So You Survived the Holidays…


Magical? Stressful? Perfect? Exhausting? Dish!

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

Holiday table with modern place settings

This Christmas was the first in our married life where we didn’t hop from parents’ house to parents’ house. And it was the first one in my whole life where I haven’t been with my parents on Christmas day. Sad, right?

Turns out, it was kind of magical.

It’s not, of course, because we don’t love our families. Our families are great. But we have two very small children, and we’d had a hard year, and something had to give. We told our parents that we loved them, but we were staying put this year. It sucked, but we knew it had to happen.

And then we got down to creating our own plans. We shopped for family gifts early, to minimize freakout. We got a bonkers white and silver Christmas tree that we all loved. We “played” a lot of dreidel (by which I mean the toddler spun the dreidel, then ate some gelt, repeat times a thousand). We successfully shifted the focus in our household from presents to experiences (and food, obviously). We even took some time to think about and plan for thoughtful gifts for each other and the kids. And on Christmas morning we ripped open all our presents in Christmas pajamas, and then went to have a spontaneous brunch with friends. Simple, and perfect.

When we took our tree down yesterday our three year old sobbed, saying “But I just loved Christmas morning and opening presents and decorating the tree.” Me too, kid, me too.

In short, this was the first year that we had the nerve (or maybe it was flat-out exhaustion) to actually put our needs first, and it created the stress free holidays we didn’t even know were possible.

(And yup, we totally hung out with our parents too!)

So now, you! How were your holidays? What did you do this year that worked? What did you do this year that didn’t? And if you have freshly in your mind resolves about what you’re going to do differently next year, share them here. 

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • fletchasketch

    I went home for far too long, didn’t work as much as I planned, spent too much money on gifts and it all blew up in my face. But, at least it’s over?

    • Jess

      Oh, I feel you. I’m instigating a “4 days maximum, 3 days preferred” policy next year after I yelled at my FMIL for telling me not to fall asleep as I was closing my eyes, holding tea to my chest, and trying to calm down my breathing in a period of high anxiety. My words were essentially, “HOLY SHIT, I’M JUST CLOSING MY EYES.”

      So… yup. It’s over anyway.

    • emilyg25

      Yep, 3 nights is my max (preferably 2). I love my parents and we’re really close, but that’s enough.

      • Laura C

        Pretty much this. I can do four nights at my parents’, but … three is better. And that’s with parents who give me tons of space and time and don’t expect that just because I’m visiting, I’m hanging out with them nonstop (in fact, they generally have work they want to be getting done), and who happily let me use a car if I don’t have one with me. I LOVE spending the weekend there — I love my hometown, I love my parents’ cooking, it’s relaxing — but too much beyond that I just get itchy because it’s not my adult space.

      • Emma

        agree! we did 4 nights this year with the in-laws (christmas eve to sunday) and it was way, way too long! from now on, sticking to 3 nights or less rule.

    • A.

      We went to my in-laws for 2 weeks and stayed in my husband’s sister’s old bedroom the entire time. NEVER AGAIN. I think both of our relationships with his parents will be greatly improved by us *not* being up in each other’s space for that long. Especially since both of his parents are super well-meaning, but tend towards the infantilizing. (And then is there anything in the world that makes you feel less adult than constantly thinking “I’m an ADULT”?)

      • raccooncity

        We did that exact thing once. Normally we have our own space in the basement with a separate bathroom and we can come and go relatively under the radar, but because of construction, there were other people in that room so we were next door to my in laws for about 10 days and it was THE WORST. I wept a lot that week. (we go for a long time because we’re about $1400 in flights away from them)

        • Lisa

          Do you have a good solution for this? Husband’s family is very far away with an expensive plane ride ($1200 for us this year), and it’s just expected that we’ll stay in his childhood room when we visit, which has room for a queen bed and about 24″ on each side (if I’m being generous). This situation was not great for me for the 12 days we were there, but if we’re going to visit them, it’s going to be a long visit, and we don’t have a ton of extra money to get a hotel room. (I’m not sure there are even hotels in his hometown?)

          • raccooncity

            well, it’s somewhat less of an issue now that we’ve reclaimed our basement territory, but here are the solutions we’d come up with during that time:

            1. because visiting his family usually takes up some of my precious precious vacation time, we try to work in a short vacation for the two of us during the trip. In laws live near a very senic/touristy location, so there are a ton of options for this and groupons for doing it more cheaply. Plus we use a hotel rewards card.

            2. Because it’s a major Canadian city, we also have a couple friends who live there who we could stay with if we wanted, although I would rather stay with the in laws to be honest. But at least we turn it into daylong activities with them or dinners, etc.

            3. One of his siblings lives there as well, and I guess we could stay with them if the space ever got too crowded again – they have a much bigger house and are fun, laid back people.

          • another lady

            stay with the siblings – that has been our solution up to this point. It is so much nicer. But, now they have 5 kids and no extra rooms, so I’m not sure what we are gonna do in the future.

          • Amy March

            Rent a car! (You mentioned above not having access to one). Doesn’t help with the room situation, and I’m with you on 12 days being too long to stay with family and too long for a hotel, but it does give you a ton more flexibility. And if you can, getting away for a night in the middle to a nearby city, if there is one, might break it up a bit too.

          • Lisa

            Funnily, it’s not for lack of cars (they have 2 station wagons, an ancient Geo, a truck, an antique car, and a motorcycle), but the fact that my ILs are weird about who can drive which car. The car that I would be allowed to drive is a stick, and though we did practice with me driving it, it’s an old Geo that’s on it’s last legs with a lot of hiccups so they’re really uncomfortable with me trying to get around the California hills with it. If I rented a car, it would be #7 on their block! Husband is allowed to drive the Geo and one of the station wagons so my transit has always depended on him.

            I really like the idea of scheduling a night or two away for just us next time we visit like you and @disqus_SxApn7NQWT:disqus mentioned. His parents are close to CA wine country so maybe we’ll look into a B&B in Napa or something next time.

          • Amy March

            Yeah, 100% team rent a car then. Unacceptable to just not let you drive any car, but also not want you to rent a car.

          • J

            Where are they? I’m not too far from there, if you’re looking for some daytrip/overnight suggestions!

          • Kayjayoh

            Same. I’d love to get a hotel, but it would put *other* travel during the year into a more unreachable category, by jacking up the cost of holiday visits.

          • Alison O

            If other relatives you like visit at the same time (e.g., husband’s sibling(s)), maybe you could go in on an airbnb with them and it would be cheaper than a hotel? Depends on the location, I guess, whether there are airbnbs and how much they are. VRBO and similar sites might also have options for condo/house rental.

          • Lisa

            SIL lives about an hour away from her parents and just stays in the other childhood bedroom whenever she stays the night so unfortunately that’s not an option. VRBO is something I’d never heard of until yesterday. Probably still too much $$ for two weeks for us, but an interesting idea for some of our other vacation ideas!

          • Hope

            Both our families live an expensive plan ride away so we visit for long periods of time, 1-4 weeks. In the middle of the long trip we take a break to another nearby city/town/country and stay in a hotel/air bnb. This in-between break can be anywhere from 1 night to a week long. Having it in the middle of the long trip splits it up nicely.
            I am also learning to just suck it up as I’m fine spending that much time with my family and find it harder with my in-laws and the reverse may be true for my husband. Sometimes I stay longer with my family after my husband travels home.

          • Lisa

            I really think this is something we’re going to look into next time. We’ve been saying for years that we wanted to go up to Napa/Sonoma and stay for a couple of days, and when we go to see his parents in the future, I think that might be the perfect time to do it!

      • Sosuli

        Oh man, I am on the other end of this as the one with the far away family and am suddenly wondering whether FH feels like this about staying with my mom for a week to 10 days at a time… But we see my family so little there is no way I’d give that up. I guess our compromise is that most of the time I go visit them by myself.

        • A.

          For us they aren’t *that* far away; we go a few times a year and they can easily visit us too. My husband’s work just let him work from home, so we thought it would be nice to stay longer than usual. But his parents definitively fall into the “Why do you need a hotel room? Why do you need to rent a car? We have a room and a car!” category and that’s what we’ll be pushing up against in the future, since the lack of both made us feel trapped, on top of the fact that his parents apparently still have weird rules for their adult children staying in their home that only come out after a few days (too specific and potentially doxxing if I outlined them–I have an engaged SIL who likes this site–but just trust me, they’re a bit over-the-top)

      • another lady

        I/we have decided that we get along better with my parents when we see them in small doses for only a few days at a time. And, we never stay there, despite the fact that they now have an empty 4 bedroom house. Maybe that will change with kids, but probably still not more than a few days at a time!

      • Kayjayoh

        When we still lived out of state, most visits had us staying in the upstairs on husband’s grandmother’s side of a shared house. Then she died and his parents sold and moved into a smaller house. So the last visit had us in the guestroom of a small three bedroom, instead of basically our own apartment. The close quarters really changed the feeling and greatly increased tension between husband and his family.

        (Of course, now we are flying the other direction and staying in my mom’s small 2 BR apartment, but my mom is very, very chill. So no problems on that end of things.)

        • Laura C

          My MIL is downsizing from a large five-bedroom to what’s expected to be a three-bedroom condo. And she’s planning to bring her parents from India to live with her, and we’re having a baby. In short, in the future during stints when we’re not living in the same city with her, we’ll be doing VRBO. I am NOT trying to get a baby down to sleep when I’m stressed out by the close quarters and MIL and her very hard of hearing mother are yelling back and forth.

          • TeaforTwo

            Our condo building has hospitality suites – 1br apartments that rent fully furnished, with sheets, towels and kitchen stuff for $100/night. If her building has something similar that may be a good solution: no time on the road back and forth, but still lots of privacy and a place to retreat to.

  • LydiaB

    This was also my first Christmas away from my parents and sisters. Not going to lie, I was dreading it. The only real breakdown was when I saw my mum for the last time before Christmas but I managed to hold it together until I got home and had a drunken sob on my bemused but understanding husband! The actual trip away was wonderful, no it wasn’t my traditional, rowdy, crazy, fun Christmas with my family, it was different but still Christmas.

  • We had our last easy holiday for a while. In that it was our last holiday living in Japan (meaning nobody expected us home) and having no kids. Next year, we’ll live in the States and have a roughly five month-old, the first grandchild on my husband’s side. So the holidays will become fraught. This year, we went to Hokkaido where my husband skied and we toured Sapporo. They even were kind enough to have a whole lot of snow falling on Christmas Day. Then we flew back to Okinawa and changed into flip flops on the plane. Ideal.

  • Amber Kay Maslanka

    My fiancé and I had a rough year, so we decided we wanted to spend Christmas by ourselves. So, we hosted both our families Christmas Eve and then spent Christmas Day sleeping in, opening gifts, watching TV, and napping. It was just what we needed, and our families were both very wonderful and understanding. :)

  • Rachel

    This year, we went to my parents house for Thanksgiving, so we stayed home for Christmas. We opened up our home to anyone who was still in town, so we had some friends over for a taco bar and games. It was a lot of fun! I’ll admit that I did miss my family. On the 11th it was confirmed that my stepdad’s cancer had returned, and that he had a small tumor. He started radiation and chemo on the 21st, and today starts week 3 of 6. That put a damper on things, but we skyped with my family and sent them gifts.

    We’re hoping to host Christmas next year (this year might be a bit much with the wedding and everyone taking time off for that) with the family. My parents would like to move back to our town (mom was born and raised here) so that’ll make it easier to have everyone here. We’ll see what this year holds.

  • Lisa

    This was the first Christmas I spent with my husband’s family. Last year we were off in Germany by ourselves, and while I was sad not to be with my family celebrating the holidays, I was so excited about spending the day just the two of us that it didn’t even matter. I thought, “Great! I can recognize the sadness of growing up while still being totally happy with my adult life and choices. I am totally adjusted and definitely ready to spend the holidays with his family. Good job, self!”

    And then cut to me sobbing by the dumpsters of his parents’ church on Christmas Eve, trying to call my mom to tell her how much I missed her and realizing that maybe I’m not as ready as I thought.

    Christmas with his family was fun and different. I think what triggered my emotional outburst was that, instead of like last year where we were both displaced, I felt distinctly outside of what was happening even though they were including me in their traditions. There was nothing of my family of origin or just the two of us at his parents’, and that was really difficult for me to get my head around.

    We spent one day with my family in transit back to Badtown, and it was a magical “Christmas” day. My mom started cross-stitching stockings for my sisters and I when I was about 6 and has been working on them intermittently for the past 22 years. This Christmas she surprised us with the final product, and my sisters and I spent forever oohing and awing over how wonderful they are.

    • Rachel102712

      Beautiful!

      • Lisa

        Thank you! My mother is one of the most talented people I know. We were over the moon to finally get the stockings.

    • Not Sarah

      I took my stocking with me to my boyfriend’s family’s house for Christmas this year, which helped a tiny bit. And my parents sent me the things for our stockings that they always do. It was the first time not being with my family on Christmas day and it was definitely way harder than I thought it would be.

      • Lisa

        My MIL made me a stocking to match their families’, which was sweet. (She ran out of matching “A” tiles so my name is a little lopsided.) It was a nice gesture, and I appreciated it, but I definitely missed my family of origin’s traditions.

    • E.

      It’s so hard being with another family for Christmas! I always make sure to work in some of my own traditions, either before/after the trip, or just bringing stuff along. Definitely not the same as going home, but it helps make it a little easier.

      • Lisa

        My mom sent me with some buckeyes and homemade applesauce, which was definitely helpful! It felt like any time I suggested we incorporate one of my traditions (a special dessert or driving around to look at lights) that I was shot down (“I don’t want to have that sitting around!” or “We’re too tired for that. Let’s just stay home and watch another movie.” when I didn’t have car access). It’ll be at least 2017 before we do holidays with them again so there’s plenty of time to discuss what will make it better next time.

        • E.

          Man, that’s really hard. It sounds like they didn’t realize how important it is for you to have some traditions of your own. Do you think if your partner talked to them ahead of time and said something about how it’s hard for you to be away from your family and doing X tradition would really help you feel included they would be more open? Or doing it just the two of you? The tradition I’ve brought with me both years has been picture books that we read Christmas Eve, but there aren’t any little kids in the family so my partner and I just read them on our own.

          • Lisa

            I think my husband didn’t realize how difficult it would be for me until he found me crying outside of the church on Christmas Eve. (He and his parents always play for the CE service at their church. I was supposed to sit with his grandmother, who ended up deciding to go to a different mass, which meant I was going to end up standing alone at the back because there were no chairs left. Husband ended up offering to join me and shirk his playing duties, which prompted the music director to get me a chair up front with the musicians and give me the job of windchime playing during the service so he would play.)

            This was a good lesson for me/us, and when we go to my parents’ house for Christmas 2016, I plan to try and incorporate some of his traditions with ours. Next time we’re with his family I’m going to advocate for my needs better and not just go with the flow to make everyone happy.

          • E.

            That’s great that he’s so supportive! And it sounds like a solid plan moving forward. It’s so hard to anticipate what you’re going to need.

          • Caitlyn

            I’m sorry you had the crying bit first, but it’s adorable that your husband offered to sit out and their church kind of rallied behind you to give you a seat at the front. That is just so sweet and welcoming. I mean at the time it might have been awkward, but I’m almost getting a rom com moment out of the transition from you crying alone next to a dumpster to you sitting at the front of the church with a wind chime. :)

        • anon

          This was sooo my experience two years ago, except add in that then-fiance, now-DH had just moved 600 miles to live with me near my family and his was already missing him “sooo muuuuch” (he had already lived 150 miles away). Also, now-SIL spent hours Christmas night trying to talk him out of moving here and marrying me. And for some reason I wasn’t in a good mood about the whole thing…

          Anyway, before going for Christmas this year, I asked DH for a schedule of the main events, then I asked/told him that we were also going to go see Christmas lights on Christmas instead of sit around watching movies for the entire day b/c dammit I need some Christmas cheer. Last time it was “but we’re all having so much more fun watching movies now, riiiiight?” Also, I brought desserts that could be left sitting out so they wouldn’t take up precious refrigerator space and I was always sure to grab them to take along to family events. So basically I planned ahead with responses to shoot down the polite but not welcoming things they would say and do, and made doing just one thing I wanted to do my hill to die on. This year went much better this time around.

          But you know, SIL still cuts me off when we’re all sitting around chatting, and then openly wonders why I’m not talking much. And MIL was discussing with FIL and SIL the morning after Christmas how she didn’t think I liked any of my presents/she had done all that work for nothing/I’m ungrateful. FYI, I was so happy about so many of them, got up several times to give her a hug and say thank you, etc. So I’m never going to win I think. Good luck! It can only be better next time around :)

    • MC

      This was my second time spending Christmas with my in-laws. I keep thinking it will get easier the more I do it, but I don’t necessarily think that’s true. Being away from my family on Christmas will just always be hard, I think. We make a big deal out of traditions, and the in-laws had long since ceased even putting up a tree. I think for a while my MIL was still grieving the loss of her mother, and she would say things like there’s “no point” in having a lot of celebrations since so many people were no longer with us. (At this point, both grandparents on both sides have passed away.)
      They now put up a tree (mostly for me, I’m pretty sure), but it’s just hard to capture that Christmas magic when my FIL rushes us through Christmas Eve dinner so he can run home and put on Jeopardy. I tried to make my family’s Christmas morning recipes, and it failed pretty miserably. I was in tears.
      So yea- I feel ya! I’m sort of relieved our first Christmas with the baby (I’m due in May) will be with my family. After that I think it’ll be tricky to navigate, but that’s a thread for another day. :)

      • Lisa

        I think we’ve got similar experiences going into this. My husband’s family stopped really paying attention to their traditions 3-5 years ago when SIL moved in with her now husband and didn’t stay over Christmas Eve anymore. It was kind of sad because husband had some things he wanted to bring back and introduce me to, and ILs weren’t really interested in a lot of them.

