Written by: Alexandra Lotzgeselle
Growing up we had, for the most part, a set of traditions for where holidays were spent. The biggest of the holidays being Christmas was spent was split with Christmas Eve being celebrated at my paternal grandparents with all my aunts uncles and cousins from my dad’s side, and Christmas Day was spent with my maternal grandparents and all my aunts, uncles and cousins from my mom’s side. It was awesome! Every year we knew where we were going and what we were doing, and we got to spend the whole day/night with the hosts. Once you grow up and get into a serious relationship, and especially once you get married, that can become a little tricky as you obviously have the same amount of holidays, but twice as many people involved.
My husband and I are very lucky in that both our parents live within 15 miles of our home. Neither of us has huge extended families in the area either, so for the most part holidays are pretty simple. Relatively early on in our relationship, we had established that we were both in it for the long-haul, so we merged our families, holidays, and traditions pretty much right away. For me, it was important that we spent certain holidays with certain people, and didn’t spend the whole day driving around. I also wanted to have the same holidays spent with the same family so that it wasn’t a big discussion every year of, “Oh well last year we did Thanksgiving with your family” or “well this year we have to spend a bigger holiday with my family”. I wanted our future children to have the tradition of spending a holiday doing the same thing every year. When you split a single holiday with both sides of the family, it seems that everyone loses. Yes, the other members of your family get to see you and you get to see everyone, but it’s for shorter and more disjointed periods of time, and you’re the ones having to pack up and drive around to everyone’s homes. It can seem a little harsh, but you end up focusing on making everyone else happy and being so afraid of hurting someone’s feelings that you don’t always get the opportunity to just unwind and actually enjoy the holiday.
I love that on Christmas Eve we go over to my parents’ house and get to spend the whole evening and night in one single place. There’s never a discussion of “Wait, last year who were we with? Where are we going for this Christmas Eve?” We never have to worry about the time or whether or not we have everything packed up appropriately. We get to just take a deep breath, forget about a clock, and enjoy ourselves and the company around us. Then on Christmas morning we have breakfast, open gifts with my family, and head over to my husband’s parents for the rest of the day and evening. It’s wonderful! We get to my in-law’s and it’s the same thing- we get to relax and hang out, and aren’t having to be consumed with a schedule and when we need to leave to go somewhere else. And now knowing that in just a few months were going to have a baby and all the stuff that goes along with having a baby, I don’t know that I’ll have the energy or temperament to even consider packing up a bunch of baby gear and driving around to everyone’s respective homes so that everybody gets a piece while we’re more consumed with making everyone else happy than ourselves.
Of course, there are always exceptions. As all my extended family lives out of state (we moved to California when I was 8, but still flew back every year for Christmas until I was about 20), we will at some point have to break our tradition to spend the holidays back in New Jersey with my extended family. I’m sure it’ll be hard on my husband to spend his first Christmas away from his family, but I know he’ll love it, and it will not be a very common occurrence. I’m sure there will also be a time where we maybe have the opportunity to go away for a holiday, or have family from one side flying in to town on a holiday we normally spend with the other side of the family, which will also require some switching. We’ve also gotten very lucky in that my in-laws have graciously and happily opened up their home on Thanksgiving to my family for the last couple of years. So while we do spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws, it’s been wonderful to have my family come over and spend the day with us as well. Our holiday template is certainly not set in stone, but assuming there are no special circumstances, we plan on spending every holiday at the same place every year. The holidays can be stressful enough so having the same plan every year just makes everything easier and more enjoyable.
Of course, this is not for everyone. My sister-in-law and her husband tend to see all members of both their families on every holiday. While I don’t in any ways envy their non-stop commuting, I know everyone appreciates that they’re willing to be the ones to be inconvenienced so that everyone gets to see them, and I’m sure everyone prefers their method of seeing everyone than our method.
Again, while this is not for everyone, and while there is of course no right or wrong way of spending the holidays, this is just what works for us. We have specific holidays spent with specific family members, we have traditions, and we have very relaxing and enjoyable holidays!
All content and images copyright TheSisterFiles©2015 and cannot be used without expressed permission.
Photography by: Natalia Cruz