a nightmare anyway) and got to do all the things we wanted – build a gingerbread house, cheese, hummus and crackers on Christmas Eve while watching Mad Max: Fury Road (because all I want for Christmas is the destruction of the patriarchy), low-key vegan Christmas dinner for two at actual dinner time. I’m thinking I may lobby for solo Christmas every year.

    The holiday season overall? Decidedly unpleasant and incredibly hard for a number of reasons that would take too much time and mental energy to list, but I’m definitely going to need to talk to my therapist about seasonal affective disorder when she returns from maternity leave.

  • suchbrightlights

    My family is Jewish and my husband’s is Christian so the division of holidays is pretty easy. We also split Thanksgiving dinner with my side and dessert with his side. Nobody threw or broke glassware at any dinner, which is an excellent accomplishment for my extended family, and although the power went out while we hosted Christmas dinner for both sides, it had the decency to do so after everyone had already eaten.

    We had a quiet New Year’s. I had had a persistent and weather pressure headache for some 48 hours so this was fine by me. My husband got to doing something on the computer, and I told him that I would be reading a book until midnight. I dropped off at some point, woke up at ten of 12, and found that at some point he’d left to go do something with his friends and his brother who still lives with their parents. I am still trying not to take this personally and/or figure out a way to say “you told me you didn’t want to do anything but with the way you spent the evening it feels like you just didn’t want to do something with me,” which is how it feels, that also takes into account that I had a blinding headache and was lousy company and he may have just been trying to go play Final Fantasy somewhere he wouldn’t wake me up. I know in my heart it wasn’t personal, that there’s a degree of sucking it up I need to do, and I need to think about it more before I can have a conversation about it.

    And then the temperature dropped and it was bloody frigid for the last week and a half, but it has finally thawed out such that “just below freezing” feels like spring came early. Not bad. :)

    • Zoya

      Weather headaches suck. So, solidarity there!

    • Amy March

      It’s like extremely okay to take it personally when your husband leaves you alone on NYE while you’re sick and asleep so you wake up alone in the house. You don’t need to twist yourself into knots trying not to take this personally. That’s minimally not terribly considerate, and I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect to be able to say “Hey, that wasn’t actually cool.”

      • suchbrightlights

        Yeah, the behavior was not cool and I need to address the way it played out, but it’s a piece of a continuing conversation and while some bits of it are worth addressing in this piece of the conversation, some need to be left aside. My husband is 100% here to be on a team with me, and 95% of the time he and I are rowing the same canoe. Sometimes we try to paddle in opposite directions and have to recalibrate. There are some family dynamics that have taught him to be oblivious to some things that are to me Basic Partnership Behavior. There’s massive difference in our respective learned behaviors and he IS doing work on meeting me halfway on it. I need to make sure that my expectations of what “halfway” looks like are realistic for where we are in the bigger and constantly evolving conversation on how to be the best teammates to each other. (I think what was going on in his head was, “Lights hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep, and when woken up it’s hard for her to get back to sleep, so I will slip out quietly because she’s probably out for hours and needs the rest.” Considerate intent! Poor execution.)

        Now, if I thought he were deliberately being a careless asshat? Totally different conversation.

    • Jess

      I’m sorry about the weather headache. I get those a lot and they are Not Fun.

      I wanna step in with Amy March here – it was pretty uncool for him to just leave like that. A gentle shaking you awake to say “Hi! I love you and I hope you feel better. If it’s ok, while you get more rest, I’m going to head to [place]” would have probably been fine.

      Every relationship is different, but if that happened to me I would be very upset.

  • Dani

    This was our first “together” holidays and all things considered, they went well. I think? There was some tension over various things, likely due to the eternal paradoxical struggle of the pre-engaged: they don’t want us to think about engagement unless we’re serious, but they refuse to take us seriously unless we’re engaged. (And by ‘they’ I mostly mean my family, who are Hispanic and more conservative in their ways, though they would never admit it.)