        Thanks for the solidarity and commiseration!

      • Laura C

        Is there a chance you can push them on some specific things in relation to putting on a good Christmas for the baby? Not that you want to try to turn their Christmas into exactly what your family does for all sorts of reasons, but maybe revive some of their traditions from when they saw a point in celebrations?

        • MC

          I think it’s definitely possible that the new baby will help inject some enthusiasm into the proceedings. And I think that I will want things to be special for him so I will be more vocal about insisting on certain things and starting new family traditions.

          • MsDitz

            I am pretty much you from the future, haha. My in-laws are not big on holidays and spending Christmas with them was hard for me when we were engaged/newly married. Last year was our son’s first Christmas and the whole drive up I was praying to myself “please let them have a tree…please let them have a tree…” and they did! Of course they will never be the super-duper festive people myself and my family are, but adding a baby into the mix did get them more excited for the holidays. Plus, it also made me feel more comfortable saying “I want to do this,” because I am advocating for what I think is best for my child and my family, not just wishing things were different for me.

          • Sarah McClelland

            Especially since the little one will be at the fun stage for opening presents/playing with boxes.

    • MABie

      Those stockings are SO AWESOME!! What a special gift!

      • Lisa

        I was so impressed!! Also, it might not sound like much but we rarely hung our stockings as kids because my parents were hesitant to put any holes in the mantle. There are little hooks are on the backside now, which means stockings can actually be hung!

    • Those stockings are absolutely amazing!

      • Lisa

        Thank you! They are so special to us, and I know we’ll be treasuring them for years to come.

  • Rose

    We had pretty good holidays. Somewhat at the last minute (at least that’s how it felt to me–I guess the conversation started around Thanksgiving when we were up visiting them) my inlaws decided to drive down and visit us; originally they were thinking over Christmas, but since I’d already bought my own tickets to fly to my parents, it ended up being the week before. And it was lovely! Relaxed, with just the four of us, lots of cooking and baking and hanging out. A really, really nice addition on the holiday routine.

    Then I flew out to visit my parents and my wife and her parents went back home to see extended family for Christmas, before coming out to join my family for New Years. It’s what we’ve done for a few years, but I have to say that for the first time it bothered me a bit not to be together for Christmas. So I think we’ll try something different next year. My MIL has already announced that she and I will start planning Christmas earlier next year; what I’m hoping will work out is that they come down before Christmas again, we can celebrate early with the four of us, and then be out here to spend Christmas with my family. But we’ll see what exactly works out.

  • Rachel102712

    Our holidays were full of ups and downs. I had written on
    here previously to announce our pregnancy after a year of TTC, and sadly it
    ended at 8 weeks in mid-December, a week before my birthday and two weeks
    before Christmas. This is our second miscarriage and we are both heartbroken.
    We live out of state and had so been looking forward to sharing our exciting
    news with our families in person during our trip to our respective hometowns.
    Instead, we notified everyone soon after the miscarriage happened so our
    families would know that we had been pregnant and now we are grieving our loss.

    I have read a lot about surviving miscarriage, and the best
    way I can describe the experience is that it’s like mourning a death that no
    one wants to acknowledge. Our families were as caring and supportive to us as
    they knew how to be, but being around my sister who is now visibly pregnant
    (she is 2 months further along than I had been) and all of our nieces and
    nephews was extremely difficult this year. My curious 8-year-old nephew asked
    me if I was ever going to have a baby, and my grandmother shared a story about
    a friend of hers who had a miscarriage and then never went on to have any
    children after that (followed by “I hate to tell you that”). I thought I would
    be OK enough to accompany my sisters and their children to visit Santa, but
    that resulted in me breaking down in tears and my mom had to walk me out of the
    store. My husband’s family simply didn’t say anything to acknowledge our loss
    to us and carried on as usual, which was just as difficult as the insensitive
    things said by well-meaning relatives.

    After spending a week with family, the best thing my husband
    and I did for ourselves was take a spontaneous trip to the mountains where we
    stayed at a pet-friendly B&B to ring in the New Year with our new dog. We
    spent New Years Day exploring little towns we had never been to before and took
    the dog for a day hike at a state park. This year, I am glad in some ways to
    put Christmas behind us, but also am saddened by feeling that way. Here’s
    hoping that 2016 has some happier times in store for us all.

    • Jess

      I am so sorry to hear of your (very real) loss.

      I’m glad you were able to take some time for your husband and yourself on New Years – that sounds like a perfect trip.

    • Lisa

      I am so, so sorry for your loss. There is never a good time for these things, but it sounds like it was coupled with an already emotional time of year. I’m glad you and your husband were able to find some quiet time for just the two of you to try and process everything that has happened.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, and also how your families handled it.

    • E.

      I am so sorry for your loss and having to deal with bumbling relatives. I’m glad you and your husband were able to take some time together with your new dog.

    • emilyg25

      Gee, thanks, Grandma. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • rg223

      Hugs. I’m sorry for your loss. I’m glad you and your husband had a lovely trip for new years.

    • Kayjayoh

      I am deeply sorry for your loss.

    • Lizzie

      I’m so sorry for your loss. May 2016 be kinder to you.

    • Sarah McClelland

      So sorry for your loss. Hopefully 2016 is happier.

  • E.

    Well, I’m home and able to participate in this open thread because I had emergency surgery the day after Christmas! While out of town visiting my partner’s relatives! All turned out fine, but it kinda hijacked the visit. It did help me become much closer to my partner’s family and to my partner. When I was in the worst pain of my life and could barely talk or think, I had complete confidence that he knew any information the hospital needed from my phone number to my medical history. I also trusted that he knew what I would want well enough to make any decisions if anything came up during the surgery.
    Plus, I needed his help to do things like go to the bathroom and get dressed hah.

    • Lisa

      Oh, my goodness!! Talk about an eventful holiday. Glad to hear you’re ok.

      • E.

        Haha yeah the hardest part for me about being at their Christmas is that not much really happens. That was certainly not the case this year!

  • We spent Christmas in Atlanta with his family…and it was more enjoyable than I expected. I did not have a good time last year, and I was kinda dreading it this year. This year was totally different – I got to really connect with my MIL, I got to see some of my friends this year, and I wasn’t the only “new” person this year either. Even though I came home with a wicked cold, this was a good Christmas. This may be our last time going to see his family for the holidays so I’m glad this one was so enjoyable.

  • emilyg25

    This year, we learned that doing Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with husband’s family is just too much. I loved Christmas 2014 where we celebrated at home just the two of us (I was massively pregnant). Next year, we’ll do something similar where we make our own holiday, whatever that is, even if it means not everybody gets to see the baby.

    This was also the first year cutting Christmas short. We took down all the decorations on Dec. 27 to make space for the baby’s 1st birthday on Jan. 1. I’m so excited for this new tradition! We had a lovely little birthday party for him. :)

    • Rebekah

      Good for you for separating Christmas from birthday. I have an early January birthday and remember being a bit peeved at having to sort of share the hype leftover from Christmas and New Year’s.
      Now that I’m older I’ve embraced the concept of BirthMas and just spend a week and a half celebrating!

    • MDBethann

      We informed our families before we even had children that once children arrived, Christmas Eve & Day would be spent by us at our own home so that our kids could wake up with their presents under their tree like we did when we were children. Any family members who want to spend Christmas Day with us are welcome to come down and do so. Otherwise, we would travel up to PA after Christmas to visit the grandparents and aunts (our parents & sisters all live about 60-90 minutes from each other in PA & NJ; we’re over 2 hours away in MD). When it was just the two of us, it was exhausting running between both families and I don’t want to do that with a baby or toddler in tow. It already throws her off and makes her cranky when we split visits between two different grandparents’ homes; doing it all in one day would be way too much. I don’t think our families were thrilled, but they can come to us just as easily (if not more so) than we can come to them.

      • emilyg25

        Yeah, we decided Christmas morning is ours. But we realized that’s not enough.

  • Keeks

    My big victory this Christmas was walking away from my in-laws’ house with only 3 presents! Early on, I said I wanted only 1 gift per family unit, instead of a gift from every single person there which I tend to find overwhelming. This year’s gifts felt so thoughtful (even though they were picked off my wishlist), and I really enjoyed watching the kids open their gifts. The other wins were hosting a post-Christmas brunch with my dad’s family and spending New Year’s Eve at home, just the two of us. The only downside was getting sick the week of Christmas and having to use my post-holiday leave for sick days instead!

    • I feel you on the gift overload. My husband’s family does the name exchange for gifts, but then my MIL gives everyone a bunch of random gifts, too. When we visit for Christmas, she usually then has to mail us our gifts home anyways because we don’t have enough space in our suitcase (this is by design, but she doesn’t get the hint). This year, finally I think my SIL (mother of the first grandchilden, born this past year) was the one who was like “enough stuff!” and so we all got $/experience gifts and very little stuff. Hooray!

  • anon

    Welp, we spent a huge chunk of the 6 hour drive to visit my in-laws for Christmas debating over whether or not I would go by myself to church on Christmas Eve. (His family doesn’t attend church) Tears, frustration, and many tense silences led to a really important conversation about each person’s expectations about what the holiday deal is, now that we’re more than few years in to our marriage. Turns out there were some things that the hubs thought were decided, which I thought were just how it had been in the past. And I’m so glad we talked it through, even though it was painful. So when I decided to stay in with them on Christmas Eve and forgo the church service, I knew it was my choice, supported by him whichever way I ended up. And I knew that the next time we’re there for Christmas, I will have the freedom to make the right choice for me, again.

    In other news, my two sorta out-there ideas about new Christmas activities were embraced by my in-laws, and again, allowed me to move into the phase where we all are making Christmas together, as opposed to me just showing up there and playing the role of guest. Which, after 6 years, isn’t sustainable for someone like me who loves Christmas soooo much. And, as always, kids at Christmas are adorable! So glad I don’t have my own, but so glad to enjoy my nieces seeing snow and discussing Santa. Magic was everywhere.

    Also, we decided not to travel to more than one place over the holidays, and I’m so glad. I ended up getting a cold from Christmas, and so didn’t want to go anywhere but the couch anyway! Yay for intuition/good luck!!

    Happy New Year!

    • Arie

      Hey I had that tense discussion too! Dude is totally non-religious and couldn’t understand why I would want to go to church on Christmas when it’s not a normal part of our lives. Led to some pretty interesting discussion of how I self-identify as a quasi-religious person. I didn’t go either, and I missed it, but it did help to know that if I’d decided to go he would have gone with me, and defended it to his family.

      • JC

        Yep, us too! I also decided not to try to negotiate a church service into the rest of our plans (I also don’t yet have a church I attend regularly in the area), but I definitely missed it and won’t be making the same choice in the years to come. We talked on New Years about why that is and why my religious Christmas and his secular Christmas are not the same, so hopefully we get more comfortable with our family’s own mix of the two in the future.

  • This Christmas was nothing short of a miracle. Manperson got back from being underway in time for Christmas. We drove from NH to Atlanta without getting stuck in ANY traffic. My brother, whom I have been estranged from for 3 years, started to repair our relationship. My extremely extroverted family remembered to give my extremely introverted husband plenty of downtime and space. And my dad won the Christmas prize for randomness by giving my brother’s girlfriend a beta fish and a light up hula hoop for no reason. Because he can.

    If you ignore the part where I had a seizure in the middle of the Christmas Eve church service, it was a really great holiday.

    • Danielle

      Seizure? Oh dear. I hope you’re ok :/

      • I’m fine. Turns out they planned a light show type deal during the service and didn’t warn people. I’m normally very good about avoiding triggers (haven’t had a seizure in years) but lack of sleep + unfamiliar environment + flashing wristbands = no bueno.

    • The light up hula hoop and beta fish sound really fun. And I am so glad you are okay after Christmas Eve”s seizure.

      • Legit, none of us could stop giggling the rest of the weekend. For a lot of reasons my brother and I don’t have a lot to talk about, but now we can at least talk about his girlfriend’s fish. It’s not much, but we’ll take it.

  • Sosuli

    I had my first Christmas in the UK and survived! Mainly by making my family’s traditional Christmas Eve food on Christmas Eve and being surprised that FH’s family loved it. It also definitely helped the FH was amazing and even reminded me of little details from last year’s Christmas with my family (“we have to remember to get almonds for the porridge!”).

    It was also fantastic to find FH and I were on the same page about how long we should be there. His family is only a 20 minute drive from our place, so we rarely stay overnight. We had agreed to go over on Christmas Eve but hadn’t set a date for returning home, and I was a little worried he would want to spend the whole week there. By Sunday I was finding it hard not to snap at some of my FMIL’s comments, ranging from wedding pressure (“But you have to wear your wedding dress again at your family party in Finland!”) to ignorant comments about a transgender child on the news (“it must have been difficult to tell at birth which sex the child was”). So I was incredibly happy when on Monday morning FH said it was time to go home!

    On the downside, it was my birthday on New Year’s Day and my birthday is always crap. It is like the international day of the Hangover and I struggle every year to get anyone to celebrate with me. FH took over this year and tried to organise a dinner for me, but everyone either ignored his messages or declined. It put me in a bit of a meltdown since it reminded me of a whole lifetime of birthday invitation rejections, but we had a nice New Year’s Eve with a couple friends (who forgot it was my birthday the next day) and a chilled birthday with FH going for a walk and watching a movie. Anyone else with holiday season birthdays share my frustration?

    • raccooncity

      Oooh. This is the sad flipside of my couple of friends who have birthdays on Dec. 31. We always have so much fun celebrating them. I have a birthday near enough to a huge local celebration that people don’t really celebrate my birthday on the day, thus I usually annex whatever celebration-themed party my friends are having and claim it as my birthday as well. A party’s a party.

      • Eh

        My birthday is always either on a long weekend or just before or just after a long weekend. As a kid it sucked because I couldn’t have my party that weekend since all my friends went away but now I claim the whole weekend as my birthday. My daughter’s birthday is the same way and we have a huge family get together the weekend of her birthday so every year she will get to spend it having a camp out with family. (Note: my husband’s birthday is not near any holidays and he said that he is just happy having one day for his birthday.)

    • rg223

      *raises hand* I was born on Thanksgiving, so my birthday is either on that day, or over the 4 day weekend. I never plan anything on that weekend since I assume people will be traveling. I generally do something the week after, but even that gets tricky because other celebrations start post-Thanksgiving (for example, it overlapped with Hannukah this year and some Jewish friends declined a dinner because of it). So I feel you on this! I’m sorry your friends bailed, that’s always a bummer. I cope with the holiday birthday by not having expectations for the actual day, and planning smaller, special events throughout November and saying in mind, “This is for my birthday!” Maybe you can do a couple things later in January to make up for it?

    • Alice

      I can’t relate to the birthday dilemma, but how incredibly rude is it when people just ignore your messages?! We were trying to get a few people together for New Year’s, and both sets of people didn’t respond for three days, and then texted that morning to say they weren’t coming. WTF!!! If you don’t know your plans, tell me that! If you think it’s going to be a lame night and don’t want to hang out, let me know! Seriously! Don’t just leave me hanging, and wondering whether or not I can make other plans!

      • Sosuli

        Yes! We had this with a couple people for my birthday – in casual conversation they had said “oh yeah, that sounds good” and then when we actually texted with plans, there was no response whatsoever. Not even a “sorry, but happy birthday anyway”. There is really nothing ruder than not responding at all for days on end.

      • CMT

        I think then you need to switch modes of communication, or explicitly state that you want a reply. I’m pretty sure most people don’t think of replying to texts as mandatory. I certainly don’t. Especially when I may see them when I’m half asleep, or busy with something, and then just totally forget. For me personally, emails are better for things like party invites.

        • NotMarried!

          I’m with you, @disqus_TjQsPoRI0L:disqus regarding a preference for emails. My partner, on the other hand, rarely checks email, but will be attentive to a text. UGH for having to learn the preferences of your social circle.

        • Alice

          I dunno, I feel like it’s pretty obvious that if I’ve invited you somewhere, and you read the message, it would be courteous to reply. Maybe not seconds later, but within a day or two? I really prefer email, honestly, but I’ve found that the people who don’t reply to texts don’t reply to emails, either.

    • Lisa

      Oh, man, can we talk about ignorant comments and stress around that? My FIL is a generally sweet guy with a rough exterior and in his early 70s, which means he’s part of a certain generation that thinks feminism is ridiculous and that racism has been solved in the Bay Area because he’s never personally seen it. Usually I only hear these comments in small doses, but by the end of our nearly two week vacation, I was ready to snap and did get into a couple of arguments with him, which didn’t really help matters because he likes to argue and neither of us back down when we think we’re right.

      • Sosuli

        Aaaah the anti-feminist stuff… My FH’s little brother keeps “liking” horrible anti-feminist posts and facebook, which is super annoying because those issues never come up in conversation so I can’t actually challenge him on them. With the transgender issue I did speak up and point out there was absolutely nothing in the news story to justify her presumption, and she semi-backtracked. It is such a hard balance between not wanting to get into arguments around the holidays and just not being able to listen to the offensive crap people come out with. (To be fair, I often have the same issue with my own family, it was just that we happened to be with his this Christmas)

        • Lisa

          That sucks about the awful anti-feminism stuff. My parents have definitely said stuff like that, too, and we’re at a point where we don’t bring up certain topics around each other because we know we don’t agree. FIL believes he should be listened to and expresses his opinions because people rarely challenge him. I had to pick and choose my battles; some comments I let slide, but others I couldn’t let go. (We got into a long argument on Christmas Eve when I made some comment that products and laws designed to help women take longer to evolve and he challenged me on that assumption.)

        • Alison O

          At least on FB there’s the good ol’ unfollow.

