Pre-Holiday Holiday

One fairly common source of conflict in a marriage is how, and where to spend the holidays. The most common solution I’ve seen is to spend Thanksgiving with one set of grandparents/in-laws, and Christmas with the other set then do the opposite next year. However it seems that blended families and second marriages throw a wrench in that tidy set up. And anyways when do you quit going back to your parent’s house and start doing things on your own?
One thing that my parents started doing is having Pre-holidays. For example the weekend before official Thanksgiving most of their kids come home and share a big meal (though not necessarily turkey & fixings). This allows kids that couldn’t get time off of work on the official holiday to still make it home, it allows married kids to spend time with their other families without turning it into a competition or source of conflict, and gives their kids room to start their own holiday traditions if they want.
Holidays and celebrations are more about relationships than actual dates, and I know that the flexibility my parents have adopted for celebrating in non-traditional ways has been a great boon to my marriage and is a tradition I hope to pass down to my own kids.
How do you decide where and with whom to spend the holidays?


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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12 Responses

  1. annie says:

    The Holidays bring a lot of stress to my life. We decided early in October that we are going to stay home and have our own Thanksgiving dinner and to try and create our own traditions. But we have made our families unhappy over it. For us it boils down to whatever brings us peace and less drama. And being in our own home, with little to no other guests, is a sure fire way to have a more enjoyable day.

  2. kate says:

    In the past five years, we have had one Thanksgiving and two Christmases with family. The first time we did Christmas with my siblings and step-siblings it was pretty miserable. The other Christmas was two days with my grandparents during a cross-country move. We’ve decided we prefer to have our own quiet holidays together.

  3. JtG says:

    I’m interested to see how others answer this question. This year will be our second holiday season as a married couple. We still haven’t established a system for holiday and family management and neither of our families have a precedent for such things. We ended up with other plans for the holidays an ’09 and ’11. I have no idea how we’re going to make plans for ’12.

  4. Jesse says:

    We live a plane ride away from either set of in-laws, so we came up with a policy. We decided to spend two years at home, one year with his family, two years at home, one year with my family–but anyone is welcome to come visit US on the years when we are at home, doing things our way. Due to the cost and hassle of flying and the unpredictability of weather in the upper midwest, we only make one winter trip on any given year. This year is a his-family year. We will be spending Thanksgiving with them and Christmas at home.

    My sister has a very different arrangement. My parents and my sister’s in-laws live around the corner from each other and about 30 minutes from my sister’s home, so she visits everyone every holiday–and gets to establish her own traditions, too!

  5. EM says:

    I agree with Annie. Every family needs to create their own traditions. Everyone is only a Skype away. My problem was which child to spend Christmas with without offending the other. Husband and I haven’t spent a Christmas alone in I don’t know how long. So this year I put my right foot down firmly I said we’re spending it at home. And I’m looking forward to it. I now get to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Christmas Season where I can sleep in, cook if I want to, and do whatever I want – bliss. It’s not that I don’t love my children and grandchildren, it’s just that I love peace and quiet more.

  6. Vada says:

    The first 5 or 6 years of our marriage it was easy — our parents lived about 10 minutes away from each other, so we’d see both sets every Christmas (and usually at least 1-2 other times during the year, too, sometimes more depending on how close we lived at the time). I loved it. The years that all his siblings were home (they were all married and most had kids) we’d stay at my parents’ house, which was less crowded (since none of my siblings were married or had kids), and the years that his siblings didn’t come home we’d stay at his parents’ house. Either way, if one house was too overwhelming (nearly always his parents’ house for me) there was another to escape to, or if nothing fun was going on one place (sometimes my parents’ house for my husband) there was somewhere else to go.

    Now that they don’t live in the same place it’s a little harder to figure out, but lately I’ve decided to just not visit anyone. With my kids’ food allergies and their tendency to get into everything, visiting people just gets too stressful and doesn’t make for a good vacation. We’ve taken to just visiting random cities that are a semi-reasonable drive away and getting a hotel room and going to zoos, children’s museums, etc. More fun, less stress, which is what vacation should be about. Both sets of grandparents have an open invitation to our house, though, and we sometimes coordinate going to a particular city with siblings or grandparents so we can see them without the stress of having my kids at their houses.

