Your place or mine?

December 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm 7 comments

Christmas is a time for family…but whose family?! In an ideal world, we’d all live about an hour (two hours?) from each side of the family. Close enough for emergencies and special occasions and Sunday lunch, but not close enough for daily run-ins. It would also mean that you could neatly slice and dice the holiday season between two families or, heck, invite both sides to your house and not feel like you had to have five spare bedrooms to accommodate.

I imagine there are flaws with this plan as well. Maybe couples within close proximity to both sets of parents feel pressure to fit it all in. Maybe they feel like they have to dash all around a 30 mile radius seeing friends and family. Maybe they’d like to just stay put for a block of time over Christmas, whether it be at the wife’s childhood home or the husband’s cousin’s beach house.

Nobody has it easy, I suppose…but I’d like to give the above a try!

If your families are spread out, I believe you have a harder time balancing expectations. This is par for the course as an expat and something I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. Of course, early on, I suggested spending Christmas apart so that we both got to be with our families. But Scott was all, I love you and I want to spend every Christmas with you! And I was like, ugh, fine, you win this time. 

So, we decided that we would take turns, spending every other year with our respective families. I don’t like it, but it seems to be the only fair way for us.

I have a friend who made her husband agree to spend every Christmas with her family in the US for as long as she lived in the UK with him. (I wish I had thought to make that sort of contractual agreement!) Another friend spends every Christmas with her husband’s family because her family isn’t that bothered about the festive season. Just yesterday I was speaking to someone about how she juggles the holidays and she said she hasn’t spent Christmas with her in-laws since before she was married because she cried the whole time she was there and her husband knows better than to ask her to try again!

There is nothing wrong with my in-laws’ Christmases. Those Christmases are just different. Scott feels the same about my family’s Christmases. There are cultural differences. There are family traditions, right down to what meat to serve on the day. And above all else, you’re with family, but not all your family and that’s sad.

Our agreement is not perfect. As Scott so eloquently put it, “It always sucks for someone.” The “someone” usually applies to the set of parents whose turn it isn’t, and that is very difficult to manage.

When Christmas is months away, I see experiencing a British Christmas as something quite fun. Paper hats! Brussels sprouts! Trifle! The Queen’s Speech! But as the day approaches, I just really miss my Christmas with my family. I don’t know when or if that feeling will ever go away. I’m sure Scott feels the same this year at my family’s home. And I have to remember that…even though I’m pretty busy feeling so happy to be here!

We have many friends who long for the day when they can spend Christmas on their own, just the two of them. I never feel that way. Is that strange? To me, Christmas is about the noise, the joy, the buzz, the arrivals, the full house, the endless chatter in the kitchen, the excitement of seeing old friends, the loop of classic movies, the laughter, the hugs, even the petty arguments, the last-minute shopping, the Trivial Pursuit competition, the familiar faces around the table, and the sense that when it’s all over–the day, the year, the hard times, the good times–you’ve still got family. Yours and mine.

Sharing Christmas as a married couple

Entry filed under: expat, life. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gmucheeky  |  December 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    Merry Christmas!

  • 2. abitofthis  |  December 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I’m one of those who spends Christmas with just her husband and I love it. My family is spread all over the US so it wouldn’t be easy to see everyone anyway (someone would be unhappy in the US regardless) and my in-laws don’t really celebrate. I love not having to deal with the stress of any of it.

    Merry Christmas to you!

  • 3. cherished79  |  December 24, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Reblogged this on LIVING IN STIGMA.

  • 4. cherished79  |  December 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks, this is so lovely written. Merry Christmas!

  • 5. andrea  |  December 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I know exactly how you feel – and once you add kids in it makes it harder, because everyone wants to be with their grandkids. It is never easy, ever. And I also think Christmas is for big families and lots of things going on. Merry Christmas Caitlin :) xx

  • 6. Kim  |  December 26, 2013 at 11:52 pm

    We haven’t been to Ireland for Christmas since we emigrated in 2011 and I feel bad for my in laws, especially now that we have a kid and another one on the way. I prefer Christmas with my family, but I know my MIL would really love if we came, so we’re hoping to make it next year. I actually wouldn’t mind spending Thanksgiving in the US and every other (or so) Christmas in Ireland. Fortunately, my parents are pretty supportive about us creating our own traditions, but you’re right, one family always loses and you can’t help but feel bad for the loser.

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