      • Anon for Christmas

        Yeesh. The ignorant comments kill me. I made a comment one night over dinner about the deplorable state of maternal leave (and women’s healthcare in general) in America as well as noting that places with better maternal and paternal leave often have higher rates of quality of life and general satisfaction. My FIL responded by telling me that I was being brainwashed by all of the ridiculous ideas that I hear at “that school of yours.” He meant my university, where I am almost finished with a degree that has nothing to do with healthcare or the discussion of healthcare, so my ideas were completely formed based upon my own research, knowledge, and (valid) beliefs. Like, this is a man who has a wife and children, yet he thinks that maternal health and leave post-birth is an unimportant issue for sniveling liberal cry-babies. Good to know that when my husband and I have children, my FIL won’t be bothered a bit if I am rushed back to work after maybe twelve weeks of unpaid leave.

        • Lisa

          Yeah, I definitely got some of the “you’ve been brainwashed by the liberal media and have no real world experience to back up anything you say” line, too. It makes my blood boil to think that people think so little of me to believe that I could not seek out multiple sources of information, read the facts, and form an educated opinion on my own.

    • Amy March

      Kinda, but I’m also on team if, as an adult, you want people to make a fuss over your birthday, you tell them! So, on NYE, “OMG guysssss so excited that you are all here to celebrate the eve of my birthday!!! Let’s all eat this cake I have conveniently tucked into my purse,” and at midnight have your partner also toast your birthday. I find that people are usually pretty happy to celebrate you in the moment even if remembering the date isn’t their priority.

      I have a summer birthday and spent a long time being sad that people just weren’t around to celebrate, particularly the 7 years I was away to university so my core friends really weren’t around. Now I focus on wanting something achievable- I can’t get a big group get together, but I can make a plan I want to do (its always river tubing and ice cream) that’s fun whether one person comes or 10.

      • Sosuli

        Yeah… I did do that. As in, I did send them a message saying I was really glad they could make it for New Year’s since it’s my birthday too, and they still forgot. FH did toast my birthday at midnight and it was nice, but that was pretty much it, since he forgot to get the cake out for me. We had it just the two of us with a candle on my actual birthday.

        I’m being a bit overdramatic, it was actually really nice to have some time with just the two of us on my birthday, it was just disappointing trying to organize something small-scale and even that failing… yet again.

    • Cleo

      I have a birthday that coincides with Thanksgiving/Thanksgiving weekend. It’s rough. The last time I tried to get a group together, not only could no one come, but no one responded to my invitation, except my partner, but he lives with me, so…

      It’s really sad and makes me go into a bit of a spiral to the point where I’ve stopped trying to do anything with a group. So now, my MO is to plan for dinner and a movie with my partner and cuddles with our puppy and that’s it.

      Although, this past year, I got together for random weekday wine night with two of my best female friends and they ended up wishing me happy birthday at the end of it, which was so nice and unexpected, I nearly started crying, even though the get-together had nothing to do with my birthday.

      • Sosuli

        I soooo relate. Logical me always tries to tell myself it isn’t a big deal and it’s just a timing issue… but then when FH’s cousins say they can’t come have dinner for my birthday because they’re going to their local pub (which they literally do every weekend) it takes me back to being 11 and feeling like I have no friends.

    • Danielle Antosz

      Mine is Dec 19th, just a few days before Christmas. Not quite as bad as NY day, but I do feel you:( When I was a kid, I didn’t have any issues – we always had family only celebrations and my parents were great about making sure I felt like I got my own day. But as I’ve gotten older its terrible. People have work and family parties all month, and its like pulling teeth to get people to do anything, esp as I’ve gotten older and want a little more than “lets go to the bar and get smashed”. Last year, my husband paid over 100 bucks to rent two bowling lanes at place where they have a restaurant, bar, bowling, and arcade. And last minute, half the people dropped out. They wouldn’t give us a refund for the second lane, which we didn’t need, and we found out it cost twice as much to reserve versus just showing up and waiting. Luckily, the lane jammed and they took forever to fix it, so we were able to get a refund that way. I decided never again. It really sucks to get your feelings hurt like that, esp as an adult, for some reason! Sorry your birthday was lame :(

      • NotMarried!

        December 15th baby here – for a recent milestone birthday, I ended up having my party in late January because everyone is SO BUSY with holiday events and thus prioritization of a birthday just doesn’t happen.

      • Sosuli

        Glad you had a nice birthday this year – I definitely think lowering expectations is key. I actually was planning on nothing at all this year since I know from experience how hard it is to get anyone together, but then FH got all my hopes up with saying he would get everyone together for dinner. I warned him people would be busy, but he insisted… which was sweet, but it got me all excited that for once I would do something on my actual birthday, only to then end up being disappointed when it of course didn’t work out.

        I do sometimes try and do something later in January, but this year I am focused on finishing my PhD dissertation… so… nope.

        • Danielle Antosz

          :*( That sucks. I am actually due to give birth any day now. I was sort of hoping for a new years baby, but I think she will appreciate having a day a little bit apart from the holidays.

    • Laura C

      My birthday is December 29 and while I’ve never had a problem around gifts — it was also my grandmother’s birthday so everyone was trained that it was still a birthday, dammit — I definitely end up with holiday fatigue, and getting people to a party would be really tough. Although, funnily enough, for a couple years my sorta-replacement was a New Year’s Day hangover brunch I’d host, and I’d make myself a birthday cake to serve at that.

      When I was a kid it definitely frustrated me because no way could I have a birthday party on my actual birthday, and that often meant I didn’t have one. But we’d also sometimes do a half birthday party, or one in mid January. I don’t know … it sounds like being stood up and/or forgotten would be the worst part, and I guess I’ve always avoided that by not asking for much on my actual birthday and creating other situations. And, I mean, my family has always done something — I’ve never gotten the “oh, Christmas also counted for your birthday” business.

    • Lauren

      I have a summer birthday that always coincided with the first week of school as a kid (suuuucked so hard) and the end of summer break throughout college, so I never really got into big celebrations because it was so hard to get people together. A couple years ago I decided that I really wanted to do something big(gish) for my birthday, so I threw a party on a random weekend in November. Everyone knew that my real birthday was long past, but it was totally ok – a surprising number of people even brought presents. I think people are happy to celebrate you if you give them the opportunity to, and if you can be flexible in your expectations.

  • Mary Jo TC

    This year I found myself being the jerk on Christmas yelling at everyone else to stick to traditions. When we were kids, we always went to church on Christmas morning, and my mom said it was a deliberate choice to foreground the religious celebration instead of the present frenzy, and I still really like that idea and appreciate it and wanted to continue it. But it seems like there has been a change in the rest of the family and in the entire community and the American Catholic church to move toward going to Mass on Christmas eve, not a midnight Mass, but at like 5 pm. That’s when there’s a crowd at church now, so people can ‘get it over with’ and then focus on gifts, not on Christmas morning like when I was a kid. This year, my parents went to church on Christmas eve because my sister was singing in the choir, and my husband and I stayed home because the toddler was napping and because we were planning to go in the morning. As soon as my other sister showed up to the family party that evening, she asked why we weren’t at church. I bristled and said we were going tomorrow because that was what we’d always done, and she said we hadn’t done that for years. What bothered me was that she was re-writing our history and traditions and saying they were different than they had been. I walked away. Anyway, we slept later than I’d hoped Christmas morning (and yet not enough), then I had to rush to get ready for church. I was surprised to see that my mom wasn’t getting ready (we were staying at her house) and I guess the shock made me overreact. She’d been planning to work on getting a brunch ready for my siblings but she went to church with us thanks to my little outburst. It worked out ok because she still had plenty of time to get brunch ready (and I pitched in because I felt bad) because my brother and his family were so late. I hate that I was the jerk that we were all complaining about a couple weeks ago. I’d like to put at least 10% of the blame on travel stress and lack of sleep. Making a note of this for next year to try to avoid recurrences.
    Also, does anyone else find New Year’s to be the most let-down of a holiday ever? It’s this big buildup for a countdown, kiss and toast, and I feel like there’s stupid cultural pressure to dress up in something sparkly and spend a ton of money going to an overpriced party downtown or whatever. We spent New Year’s Eve driving to my parents’ house, arrived to an empty house at like 9 pm with a toddler who needed to go straight to bed, and then we were stuck there. I had to spend some time doing my least favorite activity ever, shaving my legs (to get ready for the indoor water park the following day), and then we watched the last 15 minutes of an incredibly lame countdown show. No champagne toast for the preggo. It sucks being a parent on New Year’s. Either you pay a lot for a babysitter, or you drag kids with you and wreck their bedtime and pay for it later. I think the best option is to stay home and host a few people, put the kids to bed early and party quietly downstairs. But it’s hard to do that when you’re out of town and staying in someone else’s house. I saw that Netflix had streaming countdowns for kids this year, so parents could trick the kids into celebrating early, then put them to bed. What a great idea!

    • another lady

      no toast on the holidays sucked for prego me, too. I feel your pain! But, we found other ways to enjoy our last childless holiday season.

    • You know, now that I think about it, we used to go to Christmas morning mass frequently (my dad sometimes works on holidays, so our Christmas mass schedule varied depending on if he worked Christmas Eve or no). But now we almost always go to Christmas Eve mass.

    • Eenie

      I don’t even have a kid but I went to bed at 10pm. Totally over rated. I especially hate being on the roads because of all the people who drink and drive. I choose to host and have people stay the night or stay the night somewhere at a party. Without either of those options, we just stay home.

    • New Years Eve was super lame, too. I stayed up to midnight with my husband, but mostly because that’s how long we usually stay up. And while we were flipping through the channels, all we could find were really really sad documentaries on ESPN. So I spent a lot of NYE crying because of how sad this coach’s life was (his family members kept dying and he always made it there just too late!) until we realized that maybe we should change the channel. (Why ESPN? Why show this super sad documentary at 11pm on NYE?) But we did have sparkling apple cider, because I love that and so that part was cool, even if we drank it out of mugs and it was quiet and not like my fun family giant NYE parties (which don’t really exist as much, since they are being transported to bars now that cousins are old enough to drink, so even if I was in California, it wouldn’t really matter anymore).

    • But also, regarding putting kids to bed early/Netflix countdown: since we lived in California, we (when we were little) would just celebrate New York New Years and then still get to go to bed at 9, which wasn’t too much later than normal.

      • Eenie

        We would pick a different time zone to celebrate. I’m pretty sure we usually did the uk (living on the east coast).

  • Danielle

    My sister got married this December and she lives in Israel, so we spent a week there towards the mid-end of the month. It was FABULOUS. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was wonderful doing something really, really different from usual (usually the holidays are not too important to me and I just stay put). This was our first married December, and it was awesome being with my family, eating delicious food (shakshuka, baba ganouj, halvah, sabiche, sufganyot, etc), exploring a totally ancient, historical place, celebrating my sister and meeting her new husband’s family.

    As a Jew I usually get annoyed and jealous at the Christmas-ification of the month of December. It was awesome to be in a place where Christmas simply didn’t matter much. (We saw like 2 Christmas trees when we were there, and they were pretty cute.) We even got there at the tail end of Chanukah, and got to eat delicious filled doughnuts (sufganyot).

    I’m really not a nationalistic person, and have many criticisms of the Israeli government. However, for anyone who feels ambivalent or worse about Christmas, I would recommend going someplace with a really different culture that time of year. I hope we can do it again!

    • eating words

      Yes! I lived in Israel for a year and LOVED the fact that almost no one there paid attention to Christmas. I was at work one day and realized, “Oh hey, it’s December 25.” And also, fresh sufganiyot are amazing. Mmm.

      • Danielle

        It was awesome. The two Christmas trees I saw, I was like, “Hey, that’s cute.” That’s the level of Christmas I can deal with.

        Sufganiyot FTW! There’s a bakery called Roladin that made many unique kinds (with different jelly fillings, like mango, custard, etc). Nom nom.

        Food is definitely a great way to get my atheist, raised-Christian husband more interested in Chanukah. In addition to sufganiyot, a friend shared her belief that “any fried foods are good for Chanukah”. So to celebrate the first night this year, we got takeout from our fave fried chicken joint down the block. Yay for new traditions!

        • We threw a Hanukkah party this year! I also subscribe to the “Hanukkah is a fried foods holiday’ and don’t save it just for latkes and sufganiyot. We ordered chicken wings and broke out the deep fryer and planned to make latkes (on the stove) and sufganiyot (in the fryer) and then invited friends to bring anything they wanted to fry. The unexpected winner: someone brought a can of pre-made cinnamon bun dough and we threw them in the fryer then used the included icing like a dipping sauce. Like a long spiral churro. Yum!

          • Danielle

            WHAT.
            That. Sounds. Amazing!!!!!!!

        • eating words

          It’s totally a thing to eat ANY fried foods for Chanukah. I treated myself to pakoras and onion bhaji from my favorite Indian restaurant, fries from my favorite burger place, and all sorts of good things besides latkes. It was great.

          • Danielle

            I didn’t know that until this year! Next year I’m totally gonna eat ALL the fried Indian foods bc they are my fave!

  • Juliet

    We spent Christmas with my family in California, and that went really well!

    I feel like the flop were my efforts to tone down gift giving with my husband’s family. They are lavish givers, lots of STUFF plus cash, etc., and I while I absolutely know it comes from a place of caring I find it overwhelming and stressful. I’ve tried for several years to hint that I really like handmade items, “experience” gifts, etc., to no improvement. So this year I was very clear with his mom while we were visiting for Thanksgiving and I said “With our recent unexpected move and efforts to save for a house, we are planning a VERY light Christmas, and I hope you will join us.” She was unenthused. I then suggested we focus on consumable or experience gifts this year, and she was more on board for that, so I felt optimistic.

    Jump to a few weeks later, about two weeks before Christmas, and MIL’s best friend who was in the town we live in for the weekend drops by with gifts from MIL. The gifts were several large bottles of craft beer (something my husband and I both enjoy- a great gift for us) and about six POUNDS of very fancy cheese. Now, we like cheese. This is a lovely thoughtful idea, but how were two people supposed to eat six pounds of cheese before we left for a week to visit my family for Christmas?!? I am lactose sensitive and can only eat very small amounts of cheese at a time before I become uncomfortable, and my husband only likes certain kinds of cheese. We brought lots to holiday parties, and even hosted a party to try to get it all eaten, and were pretty successful. We leave for our trip to CA, and arrive to see that MIL has also sent a large box of gifts to my mom’s house. When we open those gifts on Christmas, I discover my mother-in-law has also gifted me two cheese-making kits, and each kit makes 30 pounds of cheese. So, that’s a total of 66 POUNDS OF CHEESE I have received from my MIL for Christmas.

    Do I like cheese? Sure. But I have no idea how she got on such a cheese kick! Way to scale back, MIL. 66 POUNDS OF CHEESE. At least it’s a good story, now excuse me while I start making enough cheese to start a small business.

    • rg223

      Maybe she WANTS you to start a small business… everyone loves a cheesemonger in the family!

    • Sosuli

      I just want to empathize with frustration of gift-overload, my FMIL is sooo similar. She always gets 1 or 2 bigger Christmas gifts, plus a bag full of little bits and pieces (like 10 different individually wrapped things), like various things with my initials on or little ornaments. I have pretty much a whole box full of the random bits and bobs she has given me over the years. Next year I think I’ll try and emphasize the experience gifts too, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be any more successful than you! Enjoy the cheese making!

    • Amy March

      Ummm, how is that a flop? You suggested consumable or experience gifts, even though you know that is not what she likes to give, and she did it! Exactly what you wanted! You freeze the extra cheese, and use the cheese making kits later on in the year when you’re bored or need a couples project. I’d focus on how good a job she did at following your instructions, and not on how you just happened to not really like her gifts and chalk this one up as a win!

      • Ravenclawed

        Yes to freezing cheese! I didn’t know it was a thing until my old roommate did it. Doesn’t taste exactly the same, but it’s pretty darn close. Naturally, firmer/harder cheeses freeze pretty well, while something like a brie is probably not going to make it.

        • NotMarried!

          I’ve frozen Brie successfully (baked it after thawing it out).

      • Juliet

        Frankly that’s a very valid point. She absolutely followed my request, and the way her gift is totally contrary to the spirit of ‘scaling back’ while being 100% in line with my request is mostly just incredibly charming and amusing to me. I will also say that this is not the only gift I received from her including many things that aren’t consumable or experience gifts, but this much cheese is by far the most amusing to recall.

        My biggest take away this year, which I can’t believe took me 6 years to finally sink in to my hard skull, is that she REALLY LIKES to give us big lavish gifts, and asking her not to isn’t “letting her off the hook,” it makes her sad that she can’t do that! This is so the opposite of my feelings about gift giving, so it took me a while to get this. I will definitely approach her gift giving differently next year knowing this.

        • My mom sends us a bunch of stuff (fortunately, mostly food we can’t get in Japan rather than the useless stuff we don’t want that she used to send) with a check that, while certainly not outrageous, is more than my husband feels comfortable with. His family doesn’t really do gifts, so it’s especially strange for him. But my mom likes to do it. It makes her happy and if we made a fuss about not wanting it, it would only hurt her feelings. So I wish my husband could have the realization that you just did, because I hate that I have to deal with his discomfort every year rather than just being able to accept that this is what she does and be grateful. Starting next year, she’ll spend the money budgeted for us on the baby we’ll have by then and I think he’ll deal better with that.

          • MDBethann

            I would still think about setting some boundaries on gift giving for baby – we are thankful we stayed low-key with the Santa gifts & presents from us for our daughter, because she got bunches of stuff from family for her (Thanksgiving) birthday and Christmas, PLUS hand-me-down toys that my cousins’ kids have outgrown. It’s great that people love her and want to give her gifts, but my husband felt pretty overwhelmed by the amount of toys she’s received in the last 2 months. We’re putting a bunch of it away until she’s a bit older & the toys are more age appropriate. But we also got some electronic toys with which we are less than thrilled. We know people mean well, but we really, really don’t want electronic toys for her, mostly because (1) she doesn’t have an interest in them and (2) they’re mostly annoying.