  7. spunky says:

    We don’t have the same issue as Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in our country, but… Boxing Day is a public holiday here, and traditionally many families spend Christmas day with one set of parents and boxing day with the other set. As I am an immigrant, my in-laws assumed we wanted to spend both days with them. They are lovely people, but… 2 days of sitting around watching them get drunk (hubby is a convert) is painful at best. I brought books with me some years, but then, DH and I finally just decided that it was out holiday. He often had to wook on X-mas even and Boxing day, so we just declared it an extended family-free day and stay home. We might have them over for an alcohol-free New Year’s or have dinner a week before Christmas where we exchange gifts. It is short and sweet, and since it is in my home, I feel more in control. I think that is the biggest issue– stopping worrying about everyone’s demands on you for the holiday and doing what works for you. Sure, Christmas is the season of giving, but if it causes fights– (as it had for us in the past)– the remove the source of the fights. Period. You can give in another way, and if extended family want more than that– well, they are being selfish. Period. An us-only Christmas has been the best decision we have ever come up with for our marriage. Seriously.

    I heard more than a few times that statistically, most couple file for divorce after Christmas– and I guess that some people figure that is because people force themselves to stay together for the holiday. But in reality, stress from in-law/traditon pressures, etc because of the holiday may be more of a factor than anything. So for me, my marriage comes first.

  8. Caroline says:

    Love these responses! Interesting to see how many of us decide to establish some alone time during holidays.

    I’ve got it easy. Both our parents live within an hour of us. So we always do Xmas eve with his family, Xmas day with mine, and we switch off for Thanksgiving (or do both sometimes).

  9. Kmillecam says:

    We spend Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with his family, and then switch the next year. However, I don’t have much of relationship with my parents, so when it’s the “on” year for a holiday on my side of the family it’s a little more stressful.

    None of my siblings have much money, and neither do we (damn student loans!). So between money and trying to find a place to stay when we visit CA, it gets a little hard to relax. We don’t really have a central hub to congregate to.

    I also have a hard time living near my husband’s family sometimes, just because I get so jealous that they all get to see each other when they like but I miss my family so much. But I know that isn’t their fault 🙂

  10. Ziff says:

    Interesting question, Starfoxy! My wife and I started in a similar place to Vada–we lived close to both sets of parents, so we saw everyone at the holidays. Now our parents still live close together, but we moved away for school, and now even farther for a job. Budgeting constraints (like Kmillecam) have pushed us to choose to not go see anyone for the holidays. But again like Vada, we would always welcome our parents, and fortunately for us, one or more of my sisters often visits for Thanksgiving or Christmas or the New Year.

    We’ve decided to just go see our families once a year in the summer, when our kids have longer off school and my schedule is more flexible. So unless we suddenly become wealthy, I expect we’ll do this indefinitely.

  11. CatherineWO says:

    We lived close to both families when we got married, so we spent the first Christmas and Thanksgiving with both of them. The next year, our first child was born on Christmas Day and that set the precedent for us not being with extended family. Since then we have lived at least a day’s drive away, over snowy mountain passes. For several years, both families begged us to come for Christmas and were hurt when we didn’t. Then one year, my parents drove to spend the holidays with us, got caught in an awful storm and never asked us to come again, because now they understood.
    Now that we are the grandparents, we have Christmas evening dinner (and birthday party for our oldest) with whomever is living close by. Several years we have visited kids for New Years.
    One tradition that we established early on (and still do) was to invite another family or individual from the ward or neighborhood to share Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with us. Now we see our adult children doing the same thing. Our daughter who lives nearby just called this morning to arrange for a new family in their ward to spend Thanksgiving day with all of us at our home. I am of the “more the merrier” persuasion when it comes to holidays, though I am quite the recluse the rest of the year.

  12. Cz says:

    The first year I was married I made the rule “no Christmas with family” kids grow up so fast. I wanted the experience of having our own traditions. Three children latter I am so glad We did that. It was hard the first three years but all families now know my husband and I spend it alone.

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