    We spent Christmas Eve apart with our various extended families, then split Christmas Day – the traditional Christmas Day movie with my family (Star Wars, woohoo!) and then a lovely dinner with his parents. My family was only a bit twitchy about my spending dinner with his parents; his parents were lovely and even made me a stocking, so if they’ve reservations about accepting our baby family they’re definitely not showing it.

    Given neither of our families places much weight on New Years, we were hoping to make that ‘our’ holiday for the year. Unfortunately, the Great New Years Plague (aka Dani gets the flu for the first time) had other ideas; I’m really hoping my partner grimly forcing me into a cool bath to bring down a dangerously high fever with fifteen minutes to midnight doesn’t become a new tradition.

    Overall, I think this holiday season went a long way towards establishing us as a family unit- both the good and the bad. We started to braid together family holiday traditions, and started a few of our own. And while I hope I don’t get the flu again next year, it never hurts knowing he’ll watch me hairball-hack mucus into his sink without flinching!

  • Kat Ward

    This is the second year in a row that we made last minute NYE plans out of town, and it’s turned into a great excuse to do what WE want to do after spending the holidays rushing from one family event to another, and also to get out of staying an extra week with my family in FL. We ended up renting an AirBNB bungalow in Chattanooga with another couple, and rang in the new year watching Jurassic Park in front of the fire.

  • Sara

    Since I’ve been married, we have done Christmas Eve at my in-laws and Christmas Day with my family. I hate that I feel like we are always rushing and dragging our young kids all over town, only to get up and do it all over again the next day. This year, we were intentional about saying no to things during naptime or too early or late in the day. Establishing some boundaries helped make this holiday season one of the most enjoyable. I was feeling very overwhelmed in the weeks before Christmas, so we didn’t get the stockings out of storage, didn’t buy the kids anything more than $15, and didn’t wrap their presents. They are young enough still that they didn’t care, and I did not miss the frenzied wrapping at midnight on Christmas Eve. On December 26, I woke up feeling well rested instead of feeling like I got run over. I hope next Christmas is the exact same as this one.

  • Mjh

    That holiday photo of Meg’s fam is the *best*.

  • laddibugg

    Our christmas was ok. We put up 95% of our decorations up a few weeks before Xmas, but I decided not to put the tree up until 2 days before because I just knew my son was going to tear it down. He (literally) oohed and ahhed at the lights, touched a few balls…….and that was it. It’s still up (yes, I know), and perfectly intact. Kids surprise you all the time.

    We spent part of the day with my family for breakfast and dinner, and part of the day with my fiance’s ex’s family’s house (he is still a part of her daughter’s life). I’ve never spent that much time with his ex–when ever we go pick the girl up it’s usually a quick hi and bye. Not saying I’d be super friends with her but we really do have a lot in common besides my fiance lol.

    We had to spend NYE and part of the day in the hospital. My son needed to do some observational diagnostics tests, and originally we were supposed to get out in the afternoon of NYE, but decided to stay an extra night in the hospital so he could be monitored with the new medication. He’s fine but he does have an underlying medical issue that we got some confirmation on.

  • Spot

    This was our first holiday season without my husband’s abusive parents and their emotional three-ring circus, and boy was it GOOD.

    The only relative on his side we have a relationship with is his aunt–she’s the black sheep/scapegoat of her own generation, and she and my husband are kindred spirits. She stayed with my mom for a couple days over Christmas and we ended up spending a lot more quality time with family (my mom, my sister and her bf, and husband’s aunt) than we expected and it was seriously wonderful and relaxed and fun. Fun! Turns out spending holidays with people you like is a lot more rewarding than spending the holidays appeasing people you barely tolerate out of misplaced obligation, who knew?

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  • CW

    Super late to the discussion, but for us, staying put this year was absolutely the best decision. We celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas together. My sister came down for Christmas, and my mom arrived for pre-wedding stuff on Christmas night. But given everything that was happening in our lives (him finishing a grad school semester, me packing and moving in, final wedding prep things), no travel this year was the best. We already have made plans and commitments for family travel next year, but plan to keep New Year’s as “our” holiday (aka, it’s our anniversary).

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