            She’ll be 2 next Christmas, so we’re going to try and emphasize experience gifts, like a zoo or aquarium membership for her next year. Her one aunt gave her music classes for her birthday, so hopefully that goes well and we can ask for that or swim lessons next year too.

          • Caitlyn

            Lessons is a great idea! Subscriptions can also be fantastic – Cricket magazines are amazing and kids love to get mail!

    • Kayjayoh

      Your story made me think of this:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1KBxsO85CY

    • freefromrecipentgiftburden

      Something that has helped me with the lavish gifts that I don’t want is to realize that some people (my husbands family) view gift giving as a joy for the giver (I on the other hand try really hard to give things that the recipient wants). For our wedding shower his family gave us about 200 dollars worth of grilling stuff (we don’t own a grill), for our baby shower they clearly had a great time going to several stores we were registered at and getting hooded towels, clothes, and blankets (all of which we already had), for Christmas we got a shit ton of kitchen stuff (after we’d spent the last 2 months cleaning out our kitchen to make room for most of what we had and make the space useable, not just a jenga of pots and pans).

      It always made me really stressed out and I would actually get angry, and then I realized it was becuase I then felt like I had to hold on to all this stuff because they gave it. Finally this year I’ve attempted to embrace that going and picking out this gifts gives them joy, and I’m happy knowing that they think about us, and wish us well, but that I can return/sell/donate/regift those items with NO GUILT, because they got what they wanted out of the exchange (going shopping, planning what they wanted to buy), and I got the joy of knowing they care about us enough to want to get us stuff at big markers. But I’m not obligated to keep that grilling stuff in my storage room, and it’s fine to return the 9th hooded towel and get some diapers with the money. Not sure if that helps you, but giving myself permission not to feel weighed down or burdened by the gifts was a big shift for me.

      • Lisa

        This is something I’m working on, too. His parents tend to give a lot of little presents that I don’t particularly enjoy or won’t use, and I’m trying to accept that it’s fine to get rid of these things and not feel like I have to hold onto them or use them just because it came from someone I see only once or twice a year.

        • Eenie

          Last year I got a scarf and hat because I lived somewhere cold. This year, after moving closer to them where there’s no winter, I got a scarf! Before I opened it (not in front of them) I said I hoped it wasn’t another scarf. This time it’s at least a little more me. I got rid of last year’s scarf and hat.

      • Violet

        I get rid of people’s gifts to me All. The. Time. If you have a desire to buy it, wrap it, get an excited face and a hearty thank you (or thank you note, if not opened in person), then I’m your girl! But after that? I do what I want. If instead you care that I will keep something (also legitimate), then just let me pick it out.
        For the fearful: no, I have never EVER had someone say, “Why don’t you wear that necklace I gave you next time we get together?” or “Can I see where you hung that doodad in your apartment?” Of course it might happen (and I know some givers are very focused on following up on their gift), but often, you’re in the clear.

        • Sosuli

          I unfortunately always get the “Where have you hung up the [insert decorative plaque/ornament/wooden owl here] I got you?” and “Did you wear BOTH the dress and purse I got you to that wedding, because they were meant to use together… can I see a picture?” questions from my FMIL. Makes getting rid of stuff really hard.

          • MDBethann

            Ouch.

          • Is it terrible that my answer to this is: dress in it or put it up somewhere solely to take a picture with it and then get rid of it?

            I do that for all gifts where I don’t want to offend the giver, I give them proof we received it and look excited, and then it quietly goes away.

          • Caitlyn

            I have someone like this in my life. And it’s taken YEARS. But I get rid of (most of) the stuff now. But I do so with a prepared statement in my head (so nutty, but it’s what has finally allowed me freedom). So if I donated the decorative plaque/ornament/wooden owl – I would say “it was cute, but we just didn’t have the space” or “thanks for thinking of us, but it didn’t really match the look I was going for”. It’s kind of up to your comfort level the amount of white lies you include. “I ended up wearing another dress to the wedding” can be enough. But if you feel it’s too direct “The dress was too big/small/unflattering.” (unflattering is good since you can’t argue with that – and it’s almost like “too bad, huh?”. Keep in mind that she may listen carefully and “fix” whatever issue you mention (getting smaller size if you say it was too big, etc). I also try to emphasis the positive. My FMIL has given me two tops for the last two years. And both years, I have loved one and the other… not so much. Each time, I make it a point to rave about the top I like and wear it around her. She’s never asked about the other top. She’s a smart lady. I’m sure she figured out that the other top didn’t work out as well. But she also got to know – truly and honestly – how much I enjoy the top I do like (the benefit of my approach is that when I do like a present – people know about it).

      • yes, THIS. His family are major gift givers, and the thought of all the stuff I don’t need that we’ll get every year stresses me out to no end. It’s also hard for me to wrap my head around disposable consumer goods, because in my family gifts are simple, handmade, and you keep them forever… I still have the baby clothes and quilts my grandma made for me when I was born, they’re in storage for our future baby, and I wonder to myself why we’ll need much new stuff when I already have items that I deeply cherish. But you’re right — the overwhelming gift-giving from his family comes with little expectations to actually keep it, beyond the excitement of opening the presents you’re free to do whatever you want with it. So maybe when I finally get past the guilt and start getting rid of them, I’ll enjoy being gifted presents instead of stressing out about it.

        (although when his parents are two flights away, and you have to pay for extra luggage to carry all those gifts home… just to dispose of them? arghhh.)

        • Marcela

          Find a donation shop in their town. It won’t even make it into your case!

      • Sosuli

        This is a good way of looking at it. I’m going to try and focus on this next year and this summer when the inevitable wedding gifts come up. I just haven’t quite got the grip of selling/returning/getting rid of the stuff. My future-in-laws live really close by and will drop round and ask and check whether we are using the things they got. Most infamously my FMIL got us a hideous clock once (not even for any holiday or event, just because) and kept asking my FH whether I liked it and where it was when they came over, to the point that he snapped at the constant questions and said we didn’t like it. I felt bad, but it was the only thing we could do aside from keeping it in a drawer and constantly diving to fish it out if they were suddenly dropping in for a visit, which we just weren’t prepared to do.

        • Lisa

          My little sister got an Amish quilt from her FIL’s side of the family for the wedding. EVERYONE pitched in to buy this custom-made, king-sized quilt for a bed they don’t have, and they didn’t check with her before purchasing it to see what colors she liked. She totally hated the thing and resented having to store it in their small apartment. When MIL asked the husband how my sister liked the quilt, he responded that she really didn’t so the MIL offered to buy it back from them. I’m sure they didn’t win any popularity contests with his extended family, but they came out $600 richer and one quilt poorer so I guess that’s a win.

    • gonzalesbeach

      This doesn’t help now, but perhaps for future gift-giver types. I figured out a couple days before Christmas a secret weapon for gifts that are not useless! man and I weren’t going to do gifts this year (we usually do experience gift and one or two things like socks) – instead spend funds on trip to see his mum – but started feeling bad that there would be nothing for him to open on Christmas morning – so I finally stocked the earthquake preparedness kit! I wrapped up things like bandaids, gauze, baby wipes, waterproof matches, freeze dried food, water purification tablets, a hand-crank radio, utility knife etc and we both unwrapped them together. Not stuff that you want to use- but good to have in case you need it! And a couple days after Christmas – a smallish earthquake 4.8 shook us before bed – a good reminder to have the kit ready!

    • S

      Oh my goodness, fancy mac and cheese party! My partner’s relatives gave us a heap of fancy cheeses as well, and we don’t really eat much blue cheese (in fact, I’ve been transitioning to veganism for a while) or know what to do with it. New year’s Day I just made up a roux with some sautéed garlic and onion, poured some milk in then added ALL OF THE DIFFERENT FANCY CHEESES, along with some leftover less fancy cheese we’ve been trying to use up. When would we ever get the chance to eat such fancy mac and cheese? In our own house? Never! It was not a good night for my veganism, and I had some wicked awful cheese dreams, but at least it’s all gone in one fell swoop now!

    • Kayla

      I realize it wasn’t a good fit for you, but I have to say… I would be deliriously happy if someone gave me 66 pounds of cheese. It would be the best Christmas of all time.

  • Dynia

    We combined Christmases this year – my parents flew over from the States, we spent 5 days here and then 5 days with my in-laws, with various visits throughout. Absolutely exhausting but everyone is happy (hopefully for several years). It all went fine although I find the sit / eat / chat routine a bit tedious. Also, what is with store-bought Christmas cake? Cake for Christmas??? Clearly Chirstmas is for pie!!
    We both had some annual leave to use so we still have another week off (nothing exciting planned – some PhD catch-up, walks, and errands but nice to have the time and space for important talks and hanging out)

    • Sosuli

      I don’t really relate on the pie for Christmas thing, but am equally confused about cake at Christmas. I’m in the UK and all I can say is the Christmas cake over here is… kind of disgusting.

      • Dynia

        Right? I was weirdly upset by this (not a huge fan of store-bought baked goods anyways, if I’m going to eat something, I prefer it to be fresh). Luckily my mom had made some Mexican wedding cookies and there were a few leftover.

      • Alice

        Oh, agreed, horrible white fondant and weird bits of unidentifiable jellied fruits…

        • Sosuli

          Exactly! And traditional UK wedding cake is pretty much the same thing. Cue several arguments about what cake we’re having…

      • gonzalesbeach

        try a dark cake recipe, and none of the icing stuff, a couple weeks before Christmas; wrap in brandy soaked cheesecloth, and continuously douse it in brandy up until Christmas and then you eat it with a little Wensleydale

        • Hope

          In our house we eat the Christmas cake with sharp Cheddar cheese. Mmmm.

      • clairekfromtheuk

        you’re eating the wrong cake!! mine is so delicious (even if I do say so myself!)

    • Or you can have pie AND cake AND cheesecake! The Christmas dessert table! (And usually some cookies and sometimes a cream puff tree and some chocolates and who knows what else… my family really prioritizes desserts on Christmas).

  • anon

    I didn’t really believe it would happen despite many people telling me that it was a distinct possibility (it felt too cliche!), but the first Christmas we spent with my in-laws *as a married couple* (six months from our wedding) was extremely stressful and more than a little tense. It makes me so sad, but I felt like there was a coldness from my MIL (who I love and has always been wonderful, if not perfect) from the second we entered the door. I later described it to my best friend as feeling like an animal must before an earthquake—you know something is brewing, but you can’t quite put your finger on what.

    Anyway, she and my husband got in the worst fight they’ve had since he was a teenager. I mean, they NEVER fight. Ever. But it was like something in my husband snapped and he wanted to set every boundary that I had been gently nudging him to set for years…but all at once, in sharp black and white terms, and with a loud voice. On the one hand, they were things that needed to be said. But on the other, things have been AWKWARD. My husband feels awful, yet justified. And I feel so uncomfortable, yet SO angry at my MIL, even though my husband was the one who “started” the fight and, yes, did overreact. But she started the whole two week period out with weird comments and basically ignoring her son “because he’s a husband now” and telling us to return the presents we bought for people for unexplained reasons and making snippy comments about the fact that we both needed to work half-days blah blah blah.

    I’m just not sure how to move forward from here. It feels like the origin story of shitty in-law relations, but I really, really don’t want it to be.

    • joanna b.n.

      Wow. Wow. SO sorry this happened to you all! It does sound like a major round of things unsaid erupted into everythings said at what was likely a tense time for all involved – i.e. first Christmas as a family. My two cents? Your MIL’s actions sound like she had a bunch of stuff on her chest about the transition, and maybe some grief about him being a husband (and therefore less of a son?? No idea what the logic is there, but…) and not being totally available to her now. I hope that as the dust settles and some time goes by perhaps they can revisit the conversation and try to find out what was going on underneath the surface for her. Hopefully she will be able to express regret for how it was handled, but also be forthcoming about what she was bringing to the situation.

      • anon

        Yeah, I was writing too quickly and accidentally left out key things at the the end of my first paragraph: My husband ended up apologizing to her for his tone and she ripped into him pretty nastily, telling him that he’s a disrespectful son and that he should be sorry for what he said as well because it was all nonsense. And then laid on guilt trips about how sad he made her and how she won’t be able to sleep now because her son refuses to carry down the values she taught him (which made no sense in context, at all). So that’s where a lot of my anger comes from and why I hope she’ll be able to express regret. I just don’t have a lot of hope and I think I’ll have to let it go on my own, for my husband’s sake, who still very much loves and wants a relationship with her, despite this. According to him, they’re “fine” now…but I don’t feel fine about it at all.

        • anon

          (And I should also note that there is some cross-cultural stuff going on, now that I’m thinking about it. I think there’s an element of her feeling wary of me as The Wife upholding overly American/individualistic values and that was coming out, apropos of nothing)

          • joanna b.n.

            Apparently!!!! Tough stuff. Hugs and fingers crossed that they can find a healthier way forward!

        • another lady

          On a similar note, I have noticed that my husband gets over fights and disagreements WAY faster than I do in general. We can have a fight, I’ll be fuming for days, and he’s totally fine and not sure why I’m still mad an hour later. He tends to ‘let things go’ a lot more quickly and easily than I can in general and with other people. So, you might have to work on letting it go on your own.

    • Poppy

      No advice, just solidarity on this one.

    • Emma

      As much as this sucks I think you have to give it time! Once I (not my husband) got into a HUGE screaming match with my MIL and while it was resolved that weekend, I still felt awkward for a few months, but it the end, everything was out in the open and I felt much better overall.

  • Laura

    Last year, my husband and I planned a post-Christmas roadtrip getaway to Charleston. On the 26th (the day before we left), my dad backed into our car. We had to cancel all travel plans and spend days working with insurance companies, body shops, etc. Not the most relaxing.

    This year, we decided to reprise the same Charleston roadtrip plans. Then, my husband began having horrible abdominal cramps the entire week of Christmas. Sitting in the car was excruciating for him, so we aborted plans for a second year in a row. Turns out he had pancreatitis and was instructed to avoid coffee, alcohol, and high-fat foods. Sounds like holiday fun!

    I was disappointed that we didn’t get a much-needed getaway and that we had foregone buying each other gifts for the second year in a row (trip was supposed to be our gift to one another). But we resurrected things by booking a couple of nights in a hotel in Chicago (not far from our homes) and just relaxing together. Not the holiday I envisioned, but maybe the holiday we needed.

  • honeycomehome

    My family didn’t have many set traditions for Christmas when I was growing up. Sometimes we traveled to visit my maternal grandparents, sometimes we stayed in town and celebrated with my paternal grandparents. One year we went on a ski trip with close family friends and didn’t see any family. The traditions we did have were all flexible, as special Christmas cookies, books and the even the light-up Rudolph that came out at Christmas were all portable, or around the weeks/days surrounding the holiday and not essential to celebrating the actual day.

    While I’ve struggled with balancing divorced parents and in-laws as far as scheduling goes, I haven’t struggled much with not being with my family on the actual holidays. Reading these holiday threads has made me unexpectedly grateful for that. I don’t think it was intentional on my parents’ behalf, but it may be for me. Raising kids with flexible or varying Christmas events might make it easier for them to transition, later on.

    • Meg Keene

      This is actually very intentionally what we’re doing for our kids. Our tradition is flexibility. We’ve been doing that for years with our Thanksgiving/ now our son’s birthday (his first Thanksgiving was in the UK!) and now we’re bringing it to Christmas. It’s so nice for me, after really rigid traditions as a kid, where people cried if they didn’t go just right. I’ve actually been thinking that I hope it makes transitions easier for our kids (and us) when they’re older.

      • Amy March

        And, as the really rigid kid who cried, it was sooooooo key for me that my mother constantly pushed a message that holidays change, and traditions are things we love that we try to do to celebrate, not a mandate to be obeyed at all costs.

    • Lawyerette510

      That reminds me of my mom’s motto when I was a kid about Christmas and Thanksgiving “our only tradition is we have no traditions!” While it wasn’t literally true and we had some flexible things like what you describe, we had holidays all over the place, and I agree it makes it so I don’t have the emotional attachment to where I am on the holidays (but like you I do have to balance divorced parents and the in-laws).

    • gonzalesbeach

      this resonates with me, although we were in the same city as my maternal grandparents growing up so tended to see them for either Christmas day or boxing day. but as we grew older and grandparents no longer hosted big dinners and their traditional boxing day party (that overlapped with brothers bday), we’d try different ways to celebrate (not counting the one dark year when we were all mad and cancelled Christmas totally – but that’s another story) like luau theme, pajama and breakfast all day, the surf and turf year, pizza party Christmas dinner etc. Flexibility helps when chosen careers mean working on holidays (BIG thanks to all those out there who stayed on shift this holiday!! eg. transit operators, health care providers, emergency services etc) or when some of us moved to different cities for some time, and with working out scheduling with multiple in-law families. this year – I was pretty happy to be in our home, visit parents & siblings & his dad for dinner, potluck with extended relatives, then travelled to see his mum after holiday rush

    • Hope

      This year I realized that maybe the reason my husband is so flexible about our Christmas traditions is because his entire family works in healthcare and so for every holiday, depending on who was scheduled to work, they might celebrate the night before, the day of, or the day after.

  • Abbey

    This year was the first one of us doing holidays together, and Christmas was with my family. We stayed way too long (two weeks) and I was pretty stressed, but that’s pretty much par for the course for my Christmases–divorced parents = complicated holidays. Honestly, it was actually sort of nice to have someone doing the back-and-forth routine with me and confirm that yes, it is actually really stressful and no one ever gives you credit for any of the effort you make. On the drive back, I asked my partner how he thought it went, out of 10, and he said “7, because you were really stressed” and I was like, “Oh, I hadn’t even thought to include my own stress in this assessment, because that’s just how it always is.”

    It’s funny–I’ve been dreading spending Christmas with his family next year because my family have all these traditions and I’m really nostalgic about everything, but I’m kind of seeing my normal Christmas with new eyes this year and realizing that there’s a lot I won’t actually miss. Turns out, there are some families where you’re, like, allowed to take time for yourself/ not be psyched for everything every minute. I could get into that.

    • raccooncity

      The first christmas my now-husband spent with me, i was a little sad as a divorce kid because we’d sort of carved out this tradition where myself and my two sisters drove together between my parents houses, about 40 minutes or so. It was actually becoming my favourite part of christmas. He graciously offered to drive my sister’s car up while we drove up together as usual that year, but obviously now, 5 or so years later, we all come from all over and get our sister time in elsewhere.

      However, having him with us during that craziness of driving between houses on christmas day definitely helped him understand the divorced family stupidness for long-term christmas planning purposes. It’s like being married and having 3 extended families, but not in a fun way.

    • Sosuli

      This is was my second Christmas as someone with divorced parents, and in spending it with my husband’s family I secretly really loved not having to worry about whether my parents were being left alone for too long at once. There are definitely perks to other people’s Christmases.

      • Lawyerette510

        I’ve been navigating the divorced parents thing for about 7 years now, all of which I’ve been with my (now) husband. Once we started doing Christmas with his family, it became so much more relaxing. We’ve put it out there (with my in-law’s encouragement) that either of my parents are welcome at their Christmas. My dad has never taken them up on it (I doubt he will) but my mom has come for 2 different years with them, and it’s worked nicely. It wouldn’t work if my mom had a whole family thing of her own, but since she doesn’t, it is a nice option.

  • Ravenclawed

    The holidays were generally a large success! My partner and I’s family met everyone for the first time, and it went really well. The two families don’t have a ton in common, but luckily all enjoy doing activities outside – hiking, golf, etc – so I planned a bunch of activities that would take the pressure off of making conversation for hours upon hours. And wine. Wine is the best little holiday helper.

  • Nell

    Guys, this multicultural thing is HARD.

    So now that we’re married. . . my MIL has decided to drop the niceties, I guess?

    One morning she started going on about how everything is too PC these days, and how “people can have a menorah if they want to, but it doesn’t have to be up there with the Christmas tree.” (I’m Jewish – and before you ask, my wife was out of the room during this exchange and we had a good long horrified laugh about it later).

    I pointed out to MIL that her daughter and I LITERALLY put up the menorah next to the Christmas tree in our household. That got her to quiet down. I’m not mad, I’m not even looking for advice really. . . but I did think back on Meg’s many posts about being a 2-holiday family. This shit is harder than I thought.

    This whole thing came on the heels of an incident at work where a coworker started complaining that my Hanukkah decorations should be taken down, while all around the office there were Christmas trees and Santa hats.

    I’m lucky that my wife totally gets that I want both holidays to have equal weight in our home – and she friggin’ loves latkes. But it’s hard to explain to the outside world that, no, I haven’t replaced Hanukkah with Christmas.

    • Danielle

      Oh g-d, sorry to hear that.

      Sister Jew in an interfaith relationship here, and aren’t the holidays (by which I mean, all of December) THE WORST? I feel angsty, invisible and/or full of rage most of the month. Only escaping to a totally different culture (see comment above) helped ease my frayed nerves this year.

      Why do people feel that by adding (minority) traditions, we take away others (the majority)? That sentiment just reeks of privilege.

      Glad to hear you and your wife can laugh about it and enjoy fried foods together. That seems like a strong foundation for dealing with many struggles :) (only partly kidding)

      • Nell

        Oh it’s true, fried foods have gotten us through many, many challenges in our relationship. My birthday also happens to be sandwiched in between the holidays – so it has always been tough to give everything equal time. I can only hope we’ll get better at it with time!

        • Danielle

          Good luck, girl! I hope the same for us. It’s not easy.

      • Alison O

        Gosh, it sounds a lot worse than privilege…more like straight up bigotry.

        The Starbucks cup thing? I saw headlines but didn’t read about it until I kept seeing them over a month and wondered, wtf is the big deal with this stupid cup. I was QUITE SURPRISED to learn that the kerfuffle was about the red cup not being Christmasy ENOUGH! Like, our grasp on Christmas is so tenuous a disposable coffee cup could sever our connection to our history, nay, our very souls! I had figured it would be that having a red cup for December was TOO Christmasy, which I can get behind but also thought would be sort of a minor hill to die on, as far as religious discrimination is concerned. Clearly, I don’t frequent Starbucks and don’t understand the world.

    • Alison O

      Good gracious. Just, everything. How is having a menorah adjacent to a Christmas tree an issue of political correctness?? (I’m pretty sure most people who complain about political correctness really just are annoyed that they can’t be openly racist/bigoted without question–not to slam MIL in particular, but generally this is the sense I get.) The work incident–what the WHAT??

  • Kara

    Holidays 2015: Survived.

    We did the drive 5 hours to do Xmas eve with my mom’s side of the family, stayed with husband’s parents for the 24th & 25th (left on 26th), did Xmas day with husband’s parents, drove home the 26th, packed/prepared for camping, left before dawn the 27th to drive 9 hours to camping/hiking, drove last 3 hours in winter storm, arrived at campsite with 5 inches of snow and temps in the teens (without windchill factored in), camped for 5 days, drove home, and promptly crashed from exhaustion.

    Seeing family was important and wonderful, but stressful, and as someone who doesn’t have gifts as a love language, it was exhausting. I’d love the holidays if there were no gifts (which is why I love Thanksgiving). Camping was great and exhausting (it’s a tradition….9 years straight of doing it).

    The only thing I’m sad about is the fact that I missed celebrating Xmas with my dad’s side of the family. They all celebrated the day we drove out to Big Bend National Park :(. It would have been cool to meet my newest 2nd cousin (born Oct. 2015). We’ll just have to wait.

    • Amy March

      I am exhausted just reading about your holiday schedule!

      • Kara

        Hahaha thanks, Amy.

        Some years I think, to hell with it…let’s just go on an all inclusive vacation. However, as our families age, I want to see them and spend time with them while we still can. Plus, my husband’s Xmas is just his immediate family (mom, dad, brother), and this year, his brother couldn’t make it….so it would probably be tougher on him/in-laws to leave.

        A girl can dream though…

    • Kayjayoh

      “drove last 3 hours in winter storm, arrived at campsite with 5 inches of snow and temps in the teens (without windchill factored in)”

      [reads this, nopes on out]

      That is hardcore!

      • Kara

        It’s not normally like that out in Big Bend. The very next day the highs were in the 40s/50s and the lows were back to normal high 20s/low 30s :).

        It made for beautiful pictures and great hiking though! I still recommend it.

  • Lawyerette510

    Christmas itself was a positive this year. Usually we spend it with my in-laws (and my mom who joins us there), and that’s fine, but this year the rest of the in-laws went on a 10 day cruise that we abstained from. It was awesome to have the holiday to ourselves. My mom came to visit from Texas, but husband and I still got to call the shots. Instead of what has become our normal Christmas Eve on which I work from home during they day, while also cooking the dish I’m supposed to bring, then we haul ass at 4:00 pm to be to the large family gathering by 5:00, this year we planned a Christmas Eve dinner for ourselves and 2 other couples with whom we are close and stayed in town for dinner, plus my mom, and planned it to start around 7:30. Everyone dressed up, I set the table to be lovely, we turned down the lights and lit a bunch of candles, and I cooked a delicious and simple meal that I didn’t even need to start cooking until 5:00. We drank delicious wine and laughed until late. Then Christmas day we made waffles, opened the few presents we had to exchange, then went for a hike.

    On December 26 I flew home to Texas to spend 4 days with my 96-year old grandma who was briefly hospitalized prior to Christmas and is now in rehab care. It was startling how much she has physically changed since I saw her 6 months before, and for the first time I really realized that my time with her is limited (I’ve known it on some level for many years, but it felt much more real this visit). I’m so glad I had the opportunity to just focus on her for 4 days. We talked about favorite memories we shared, about her experiences as a professional woman in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and her many romantic loves and corresponding heart breaks.

  • Ashlah

    We had one of our busiest Christmases ever, and I kind of loved it? We attended 7 Christmas celebrations in 4 days (well, 8 between the two of us, but the two big ones were separate). Not to mention a couple more in the weekend preceding Christmas. After being sad at the prospect of not seeing my dad’s family at all, we ended up seeing them three separate times! It was crazy, and I totally expected it to be overwhelming, but it was kind of perfect. Christmas is always here and gone so fast, so I enjoyed that it was stretched out for a few days. It helps, of course, that the furthest we had to travel was a couple hour drive. If it weren’t all local, it certainly wouldn’t have been as possible or enjoyable.

  • We both got sick on Christmas/I gave everyone colds. I felt super bad about giving my husband a cold on our first Christmas together/in California thousands of miles away from his family. It was our normal big fun crazy Christmas, but it was a lot more stressful this year because I had to pay attention to him the whole time (or at least keep an eye on him). And then my husband started to get tired and frustrated by the end, and it bothered me because I’ve been telling him FOR YEARS that if you need to take a break at my family events, you totally can and no one will care. It is perfectly normal and usually I do, but I wasn’t able to this year because of him. It bothers me because I’ve had to spend so many holidays and events with his family and this is the one week a year we have spent time with mine.

    Like, I went to three multi-hour Christmas concerts with his family in a week this year before I left and dealt with their horrible planning (we sat in two different churches for an hour each because we didn’t plan out the time in between mass and the concert. And we ate dinner at like 330 when we clearly could have eaten it in the gap between and I could have gotten there later which would have meant not having to take public transportation at rush hour and he called MY family Christmas disorganized? We had all the food and details planned out a month in advance, it was just loud.) Also, he grew a vacation beard and so I couldn’t tell what any of his facial expressions were which was no good.

    I’m just annoyed at how he reacted to Christmas, even though I know part of it was the cold, I’m sure. (But we didn’t even miss any of his extended family Christmases! even though I know it’s hard not to be around family for holidays BECAUSE I’VE BEEN MISSING MINE FOR YEARS). We have plans to discuss and come up with better solutions for Christmas though this week before busy season start up.

    And then we flew back on Dec 26 to do things with his family (which was spread out, since he had an extended family thing with his dad’s family on the 27th and his dad’s extended family on the 1st). It just makes me mad that I know his extended family more than he knows mine, and I am much closer with my cousins that he is with mine. His family is very pleasant and I’ve gotten to know them decently well (and also there was a PUPPY there) so it was fun. It was also nice to have vacation time where I was at home but not working, which was new.

  • ktmarie

    Last Christmas we pitched an idea to both of our families (who live across country from eachother and are both a plane ride away from where we live) to do a joint vacation in the spring to the Caribbean and forego holiday travel. So me + D stayed home for Thanksgiving and Xmas this year and also get to do a vacation in March! Double win! Our holiday break was so relaxing and we spent a lot of time cooking, watching movies, doing puzzles, etc. We even got a couple days of skiing in. It was a great mental break from work and we actually felt like we had a holiday break compared to previous years.

    • Caitlyn

      You are living the dream. One I don’t think I’ll ever be able to realize, but it’s nice to know it’s possible (for some families) :)

  • pajamafishadventures

    Despite having the whole week off from work (!) this was the last–relaxing Christmas. I simply had no time to myself, spent a ton of time juggling schedules, and it felt like everyone needed a piece of me which is just so incredibly upsetting because it’s the only time I get a break from work AND school until I graduate and I just needed to unwind.
    But I didn’t and now I’m back to work and back to school and I’m tired and want a holiday redo.

  • Kayjayoh

    The extremely stressful bits:
    1. Minor fender bender on 12/15…thought we’d have the car back from the shop by now but instead we are still waiting to hear anything about an estimate. (This became a factor later.)
    2. 12/23 email from United telling us the first leg of our flight 12/24 morning was canceled. Called and the agent told me we could a. get to Newark on our own by 10 AM Christmas Eve b. get a 6 AM flight for Christmas Day or c. get a refund. She also told me I needed to decide quickly because the 6 AM flight was filling up fast. Got off the phone and started looking for flights. Almost had one on Delta, but the seats disappeared *while* I was finalizing my CC info. Husband found some very expensive flights on American. Got them confirmed and I called by to get my United refund. Then the second agent told me that she could rebook us on Delta for a reasonable time on 12/24 and for the price we had already paid. She assured us that AA would let us cancel w/o problem since we had literally just booked. While I was still on the phone, husband called and did that. AA agent said “no problem” and we rebooked from United to Delta. (This became a factor later.)
    3. Husband’s wallet was lost sometime on our way home on 12/30, somewhere on the Amtrak train we were on. Driver’s license, credit cards, and way more cash than he usually carries. Called Amtrak lost and found, but as of today, nothing has been turned in.
    4. While checking on his credit cards, husband discovered that AA *had* charged us the full price of the canceled tickets. Customer service says that they changed to cancellation policy in July, and the best we can get is travel credit with AA for the next year, minute $200 per ticket. The agent who canceled the ticket mentioned none of this. “No problem,” she said. Of course, we didn’t get a United refund since they rebooked us. So our flight costs more than doubled based on terrible customer service agents.
    5. All of our possible NYE plans involved driving and needing rides, for 1+ long drives. I was feeling out of sorts and didn’t want to go anywhere, which lead to husband feeling guilty about wanting to go and me feeling grumpy about him feeling guilty. Compound this by us not having a car and him not having money or ID. Eventually, after much strum und drang, we took public transit to see Star Wars, then watched the fireworks in Boston Harbor at midnight.

    The good bits:
    1. Got to see a lot of family and friends back home in Wisconsin, and do a lot of fun things in spite of a lot of rain and then a winter storm. Got to see a lot of of family and friends here on New Year’s Day and the rest of the weekend.
    2. While the wallet and cash seem to be gone, there was no fraud on the credit cards.
    3. Star Wars and fireworks make for a pretty decent NYE.
    4. I am holding out hope that the customer service for at least one of the two airlines will do something nice. Maybe. I mean, stranger things have happened.

    Over all, it was still a really good holiday. I am finding that it honestly tends to work out better when we are traveling to see family for the New Year rather than Christmas, but if we decide to change that every-other-year holiday rotation (Christmas in one place, NYE/D in the other) we don’t need to figure it out until 2017. 2016 is a travel for New Year’s year. So…

    • Kayjayoh

      Also good: husband’s present (plus birthday and v-day present) to me was a ticket to Hamilton in NYC at the end of the month, and we will be spending the weekend in Manhattan. (Look around, look around, how luck we are to be alive right now…)

      • Lisa

        Yaaay! I remember you mentioning that you wanted that. At least there’s one good thing out of the holiday season.

        • Kayjayoh

          And the best thing is that I don’t have to find a place to keep it. :)

    • Laura C

      Don’t you love how just about every customer service call ever is recorded, yet American is still going to insist there’s no reason they give you a refund because why would you ever think they’d do that? FWIW, I find Twitter is often the best way to get action on stuff like that. If you have a noticeable number of followers or friends who will RT you.

      • Kayjayoh

        I tried the Twitter route, and the response was basically, “sorry if you don’t like the rules.” Like, no jackass, the problem is that your agent didn’t mention this when she cancelled the ticket. We would have made a different choice otherwise. They mostly just didn’t respond.

        • Not Sarah

          Have you tried contacting your credit card? I would try a chargeback against AA for this if AA won’t cooperate.

          • Kayjayoh

            I’m not sure, but I suspect the CC companies probably stand by the airlines on these things.

          • Eenie

            You could still try it. Depends on the credit card.

    • Lisa

      I can totally empathize on the crappy flight situation. We were flying to CA on 12/20, and when we checked in for our United flight on 12/19, we discovered the departure time had been moved up two hours (from 8:00 AM to 6:00 AM) and the return flight had been pushed back two hours (from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM), which meant my poor father was up at 3:00 AM to take us to the airport and up until almost midnight on 1/1 getting us home. We called United to complain, and they said we’d received an e-mail (of which my husband could find no evidence in his gmail) notifying us of the change so there wasn’t anything they could do for us. My husband views negotiating with call center reps as a sport so we ended up getting upgraded to Premium Economy for both of our 4.5 hour flights! (+1 for the husband!)

    • Eenie

      Bad bits: My fiance last minute decided he wanted to drive the 12 hour drive with the cat instead of leaving him with the pet sitter and flying. Talked him off that ledge. My car check engine light started flashing on the way home from seeing my family, two days before making the 12 hour drive back to Georgia. Left car in a different state (on a Sunday when ABSOLUTELY NOTHING IS OPEN!) and took a rental home. Moving truck was late. Car was “fixed”. Drove 6 hours in a blizzard to pick it up. Check engine light started flashing again. Talked with every tow company on the south side of the state. No one would come out with the weather so bad. One guy suggested to just drive it and see what happens. Two hours later we made it home and haven’t touched the car since. Rented a car one way, packed up our truck, and left 7 hours later than we wanted. Fiance got caffeine poisoning and puked for a whole day straight.

      Good news: I am moved. My stuff gets here tomorrow! Except for my car. My car is still waiting for someone to agree to ship it. And then we are selling it so fast. This little trip brought the fiance over to the “sell the car as soon as possible” side.

      • Kayjayoh

        Hurray for being moved!

        I do know that sometimes (many times) the check engine light means absolutely nothing. But that isn’t helpful when you can’t know for sure. I think they should be banned, honestly. At this point, a car should be able to give you an actual usable error code.

        • Eenie

          Oh yes, absolutely right. Check engine light on is usually emissions related. AKA get it checked out because you’re polluting, but you’re not in any real danger to damaging your car! When it starts flashing that’s pull over and turn the car off ASAP. I managed to have it stop flashing if I got the RPM up far enough and turned the car off anytime I had to stop so it wouldn’t idle. When it idled or I didn’t give enough gas to up the RPMs the whole car shook. I hate my car.

  • Our holidays went pretty smoothly, with the least amount of bitching from my mom since my parents divorce 6 years ago re: not having enough time with us. Her boyfriend and his daughter spent Christmas with us, which was fun, though a bit unexpected (they haven’t been dating a full year so this was the first joint holiday together and we didn’t exactly get notice about that). Doing all the running around and trying to have the same level of enthusiasm for everyone is exhausting.

    My brother came home with his lady the day of our holiday party (the Saturday before Christmas), and before arriving, visiting our and her parents to announce that they got married the week before – surprise! – (after having just gotten engaged a week before that). They were planning to come to our party and announce it there for us to find out, which my mother fortunately advised against. (We just got engaged Oct 18th and would be seeing many friends at our party for the first time since then.) My brother’s wife ended up not coming to the party because she was “sick,” so my brother came and then pulled fiance and I aside to go upstairs to tell us in the middle of our party. He had given me an indication this might happen – he’s in the military and will be going on a 6-month temp assignment out of the country in July and they wanted to get married before then for the benefits – but it was still and uncomfortable surprise, and not exactly the best timing. It was difficult to be excited for him. When I saw his wife on Christmas Eve the first thing she said to me was that they decided to elope and announce it now at Christmas so that they wouldn’t have to elope in the spring and ruin my May wedding by announcing it there, which would be their next planned trip home. She tried to frame it as some thoughtful, gracious act on their part, but I wasn’t exactly buying it.

    The most awkward part of the holiday was when my fiance’s sister and brother-in-law gave us a cutting board that was beautifully engraved with fiance’s last name on it and said “we know this isn’t your last name yet, but we wanted to give it to you now anyway.” And then I had to graciously thank them for the beautiful cutting board but explain that I’m not getting rid of my last name, I will likely only be adding his last to mine (sans hyphen). His sister then said, “oh so you’ll be Latin American then?” I know she was only joking but it was uncomfortable. Fortunately, they looked a little uncomfortable too (as they should have been), so that made me feel a bit better. The gift was lovely but it was a disrespectful assumption to make, even if I wasn’t surprised about it. I also noted that I’m not the only once changing my name – fiance would be adding my last name to his middle name, as it is important to us that we have the same family name as a couple and if/when we have kids down the road. They all looked confused about this and fiance, in a moment of apparent discomfort, jokingly said, “yeah it’s all her fault”, which made me even angrier. I gave him a dirty look but had to leave for my mom’s house (where he joined me a little later), so there wasn’t an opportunity to discuss how inappropriate and hurtful that was. He has been great about the whole name change situation, so it was pretty out of character for him, and I think it likely resulted from us being taken off guard by the subject coming to light before we anticipated telling his family. I’m still hoping to address the comment with him at some point.

    • Amy March

      Eloping is not generally something people do “to” you, and avoiding announcing their marriage at your wedding does sound thoughtful? Or I’m just missing giant chunks here but I don’t see how they did anything wrong at all.

      • I’m not seeing how I indicated that they did anything to me by eloping. I frankly don’t care that they eloped, and as I said, I wasn’t surprised by it. However, coming to the party my fiance were hosting for our friends and immediate family was not the appropriate time to share that news with us. They could’ve waited one more day. What I didn’t get into for sake of length, is that my brother’s wife is generally a very selfish and manipulative person and our family is not enthusiastic about her, though we are doing our best to accept her with open arms because she appears to make my brother happy. She framed it to me as though the only options they considered were to elope and announce it at my party or elope and announce it at my wedding instead of recognizing that they have 6+ months of time in which they could make other choices about how they wish to do so, since the goal was to get married before my brother’s departure in July.

        • Amy March

          Your expectation is that they attend your party and hide that they are married, answering all typical party questions like “how have you been” and “what’s new with you” and “any wedding plans” with lies? I just think you’re really letting your negative feelings about this woman get the better of you.

          • I don’t mean to imply that lying would have been the best option. I probably am letting some of my negative feelings get the best of me, but there was opportunity to tell us before the party too. Even though they prioritized telling parents at their houses before the party and didn’t make time to arrive at ours too before it started, I had talked to him over the phone post-elopement but pre-trip and there was opportunity for him to tell me then. I guess my issue is just that there was other opportunity to announce the news that wouldn’t involve pulling me and my fiance aside in private to another floor of our house when we have 30 guests over, many whom we don’t often see. It put us in a very awkward position that made it difficult to process the news and difficult to be excited.

    • Sarah E

      We got a handmade present from a very good friend that features my husband’s last initial. As we both kept our names, it’s not my initial, but in the end? My friend spent her time and energy creating something for us, and I am part of the H family. I don’t have the initial, but I’m definitely one of the clan now. Similarly, I don’t share my mom’s last name, but I am an R through and through, no matter what.

      Now that you’ve shared your naming plans, it would be less than thoughtful to get a bunch of incorrectly monogrammed gifts or whathaveyou, but in the case of the cutting board, I hope you can enjoy the gift without qualm (and def address your husband’s off-hand comment, because I would be livid at something like that, too).

      • Yeah, it’s a lovely gift and we will definitely use it. His name will be part of my name, so it still represents our household in a way. His family has a history of projecting their assumptions onto other people, so this pattern of bad habits in the form of a gift was mostly what frustrated me. (Since our engagement, his other sister has commented to me on two separate occasions upon me turning down taking home leftover dessert, “oh that’s right, you must be starting your wedding diet.” …I don’t normally diet, nor do I need or intend to for my wedding.)

        • Sarah E

          In that case, may every cut you make on the cutting board slice away at their overbearing assumptions :-)

          • Lizzie

            THIS. Ahahahahaha.

          • Violet

            *snort* Love this.

    • MABie

      “fiance, in a moment of apparent discomfort, jokingly said, “yeah it’s all her fault”, which made me even angrier.”

      My spouse was the type of person who would awkwardly say something like this in the moment, too, even when she was 100% on board with whatever we were doing. It sucks, and I’m so sorry that happened to you! I am sure you will work it out, but I know how it feels to be frustrated with the fact that your fiance just left it that way with them. Since you just got engaged (one day after we got married :O) ), he’ll probably have the opportunity to correct it in some way in the future.

      And FWIW, after a LOT of conversations about this exact topic, my spouse does not say that kind of shit anymore. Yay. So it’s definitely worth bringing it up.

      • Yes! I feel like our spouses are similar. He probably doesn’t realize that it was hurtful – he might not even remember saying it at this point. I know he will feel badly about it when I bring it up and will try not to do it again, but it was just difficult to have that happen right before I had to leave, which meant there wasn’t time to address it and I now have to find a tactful way to revisit it.

        Glad to hear you and your spouse have sorted that out. Congrats on your recent marriage! :)

      • Violet

        My partner and I have a blanket rule that we don’t make fun of the other person to other people (if all those pronouns are making sense). It just… never really feels nice. We make fun of ourselves to other people, just not the other person.

  • Sarah E

    This was our second Christmas that we spent in our own place, rather than driving 20+ hours to visit our families. As such, and in part prompted by the discussions of tradition and religion here, I did a LOT of thinking about what was important to me about the holiday. My husband, a much less fraught individual, understood what I was saying, but is much more easily pleased.

    At any rate, we had a lovely day. We had appropriate Christmas Eve snuggle time with beer, dessert, and Muppet Christmas Carol. On Christmas Day, a handful of our close friends came over and we ate all day. I baked way too much pie for the occasion, and the attention was not on gifts at all.

    It definitely surprised me how the one irritation I felt was not getting my presents from my parents in time for Christmas. I had texted them when I shipped their presents, and each told me their package was going to be late. Absolutely, 100% not surprised. Both are consistently late people. So, I should have expected it (late people, plus only the second run of needing to ship presents), but I was still a little bummed not to have more gifts to open on Christmas. Given that my husband and I decided not to do gifts for each other this year, we had very little gift opening at all. And I learned that one of the magical parts of Christmas that I miss is the surprise factor, and we’ll have to work on that next year.

  • Laura C

    We … survived? That’s a weird thing to say about a Christmas that was, hour by hour, reasonably pleasant and involved no big blow-ups or overt tensions, but man, was it exhausting in a way that drove home how much more work we have to do setting expectations and boundaries. Even though we slept in our own bed except for the weekend before Christmas, we faced nonstop demands on our time and didn’t have time to ourselves, which was rough.

    I knew it was rough on me. I realized the extent to which it had been hard on my husband over New Year’s weekend, when he was about as delirious with joy as I was at being able to sit home and watch movies and not face any expectations. We really need to figure out what to do with the fact that he wants to see his family and he wants to not get yelled at for failing to live up to his mother’s expectations of how much time he’ll spend with his family, but we also need time together. Need to get to where it’s ok for him to spend a mere 8 hours a day with his family and leave a couple waking hours for me and for himself to recharge. But right now, doing that would be framed as letting everyone else down, not maintaining his relationship with his brother, and missing out on some amazing fun. And not just carving out the occasional hour or two, but actually adjusting his mother’s expectations so that every hour or two we try to carve out isn’t an occasion for tension.

    • Poppy

      I can empathize with this big time. The expectations for constant family time can be crushing. My partner told my parents straight out, “I just realized that I haven’t been alone and awake in two weeks and as an introvert, that’s really hard for me”. It might now work for you guys, but it let him off the hook a little more.

  • Anonymous for This

    Can someone tell me if I’m being bratty? I’m still upset about this incident, while alternatingly feeling guilty about being upset about this incident.

    So I was baking Christmas cookies in my MIL’s kitchen {first Christmas there} and I decided to listen to some {American} Christmas music while doing so. I turned on the Holiday Classics Radio from Apple Music and just whisked away. Then suddenly, my MIL appeared, very calm, but clearly upset. She explained to me that this is her home and it is a Spanish speaking home, which means she only wants to listen to Christmas music from {MIL’s country of origin}. Then she asked me to turn off the music. She left the kitchen, red-faced and clearly pissed, but holding it together. I finished making the cookies in silence, a little gob-smacked tbh. We pretended like it didn’t happen after that and the rest of the holiday was fine.

    Now, I do know that she’s very sensitive about upholding her cultural traditions especially around the holidays and my husband told me that he never listened to American Christmas music as a kid. But I didn’t realize that meant it was verboten and/or that upholding her traditions meant that mine didn’t matter. …Which is where I start to feel like a bratty white girl–because that’s a pretty loaded thing to think in relation to an immigrant family. I know that if I want to listen to American Christmas music, I can always just get in the car and turn on the radio or, hell, go down to the mall. And at the end of the day, it’s her house and I know I have to respect that. And I do, even though I was definitely shaken by the interaction.

    But my real worry is that the agreed upon plan is to have my husband’s family join us at our place next year. Based on her reaction this year, I’m concerned that she won’t react well to having American Christmas music played at all, even in our home. And thinking about not being able to openly listen to the Christmas music I grew up with on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day {without putting up a fight for it} makes me extremely sad and even a little weepy.

    My husband agrees that it would definitely be an issue and he says he’d of course back me up if I wanted to incorporate American Christmas music into the holiday next year. But I can tell he feels wary about it and maybe even like I’m not being sensitive enough to his mom, since the Christmas music I know really is ubiquitous and available everywhere, all the time, and hers isn’t. And I get that–I know that US society has my back and not theirs when it comes to the media that is celebrated. At the end of the day, though, I just really don’t like the idea that I’ll feel like I have to listen to ‘Winter Wonderland’ through earbuds rather than on my speaker system from now on. And again, that’s where we circle back to feeling like a brat because is that really so bad?

    Is this something I need to suck up and compromise–part of the change and growth and flexibility that comes with a new family and new traditions, especially within a multicultural perspective? Or do I have a legitimate concern that should be worked out? Something in between? This feels so silly to be upset about, but I am and I can’t shake it.

    • raccooncity

      Your house is your house and if you and your husband want american music then you can play it. However, there’s also the fact that he sounds like he is just into American music to the extent that you love it (which is legit) and there’s the being a gracious host. Maybe you can make a sweet playlist with a nice mix of like, 80/20 spanish/american for when they’re in the house, depending on how long they’re there. You have to make it clear that it’s your house, but to me it would also be very important to show that you’re not trying to americanize your house (which would probably make it seem like removing her family and culture from the picture to your MIL).

      But I think really a lot of what I did would depend on how my spouse felt about the tradition. If he always hated it secretly then hell yes we’re doing American christmas tunes all the way. But if he mostly liked it, then i’d go mostly, but not all, spanish when his family was there.

      • Anonymous for This

        Oh, I would never want to replace her music! That would be cruel. I would ideally want a mix of both, just to be clear. 80/20 would be perfectly fine with me, but she would be upset about even the 20%, which is what I feel like is unreasonable (and then debate the nuances of whether it truly is unreasonable or not).

        My husband feels like he is American more than anything, but has a lot of guilt around that feeling. He very much connected to the Master of None episode about immigrant parents. Honestly, though, when it comes to Christmas music, he has no horse in the race because he’s an atheist and has zero personal interest in the holiday at all.

        • raccooncity

          LOL – the unexpected third option: atheist who doesn’t care about the music.

          This reminds me a lot of how my stepmom feels personally offended if i leave up pictures (that are up all the time) of my mom if she visits. I’m like ‘listen, i’m won’t talk about her when you’re here, but i’m also not redecorating my house for you”.

      • Caitlyn

        Would it be possible to play instrumental versions of your favorites? Seems like that would make you both pretty happy. Just a thought (my family does this just as a way to keep the focus on conversation will still kind of acknowledging the day and setting a mood).

    • Amy March

      I don’t think you need to assume that next year will be a problem at all. Her house is Spanish speaking, and she only wants Spanish music. Your house is English speaking, and you want a mix of both. If she does react poorly, remind her that you are in your home, and this is your music, and you’re listening to a mix of both, but she’s the one asserting “my house my rules.”

      • Not Sarah

        My mom told my dad he was loading the dishwasher wrong IN MY HOUSE. That really pissed me off. In my opinion, so long as the dishes make it in the dishwasher and I don’t have to do it, I’m perfectly happy with however they get in there. But my mom having an opinion on this without it even being her house? Not cool. My dad was just trying to help!

    • macrain

      I would be pretty shaken if this happened to me. It’s not silly if that’s how you feel.
      I’m going to take a stab and say that this was about much more than Christmas music. You mentioned it was your first Christmas there, so there could be some anxiety about the new family her son is creating with you. That will come with new traditions and new ways of doing things she won’t be able to control. Not to mention the whole host of cultural issues you mentioned.
      I agree with everyone else in that you should feel free to play the music you love when you host Christmas. If she says something or gets upset, you can respond with the sensitivity the she failed to show you. Stand your ground, but be understanding.

    • Lawyerette510

      I’d suggest that your husband and her have a conversation about her lack of hospitality to you, as it sounds like she was very rude and that you weren’t doing anything to warrant that. I understand if she does not want English spoken in her home but it sounds as if she went beyond kindly setting a boundary to getting pissed at you for doing something you didn’t know was wrong. Then closer to Christmas next year, that he have a conversation with her to set expectations about kindness and language/ music in your home. You listening to Christmas music in your own home is up to you, as a host likely you would decide to mix in music your guests would like with your own music, but allowing her to set the rules for what music you play in your own home is both ridiculous and better to set that boundary ahead of time.

    • I’m curious as to how you ended up baking cookies in her kitchen. It seems like maybe she was accommodating your traditions in that way, and just didn’t expect/wasn’t emotionally prepared for it to turn into a super-Americanized event? All I’m saying is that sometimes people feel a lot of ownership over their kitchens, as opposed to any other place in the house, and maybe that contributed to her reactions.
      I agree with macrain below that she’s probably having a tough time coming to grips with the fact that her relationship with her son is changing a bit now that he’s married — even if you’ve been married/together for awhile, if this was your first Christmas at your MIL’s, it was also her first Christmas hosting her son’s wife. Maybe she’ll be better equipped to handle it next year?
      I also think it might be helpful for your husband to talk to his mom about her reaction, and maybe reconsider the plan of having them come visit your family for next Christmas. She might be really sad to witness her son celebrating an American-style Christmas, even if you play her music 100% of the time, and it’s totally fair for her to feel that way. But it would be good if she could talk about those feelings beforehand, and figure out if it is possible for her to happily/gracefully participate in the Christmas celebrations of a non-Latino household. Maybe she’s not willing to extend herself, and then you and your husband can talk about how you can respond.

      As a kind of similar example, this was my first Christmas away from my family, and I know it would be hard for me emotionally. But my husband and I discussed it and agreed it was the best option this year, even with the potential emotion. We tried and mostly succeeded in figuring out ways to manage my feelings, even tho there was one Christmas morning breakdown. But I felt like we had all done our best to be upfront about things, and in the end, the benefits of staying in our home outweighed the negative impact of my one crying fest. ;) Along the same lines, your husband could sit down with your mom and say, “We want you to celebrate Christmas at anon’s house this year, and we think it will help bring both families together and let us celebrate with all our parents. But this does mean you won’t be able to speak Spanish all day and that there will be some American traditions that you’re not familiar with. Do you think you’ll be able to participate in that kind of a Christmas, or is it going to be too hard for you?” If she still agrees to come, at least you would know that she’s being totally ridiculous when she starts ripping iPods out of their docks once Rudolph starts playing. :)

  • AnonWhiner

    Oh man, I needed this open thread today. My husband & I spent a week with my mother and it was JUST. TOO. LONG. Even though we had a hotel room!

    The best description we can come up with for her is extremely egocentric. She’s not narcissistic or nasty to me. But everything is about her, about how she feels, and about what she wants. In addition, what she wants is just constant hanging out, talking (she talks NON-STOP), and attention, which I can kind of handle (lots of experience) – but my husband was exhausted after only a few days.

    (And you can’t hang out and play on your phone while she’s doing things in the kitchen because that’s rude, even if it’s the 3rd day straight you’re just “hanging out”. She always asks him to put it away. It’s not like we are on our phones at dinner!)

    The second to last day I ended up yelling at her about how she doesn’t listen to me, but that’s not quite right – she DOES listen, and then promptly ignores me to keep telling me what to do.

    Just to add to the stress she had a hospital thing happen (she has some health issues that can manifest themselves similar to heart problems, fortunately everything was fine). Poor ER nurse told her she was a “very demanding” patient.

    So happy to be home, and I’m definitely never going to make the mistake of having my husband spending that much time around her without a break since it just made me EVEN more stressed. Not only is it tiring dealing with mom, but then I had an exhausted, sad husband in addition.

    • Lisa

      I was telling one of my co-workers today that I think 12 days with husband’s family might have been too much, and she said, “You know the fish rule, right?” Apparently there’s some kind of saying that “Family and fish both keep for the same length of time–3 days.” I think there might be something to this!

    • CMT

      My dad is similar. When people talk about their narcissistic parents, I identify with parts, but my dad is just not as bad as some of the stories I read. Still frustrating and sometimes hurtful, though. Also, my parents will make comments about me being on their phone when they’re both on their laptops ALL THE TIME. A phone is just a mini-computer! I’m doing the same thing they are!

    • Jess

      “The second to last day I ended up yelling at her about how she doesn’t listen to me, but that’s not quite right – she DOES listen, and then promptly ignores me to keep telling me what to do.”

      HA!! This is so familiar. I get the “interrupts me after a few words in response to her comment with a completely different train of thought” action too.

  • anon

    Thank God it’s over!

    That sounds terrible, I know, but I have yet to figure out a way to take care of *me* during the holidays. These holidays were exacerbated by the step-kids having a new visitation schedule with their Mom (much shorter, there have recently been significant problems at that house). Christmas Eve was nice–we had our Christmas, opened gifts slowly throughout the day punctuated by playing games or with new gifts. We had a fire in the fireplace and smoked a brisket–both big signs that we are not going anywhere! It was relaxing and sweet.

    Christmas Day we were up at 6, drove step-kids to their Mom’s, killed time in her town (this ended up meaning sitting in a grocery store eating crackers and cheese), got the kids, went to in-laws for a few hours (okay, not very emotional), then went to Star Wars–hooray! Came out of Star Wars to heavy snow and terrible roads. Family drove me to the hotel I was going to stay in before getting on a plane to my family-of-origin’s state the next day. They decided (wisely) to stay in hotel too because of the road conditions. I agreed with this decision, but felt terrible that the dogs would be alone all night (a neighbor did feed them). Got on a plane, went to my parents… the visit felt good, although I am always exhausted when I’m there. I can’t get enough sleep or alone time and I end up feeling torn between desperately wanting alone time and guilt that I’m not spending every moment with them. Traveled home on NYE and went to bed at 8pm (to the disappointment of the 14 year old). Tried to be involved with family on Saturday but was thoroughly exhausted and struggling to behave well (I require enough sleep to respond well to teens). Finally slept almost all day Sunday and am now trying to be gentle with myself as I remember what my routine is (how do my days go, exactly?)

    This year I wrote a letter to myself about Christmas, trying to remind myself of various things (good timing to travel, how nice CE was, etc). I put it in with my Christmas card addresses and hope to be able to remember some of this next year.

    • Rebekah

      Genius. A letter to my future self is always so fun to read. I’m going to do that this week and pack it away with the decorations.

    • AnonWhiner

      “I end up feeling torn between desperately wanting alone time and guilt that I’m not spending every moment with them”

      I feel that so much. I have the same problem visiting with my mom.

  • Peahunt

    I have never commented before but have read for years and I need somewhere sane and non judgy to talk.
    Went spend Christmas with my parents and it was great really relaxed and good fun. Then we went to visit the in-laws for boxing day. It was a complete nightmare. My hubbys older sister has a birthday in December and was expecting us to turn up with her birthday and Christmas present. I left it up to my husband and he decided not to give her a birthday present instead just we thought was a lovely Christmas present. When we got to the in-laws there was a lot of tension which I didn’t really understand where it was coming fro. But found out during present exchange. My sister inlaw opened her present shock the box it came in and then demanded her birthday present. We then realised the mistake we had made said sorry and hoped that she would be fine. But instead she refused to speak to us for the rest of the day and night made comments about us to the rest of the family and generally made us feel unwelcome. So much so that instead of staying for lunch the next day we made up that we had arranged to meet friends and left straight after breakfast. To make it worse my mother inlaw told my husband off and made no comments about his sisters behaviour.
    We left thinking it might blow over and be alright but husband received an email from his sister saying that she didn’t want anything to do with us ever again and would only be civil for the sake of his parents. He phoned on new years to apologise again and she told him that he was cold and dead on the inside. Which is really hard for him and stupid as he is one of the nicest people you could meet.
    I don’t know how to cope with this sort of behaviour as I come from an argue really loudly straight away and then get over it and have a cup of tea sort of family not one to stop talking and cut out family members.
    Anyway this is very long so thanks for reading. If anyone has any advice that would be amazing. Also any way to make my husband feel better as he is really upset that he sister is behaving this way.

    • raccooncity

      UGHHHHHH. My SIL is like this and the family equally doesn’t talk about it. I have ZERO advice but wow. You guys were not in the wrong. wtf.

      • Peahunt

        She has also been a bit hard to get on with and has fallen out with lots of members of the family but never us before. Thanks for reading my post it nice to know that others think that ww aren’t in wrong

    • Amy March

      If they usually exchange birthday gifts, I think he might feel better if he acknowledges that he dropped the ball. Select a nice birthday present, wrap it in birthday paper, mail it with a birthday card that says, again, “Sis, I’m really sorry I hurt you by melding your birthday into Christmas. It wasn’t my intention to upset you and I hope you’ll forgive me.”

      And then wash his hands of it entirely.

      I think they’re behaving ridiculously, to be clear, but actually sending a gift to me would be a concrete step for him to say enough now, I have done all that I can, this is out of my hands.

      • Peahunt

        This is what I think he should do it just seems so over the top. We did apologise a number of times and its very confusing because we don’t do presents with his brother thanks for the advice

        • Amy March

          Oh I agree, its completely over the top!! I’m also 100% on team just ignore her, but if that’s not working its something to try.

        • Poppy

          I agree that this might seem over the top but I think it’s the best course of action. Maybe I’m naive but I can’t imagine that the way your SIL behaved was actually only about not receiving a birthday present (maybe it’s an attention thing? I don’t know). But all you guys can do is respond to what she’s telling you was hurtful, so go ahead and get her a small, thoughtful present, apologize again for upsetting her, and then consider your consciences completely cleared.

          The other option is to stand your ground and tell her how much you appreciate and love her, that you don’t do big birthday presents, and you hope she understands this doesn’t reflect any lack of affection for her. But I think that might put your relationship with her further at risk (she told you she’s cutting off contact because of this which is insane, but there you have it). It may be worth it to you to draw some boundaries and take whatever comes next.

          In either case, you definitely weren’t wrong. It also sounds like your MIL is enabling this behavior.

    • p.

      To me, this sounds like a version of this Captain Awkward about dealing
      with difficult people, and I think the advice here could give you some
      ideas about how to deal with your SIL: http://captainawkward.com/2012/05/14/247-marrying-into-a-family-with-awful-boundary-issues-or-secrets-of-dealing-with-highly-difficult-people/

      • Peahunt

        Thanks for this so good ideas.

    • Sosuli

      As someone with birthday and Christmas close together, it is a little disappointing to have your birthday ignored in favour of Christmas – not saying you did that, but it might be how she felt. But her reaction is really, really over the top. Sometimes I get people buying me one big present and explicitly saying it’s for both and I quite like it. Anyway, despite her being in the wrong here really, I agree with Amy March below that sending something now is probs the best way to hopefully diffuse the situation. But I also think your husband should take care of actually doing it. I hated this year that my FH’s family didn’t get sent Christmas cards because he didn’t do it and somehow that got translated as my fault.

      • Lisa

        My sister has a December birthday, and this is kind of what she’s always said, too. I was under the impression that Peahunt and husband had done a larger Christmas present when I read the post originally. I understood “a lovely Christmas present” as “something nicer than we would usually get someone because we were combining the two,” but I could be wrong.

        • Sosuli

          Oh yeah, that may be exactly what they did, maybe they just didn’t explicitly say “this is for both”. I would be happy with that, but based on this description of SIL that might also not have cut it.

    • Ravenclawed

      How old is she? You say older sister, so I’m guessing at least 20 something…? That kind of behavior would only be acceptable to me if she were in high school or younger. At a certain point, birthday gifts are bonuses not obligations.

      • Peahunt

        She is 33 which is why we are both so shocked by her behaviour. I also think that any presnts are a bonus and don’t expect from anyone at all

      • Peahunt

        She is 33 which is one of the reasons I am finding her behaviour so difficult to understand. I have always thought that presents are a bonus but seeing family is the most important thing

    • Ugh I would probably take the “going nuclear” approach and tell her off (well, ask my husband to tell her off). She’s a grown woman (presumably?) who is pitching a fit about a birthday present.

      My guess is that there’s some complicated history from growing up with a bday near Christmas but that doesn’t really excuse her from being an adult. It’s the height of rude to expect presents from people and then throw a fit when you don’t get them and I would be rude right back. You guys have nothing to apologize for, and you owe her nothing except maybe a return of the gesture to keep it civil for the parents and nothing more.

      • Peahunt

        This is totally what I would do but I know MIL would completely take her side and blame us. He spoke to his mum last night who justified the behaviour by saying she was upset so therefore allowed to say anything.

    • Lisa

      Whaaaaat. SIL is being a ridiculous prima donna. Agree with Amy that you can try and send her the belated birthday gift as a peace offering, but after that, the ball is back in her court.

    • Is there some underlying family drama you don’t know about? Cause that seems like a huge overreaction on the sister’s part. Either way, I don’t think you have to put up with that – gifts aren’t a requirement. It’s on her to act like a civilized human being and you shouldn’t have to give in to her demand for a birthday gift.

      • Peahunt

        Nope not that I know of. We got married this year and think that his sister has been looking for some reason to be mad at us ever since. I think that she is uspet that he little brother is all grown up whereas she only moved from her parents house about 6 months ago. I think she finds it hard because we now live in my hometown with my parents 10 minutes away and we see them all the time . he also has a great relationship with my older brother so I think there is some jealousy towards us but as no one in the family ever talk about anything it doesn’t go away just builds into a really uncomfortable situation.

  • Rebekah

    This was our second married Christmas. We spent last year alone in a separate state, and I was unemployed at the time, so I felt very lonely and distanced from my family’s traditions. My husband also worked a lot last year, so we didn’t have much of a chance to do large celebrations.
    This year we spent it with both sets of parents, but discovered that it’s quite difficult to truly split our time. I’m actually looking forward Christmas 2016 when I’ll start carving out space and autonomy for our baby family. My sister is expecting my first niece in July, so it’ll be hard not to see the family at Christmas, but I think we can do it.
    Our own tradition is now to watch Charlie Brown Christmas on Christmas day.

  • Lizzie

    Our Christmas and New Year’s was fantastic, in ways both expected and not. Re: the latter, my sister who’s been pretty much estranged from the family for the past couple years actually surfaced to attend Christmas dinner at my mom’s house, and she gave each of us really thoughtful gifts. She didn’t have much to say to any of us, but it was just great to see her and know she’s been thinking of us. The best part was how happy it made my mom…she was beaming with happiness like I haven’t seen in ages. A Christmas miracle indeed.

    • Poppy

      That’s wonderful! I hope this bodes well for the future.

  • Poppy

    We did a bi-coastal holiday with both families involving six flights, over two weeks away from home, and just a little too much time away from our routines.

    No major blow-ups this year but my fiancé was completely on edge the entire time we were with his family because of how awful his mother was to him on Christmas Day 2014 (think “I know you don’t love me because you refuse to move back to your hometown”, “why does everybody always leave me?” “everyone likes [Poppy]’s family so much better”, and other similar sorts of emotional manipulation delivered to him in whispers while I was out of the room). I could feel him bracing for her to turn on him again this year, but it seems everybody behaved. His stress level this year really clarified for me that even though they all outwardly act like Christmas 2014 never happened, the aftereffects are still there. Any advice about how to support a partner going though this? I’m much less conflict-averse than he is, so all my suggestions seem off-key to him. He’s frustrated because she was fine this year so he thinks that he has nothing to complain about actively, but he’s still so angry and hurt about last year that he can’t let go of the resentment. I think it’s making him feel crazy.

    In wedding news, we got our first major sticker-shock after receiving a astronomically-high quote from a “mid-range” caterer we met with between Christmas and New Years. Also, I may temporarily have lost my mind and I ordered a two piece wedding outfit I tried on at a boutique in my parents’ city. It was comfortable, well-made, fun to wear, and in my budget. Then I made the mistake of looking up the designer’s website and I HATE the way both pieces look in the stock photos. The top is way more of a crop top on the website and now I wonder if that’s how the piece will fit when it arrives in my size. I’m afraid I should have held out for something cheaper and/or more traditional. I have no idea why I’m obsessing about this. I never had a princess complex before and we aren’t traditional people.

    • gonzalesbeach

      the two piece outfit sounds awesome! and you liked it when you tried it on ? some stock photos don’t do outfits justice – just like seeing it on the hanger vs trying it on your bod

    • Lawyerette510

      Your outfit will be great, how a two piece looks on the site is mainly about the body of the model and the styling, your body is probably different and you’re going to style it your tastes.

      Sorry about your husband’s experiences with his mom, I don’t really have any suggestions.

    • Sosuli

      The stock photos of my wedding dress also look really unflattering, so I’ve stopped looking at their website and only look at the photos my mom took of me in the dress when I tried it on in the shop. Stock photos tell you so little, especially if it was on a model who has a totally different body type to yourself, or just a mannequin that is completely not lifelike, in a warehouse with harsh or not enough lighting… the list goes on. You liked it when you tried it on, chances are you will like it when it arrives.

  • We are pretty lucky that both of our families are very geographically close, only a few live further away and they’re only a couple hours drive at that. However thanks to divorce the family functions happen in disparate clusters which has usually meant running here there and everywhere for three or four days straight…

    This year we hosted dinner on Christmas day and it was lovely! Just a small dinner but it meant that we got to see one of my parental sets and his on one day, without having to run around, and I got to cook (which I love doing). My bother hosted the other parental set and his in laws and we visited a couple days later and got to spend time with our niece… Slowly but surely we may be reclaiming our holidays from the hectic divided cluster that they’ve been for years *cheers*

  • There were several things I goofed up on and screwed up at Christmas. But I’ve chosen instead to focus on all the amazing things I actually did accomplish while also making sure our toddler and two babies were happy and getting along. And when I focus on that we had an AWESOME Christmas. Sometimes it’s all how you look at things.

    • I was just going back through my own blog and realized that what I did at Christmas (setting realistic expectations and focusing on what went right) was pretty much the exact opposite of what I did at Thanksgiving. Good on me for learning so much in just one month!

  • Leela

    My Christmas was rough in a completely unexpected way. My husband and I spent a few days with my parents, and all my mom talked about was how much she wished my brother and his kids were there. It was incessant, and nothing that we said made it better. She cried for hours on Christmas day. My brother hasn’t visited at Christmas for many years (they have three small children), so I’m not sure why this year set my mom off so badly. She also kept saying things like “why do you have to live so far away?” and “I wish I could have frozen you at 12 years old” (arguably the worst year of my life…so probably the year she felt most needed?) and worst of all, “I miss having a family” (ahem. That just hurts).

    We embarked on the 8 hour trip back to NYC feeling horrible. I know she didn’t mean to make me feel this way, but all I can think is that she would have rather had my brother there than us — that we weren’t the company she wanted. I also feel like she resents the fact that her children have their own lives. We’ve had them for a while. I’m not sure what set her off. I want to help and to understand, but when we talked about it on the phone yesterday she said “oh, the holidays are just so inconvenient. I get upset when I’m off schedule.”

    Has anyone else experienced something like this? I can only describe it as a painful combination of sibling-pitting, aging, frustration, and guilt.

    • AnonWhiner

      I feel you. I don’t have any siblings, but I’ve been getting the “why do you have to live so far away” from my mom basically since I moved across the country for college (and didn’t come back). It’s been over 15 years and I still get comments about moving back, about missing having a family (she’s divorced and loved my dad’s family), about wishing we had kids for her. I know my life is mine to live, but I can’t help feeling twinges of guilt.

    • Amy March

      She ruined your Christmas by being rude to you. You don’t need to try and understand that or help that. How did she think you would feel through all of this? I think you need a complete reframing, and that at some point before next year you need to have a conversation about how she made you feel when she spent all of Christmas crying because he wasn’t there instead of enjoying that you were, and that made you feel unwelcome, like you were her second choice, and it’s not okay with you.

      • Leela

        Thanks for the straight talk, Amy March. You are right. I need to try not to feel guilty for something that’s not my fault. In fact, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to be firmer with my family members. For example, my brother is no longer allowed to invite our parents to visit and tell them that they can stay at *our* apartment without asking me and my husband first! This has happened more than once. They assume it’s fine with us because we don’t have kids. Blergh.

        • Kayjayoh

          “invite our parents to visit and tell them that they can stay at *our* apartment without asking me and my husband first”

          [is completely agog at the nerve of this!]

          • Lawyerette510

            Me too, my mouth actually opened.

          • Leela

            Yes. We were too. Especially the second time.

    • Yikes, that sounds super hurtful. I haven’t had a similar experience but it sounds terrible and I’m sorry you spent your holiday feeling that way :(

    • Anon

      Girrrrl I feel you. My mom is obviously and admittedly struggling with being a parent to adults. She drives us all crazy with intermittent passive aggression, guilt trips and nagging. She sent me a text message over the holidays when I was at my husbands parents that said “Being 60 has made me reevulate things. Please tell me if I’m not being a good mother. Can’t change the past but want to do better”. This was completely out of the blue. My mom is so afraid of confrontation she often uses text messages or emails to deal with tricky conversations and it’s annoying as all. The truth is, she isn’t being a bad parent, but my mom is bad at adult relationships in general, so of course as we have become adults, she’s not great at having adult relationships with us. She’s also always being super mopey about how we adult children aren’t best buds with each other. I see a lot of this trend on these threads, our parents don’t know how to parent adults, and as kids it’s hard for us to know how to help them do it better.

    • NotMarried!

      I do not share the sibling-pitting portion of this, but otherwise, I’m so with you.

      This year, my mom informed me that I “behave like a 15 year old” and that she hopes I will one day grow up.

      Note: I’m 30-someodd; a dual professional; and by all accounts quite grown. She also wants me to commit to having dinner with her at least once a week. Because that’s normal for an adult?

      • Marcela

        Did she offer to do this in return for paying your child’s tuition at a prep school? If so you may be a Gilmore Girl.

        • NotMarried!

          alas – there was nothing offered in return. And no kids here either … not that she hasn’t asked if i’m pregnant a dozen times in the past 6 months.

          • Marcela

            Darn.
            I’ve taking to drinking conspicuously when in my MIL’s presence even though I don’t really like to drink much, just to head off the pregnancy questions. Two months after we got married, she called asking if we had any news to share and then proceeded to call me once a month with probing questions. *solidarity fistbump*

    • Lawyerette510

      Sorry you had to deal with this, it sounds really hurtful. Sending internet hugs.

  • eating words

    Oh, the holidays. I’m used to large-ish family gatherings, and there’s something about spending all of Christmas Eve and Day with just 2–3 people that I find so much harder than I think I should. There are just the few of us to make conversation; there’s no other room to drift into for a change of pace. I can put aside my dislike of Christmas (which I’ve written about in other open threads), but I still find the day weird. Fortunately, we’ve already talked about starting to incorporate Jewish things next year, since I miss what Christmas used to be for me, and now that my spouse (who converted to Judaism this year) has had one more Christmas-y Christmas, everyone is open to trying new things. My spouse and MIL actually sound excited about our ideas for next year!

  • AGCourtney

    The holidays actually went quite well for us! This was made much easier by the fact that we live in the same town as our parents. It was our first Christmas together, and while my husband felt a little strange about putting his childhood ornaments up on a new tree, it was wonderful. I had a blast decorating the house with my dad’s Christmas village and lights, and the living room looks so pretty. My daughter and I went to the Christmas Eve service on our own (the joys of Dad and Grandpa working retail), and it was actually somewhat nice to do something on our own again. We decorated cookies after dinner that night.

    We started Christmas morning at our house, and we had two big hits with our daughter – a design and drill set (kid loves tools) and a very fluffy zebra plushie. My younger sisters came over in the morning, per Dad’s custody agreement, and we had fun seeing them for a while before we left for the in-laws. They’d held off on present-opening until we arrived, and we had a lovely time there. We spent the day after Christmas with my mother and sisters. There was nothing too chaotic, it was nice and spread out and relaxed, and we had a pleasant time at each place we went.

    And we had a friend over for NYE, which is a first for us, and we had fun playing strategy games and the like until she left around 10. Then we played another game called Castle Panic with our daughter, and it happened to end a little after midnight. The only weird thing to happen was when my MIL asked us on New Year’s day if we were coming out. Not weird in itself, but we working on stuff around the house and declined. She actually had a weird over-the-top reaction about how they’d miss us, etc., and has commented about us not being there since. That day has never been anything but a sitting-around-the-house day for both our families, and it has been amusingly bemusing. Very small, though, just enough to make things interesting, haha.

    Oh, and we had my in-laws’ extended family Christmas gathering yesterday, and that went well. They did a white elephant gift exchange for the first time, and we got things we liked and our gifts went over well. (Our large package of batteries with a note saying “Gift not included” went to someone who actually goes through tons of batteries, so that was both funny and useful to them!) And people were fairly respectful about gifts for our daughter (we had…issues last year) and the only person who wasn’t, had gift receipts. Phew! I had been nervous about that.

    …I really type way too much on these posts, I’m sorry, haha.
    TLDR: things went really well and living within ten minutes of all parents -> simplicity.

  • We had a really nice holiday with my partners parents in his hometown, which is also where we are having the wedding. There was a lot going on but it was really nice. SO MANY BABIES.

    We snuck in some wedding planning that didn’t go super well. We finally got to see the venue and talk to the contact at the venue in person. They were all over the place (for instance: we have a tent for the patio but we’ve never used it and don’t know what we’d charge for it so maybe you want to look into renting one from this other rental company?, We don’t have full time kitchen staff but you could probably do a tasting depending on the time of year and what you want… maybe… I mean I don’t see why not? etc etc.) and I am not thrilled.

    Upside: The woman from the Cakery doing our cupcakes is amazing and her cupcakes are delicious and she is so organized and I just love her.

    As far as the venue is concerned, if we have to rent a tent anyways I’m about ready to just do that and have a tent in the woods without them, so there.

  • Not Sarah

    It was my first Christmas not seeing my parents and it was weird. My boyfriend’s family is great. I like them. He’s great at standing up for me and us and setting boundaries. They include me in things, like family photos and making sure they cook food I like. They’re all great. It was just weird not seeing my parents. I’m still a bit weirded out about this (many feelings), even though we had a perfectly lovely holiday.

    Feelings are weird.

  • nsmmb

    We had a wonderful, stress-free holiday but as soon as 2016 hit the whole getting married this summer thing got super real, super quick. The excitement I had in 2015 immediately became a ton of nerves and I can’t stop thinking ‘holy shit we’re actually doing this.. in six months.. with SO MUCH left to do’

  • Bsquillo

    Gosh, our holidays were an exhausting blur. We drove across the country- with our dog- and saw a combined total of 40 family members at 6 major gatherings over 8 days. In general, everyone was great, and no one was super demanding (except my father with Alzheimer’s, who can’t help it), but it was just SO MUCH. I don’t think we can do all of that at once again. To top it off, the weather was AWFUL for the entire trip, raining on us most of the time while we were driving; we narrowly avoided tornadoes, floods, and a winter storm. My husband turned to me in the middle of one of many rainy drives and said, “So when is *our* vacation happening?”

    It is somewhat convenient to see all our family in one trip because they live pretty close together, and we don’t get to travel there much at all during other times of the year. All of our family lives 1,300+ miles away, so we can’t afford to travel to see them often. But seeing everyone at once is emotionally overwhelming. What advice do you have for stepping back from some of this holiday travel, even when logistically, it kind of makes sense to see everyone?

    • jay moore

      Is there a way that you can make some people travel to come see you? I’ve started doing this with my own family (who live about 3ish hours apart), and my husband has started doing that with his friends because we were starting to feel like we needed and outlook calendar schedule to manage or trips and feeling like it was all too much. Now we usually arrange a couple open house type events where we tell everyone, ok on x date we are going to dinner at Y. Let us know if you can make it for dinner or for bowling afterwards. For his friends we usually pick one of the many microbreweries that have big tasting rooms and say, we are going to be sampling beers and playing games from 4-8 on x day, we hope you can stop by. My rationale has been, if I can take time off work and travel 1000+ miles people can take time and travel 30 min-3 hours to come see me. It’s worked surprisingly well (choosing the venue/date/time is a bit of a balancing act and it took us a while to ), especially because people are also excited to see other friends/family at the event as well.

      • emmers

        That’s genius! Then it totally puts the responsibility on them, and minimizes your crazy schedule. Giving folks opportunities, but not making yourself crazy. I love it!

    • Amy March

      Honestly? My family moved very very far away from our extended family when we were little, and we couldn’t afford to travel often. So we didn’t see them. I don’t know my cousins well, my parents didn’t visit their aunts and uncles ever, family friends from way back are Christmas card people. If you want to maintain in person relationships with lots of people in a limited time, it’s going to emotionally overwhelming.

  • JC

    I am a bit shocked at how wonderful Christmas was, to be honest. It was my first Christmas away from my family, and I thought I’d be a wreck. I was, by the end of the day, but not because I was missing my family but because his family’s Christmas is THREE DAYS LONG including THIRTEEN HOURS on Christmas day. This introvert was one tired cookie.

    The absolutely greatest thing was that we had fully moved out of the in-laws’ house and into our new apartment just two days prior, so not only did I get to sleep every night in my own bed in my own house, but when we did go over to the in-laws’ for the festivities, I was only a guest and not their roommate. It was the healthiest I’ve felt around them in a very long time.

    To top it all off, we had some amazing pie. I am a big believer in home made pie for all occasions, and the family pretty much only eats store bought. (Can you see me turning up my nose? The bias is strong.) I offered to bake pies, but was turned down because an uncle always brings them from a bakery. It turns out that this bakery is straight from heaven and run by magical pie-baking elves, and since I wouldn’t have been able to get my hands on the berries they used, it was definitely better than a pie I could make. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

  • A.

    This is kinda late, but hopefully there’s still some active readers out there :) My husband (as of 2015!) and I were at my parents for Christmas – five nights/four days, and it’d be a day or two shorter if not for flight prices and back issues I get from flying frequently. ANYWAYS, probably more of a big deal than us being married for the first year was that this was the first year both my husband and I were working full time (met in grad school, got our PhDs in engineering, now are gainfully employed). We make solid money, we know, and we’re very grateful for the opportunities we have been given and don’t flaunt it (other than, you know, actually being able to pay for plane tickets across the country to come visit). My parents are in a bit of a financial pickle due mainly to their poor financial planning, and literally every. single. day. there was some jab about how much money we [me+husband] were making and how we were soooo well off and my parents neeeever made that much money (which, if you adjust for cost of living both annually and in the cities in which I grew up, they were.) etc. etc., and it was just nonstop. Even husband, who is by far the most calm rational person I’ve ever met was irritated by it at the end. Anyone have tips on handling financial issues with parents? Other than abiding by the three-nights-rule that seems to be in favor down below? ;) (which I’ll almost certainly be following religiously from here on out ;) )

    • Amy March

      I’m a big fan of saying something. “Ohhhhhhhhhh you’re making soooooo much money.” “Yes, and it is about time since I’ve been in school full time for 14 years and I have a lot of student loans to payback.” “It must be sooooooooooooooo nice.” “You keep making little ‘joking’ comments about our finances and it makes me very uncomfortable. Please stop.”

      • emmers

        I hate these kinds of comments. Seconding Amy March’s advice.

    • Christy

      I’d remind yourself that typically speaking, parents WANT their kids to be more successful than they are. Honestly, I’d say something like “Oh, I’d hoped you’d be happy for my/our success. I think it’s nice when parents want their kids to have a better life.” And then perhaps something snarky about “Would you prefer I have a worse job?”

      I remind myself of this when my family gives me crap for having a good job–that they’re the ones with the issues, and truly, parents SHOULD want their kids to have a better life. It took my friends saying how messed up my family’s reaction was for me to realize that it was really messed up. (For my family, there’s also a weird component where I work for the government and they’re small-government in theory, and also I’m a woman. Sigh.)

  • We had a Secret Santa with both our families (we used Elfster which is a cute idea but a bit awkward for not-particularly-computer-capable parents to use), Christmas drinks and a viewing of ‘It’s a Wonderful life’ with friends and then jetted off to climb in southern Thailand.

    I gave my husband three pairs of underpants (nicely wrapped) and he went to the local Family Mart (like 7Eleven) on Christmas Eve and gifted me a tube of toothpaste, a bag of preserved tamarind and two soaps (in a plastic bag). Needless to say, the Christmas pudding my mum gave us – that we had for Christmas lunch in the jungle, under a cliff – was the stand out gift this year. Deeeelicious and sufficiently Christmassy.

    I missed my family and traditional Christmas stuff (I haven’t had Christmas with my Mum for four or five years now – way overdue!) but I had the joy of exchanging presents (even if they were a bit minimalist), of spending time with my beloved, of eating tasty food and had the chance to reflect on our blessings – perfect.

  • Katie

    I had what might be one if the weirdest and best Christmas ever. A week before Christmas we had a wonderful, perfect, magical wedding. (Seriously… we loved it so much.) Then we went on short, few days honeymoon.

    When we got back, while my usually across the country siblings were still in town from the wedding, we had Christmas evening with my family like the Tuesday before the 25th. Everyone exchanged small gifts, but since the wedding had taken up most of our time and attention (and cash!), eveything was very laid back and small.

    Then we both had a day or so of work before the holidays, since my husband works retail (ugh, holiday shoppers!). Husbands family is super flexible, and since they also work in retail and resteraunts, wanted to do Christmas celebrations after the weekend.

    So we spent our first married holiday at our own home, with no one else and loved every minute. It was almost an extra day of a honeymoon… ^_^

    My family is super big, with maternal and paternal sides always competing for the holiday and then trying to get in his side as well was always stressful. This was the first year I can remember not going to at least two houses… lol. We still kept some traditions, like a breakfast made from my late grandmother’s recipe. And we created some new traditions, like making chinese bbq pork buns from scratch!!

    I think the best thing to keep in mind is remaining flexible, like everyone is saying. It definitely makes things easier and more fun. :)

  • Remember those guns we were going to stick to? Yeah, they only half-stuck.

    We ended up staying only two hours away for our just-the-two-of-us post-Christmas holiday and figured it would smooth the transition to join the usual family vacation for two days after our trip. We should not have done that. It was extremely stressful, voices were raised, I spent every moment when the two of us were in private venting about how stressed out their stress was making me, and he and I agreed on the drive home that we are not doing that again (he also got stressed out, but wonder that he is tries not to criticize my family when I am amped and will switch on a dime to protect them).

    Christmas Eve and Day are enough. I don’t think I can do holidays with my family anymore. This is a sad realization, but I guess since I never rebelled as a teenager and fully created my own self, it’s just a late bloom?

    The good thing is that our holiday together was AWESOME. We’re really good at wine country together. We returned to the spots we took our first vacation together (and when we get married it’ll be the third anniversary of that vacation). It was a wonderful way to celebrate. We also ordered invitations and decided on our officiant!

  • Stephanie

    It was interesting. Christmas Eve was wonderful, my kids (4 and 2) really got into the whole Santa thing for the first time. We had a delicious dinner at my mom’s house(yum homemade lasagna) and it was just very enjoyable. Christmas Morning was so fun it was just the four of us, opening presents and eating cookies way too early in the morning. We went to my husband’s grandparents’ house for a big family Christmas. And my 2 year old fell down the stairs, landed on his head, had to go in an ambulance and ended up in a hospital 4.5 hours from home with a concussion, a broken collarbone, a bruised hip, and a broken wrist. But he is home and on the mend after one night in the hospital. As we were recovering from that drama my 4 year old came down with the stomach bug and she passed out and had to spend 2 days in the hospital. She was dehydrated but is home now and fine. Definitely not the way we expected but I’m glad the kids were able to have some fun before the medical drama.

  • Like you, my wife and I stayed put this year. It was our first married Christmas and we didn’t want to deal with the stress of traveling just to have quick shallow gatherings with each respective family before shuffling off to the next set (my wife’s parents are divorced and my family is small but crazy). We said to hell with it and just stayed in Austin. This probably would have been great if I hadn’t volunteered to work on Christmas (only so I could have NYD off). So my poor wife had to wake up by herself on Christmas morning, which I can only imagine is a pretty shitty feeling.
    Next year we are going to spend the holiday in Atlanta with my mother-in-law-and-co. Maybe the year after that we’ll go back to Florida to see my family and my father-in-law-and-co. Maybe we’ll decide to stay put again and do it properly (ie. I won’t be in retail anymore so I won’t need to work).
    All I know, is I love the festivities surrounding the holidays, so we’ll keep the decorations and the food and the love and the cheer wherever we decide to go.

  • Eh

    My husband had to work Christmas Eve and Boxing Day so we stayed close to home. My in-laws live an hour away so we went there Christmas Day for supper. Christmas at their house is crazy (I am an introvert with anxiety problems and growing up it was just my immediate family for Christmas) and on top of that we have a baby and my MIL is overbearing. For the most part it was easier for me to ‘survive’ Christmas this year because our baby gave me excuses to be antisocial. And for the most part my MIL was on her best behaviour, she only stepped over the line twice. The first time was during supper on Christmas Day when she asked me where my daughter was and I told her I just put her down for a nap. She gave me a pouty face and was concerned that my baby would miss opening presents (she woke up just after we started opening presents). I shook my head and bit my tongue. The second time was at the extended family Christmas for my FIL’s family my MIL was holding my daughter and she passed her off to my SIL who was sitting next to me. As she passed her off I was checking out my daughter and my MIL said that I don’t get her since I have her all the time. I said I was checking to make sure she wasn’t too hot (it was boiling in the house and she was wearing warm clothes and she had over heated at their house on Christmas Day when there were fewer people). My MIL said she was fine and left. My SIL (who has three kids and works with babies) passed her to me and said she was too warm. I am pretty happy giving up my baby at family gatherings, but if she is hungry I expect her back and if she is uncomfortable I expect that be resolved.

  • Katie D

    Last year, my son and I had just moved in with my now husband. The little guy had just turned 1 year old the past August. We did our own Christmas morning on Christmas Eve and then stayed over at my mother’s so she could have a Christmas morning with her grandson. This year we did the annual extended family Christmas Eve (30+ people at my aunt and uncle’s house, my mom’s side of the family), and then smaller immediate family things Christmas afternoon and evening.
    Christmas morning it was just my husband and I teaching our little guy how to open presents, which for me was the best part. He was so excited by the little car my husband had put together the night before, that we STILL have two gifts he hasn’t opened. We’ll be saving those for next year. When I was little my parents always went nuts with the amount of gifts under our tree. I’m trying to keep ours much more subdued, but wasn’t as successful as I would have liked.

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