‘Blue Christmas’

by Anonymous

And when those blue snowflakes start fallin’
That’s when those blue memories start callin’
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas

Sometimes it’s hard to be cheerful during the holidays.

If you have a loved one who’s suffering, “Happy holidays!” can feel like a cruel joke. The most wonderful time of the year? Not for everyone.

This topic is heavy on my mind because I have a dear friend who is dealing with recent deaths and serious financial difficulties.  She lives across the country so it’s hard to know how well she’s handling it.  Here in our small community at least two local families are dealing with the deaths of their sons this year, including one who was buried only last week.  We probably all know someone who is not having such a happy holiday.  Maybe it’s you.

Holiday blues: Four mistakes we make when comforting friends who are struggling

Do the holidays always lift your spirits or have you had to cope with sad holidays?  Are you prone to sadness or melancholy during this time of the year?  How have you tried to help others in this situation?  Do you ever feel guilty about enjoying this wonderful time of the year while others close to you are suffering?  Are you having a happy holiday this year?  What are the best and worst parts of the holidays?

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88 thoughts on “‘Blue Christmas’

  1. Yeah, not feeling it this year. Given everything that has happened in the country this past year, recent local tragedies, the loss of friends, friends who are just getting beaten down by life and illnesses coupled with family stuff, I would just like for it to all be over and start the New Year. I am especially disappointed to be feeling this way because I really love Christmas and the joy and the hope and whatnot. I also feel badly feeling this way because I know the friends who died this past year would be delighted to be here so I’m working on finding the joy and working on seeing the glass as half full in their honor.

  2. One year my aunt (never married and no kids) to whom I was very close to died unexpectedly just before Christmas. My mom had been at the gym with her two days before. Her tree was up, the gifts for us wrapped and under the tree. Even as we started to wrap up her affairs and go through her belongings it took us months before we could unwrap those gifts and, for me, to decide what to do with her gift. That was 20 years ago now and when I think about her it is focused on the happy memories. But, that Christmas and the next one were very rough.

  3. December is such a crazy busy month for me – at work, with the kids’ birthdays, then Christmas and having to travel. I usually feel stressed out for most of it.

    I may have mentioned that there was a big family rift about a year ago between my siblings. That has not been mended and doesn’t seem like it ever will. Well, that has brought on a whole other layer of stress and crap for every major holiday and I’m still pissed at everyone about it. Completely lost my temper on Thanksgiving in a phone call home. (DH described it as volcanic)

    I try really hard to make this month special for the kids, because we are creating their childhood memories now. I’d like them to remember their birthday and Christmas as special and fun.

  4. Yeah, the year my stepdad died was really really hard at Thanksgiving and Christmas; the fact that his birthday was always around Thanksgiving, and he and my mom had been planning a special getaway then to celebrate his 70th, made it really kinda suck. But we just spent the time together, without a lot of pressure to be happy or anything, and cried when we needed to.

    The thing is, what I appreciate about the holidays is exactly that: unforced family togetherness. Not the manic-tinged Events! and Lights! and Parties! and Shopping! and all the go-go-go. I appreciate that we take off that week from work and usually spend it doing something we all enjoy. I appreciate that we cook the same foods and follow the same traditions, even when it means bringing a stick-on tree to Taos so we could “decorate” it the night before and have something to put presents under. I appreciate having un-rushed, un-forced time with my family.

    And by that standard, that particular Christmas was one of the best holidays. Because we all took the time to get together (my stepsis and -bro flew in); we were all able to support each other when we were sad; we all got out of our own heads for a while trying to come up with things that would make other people happy and doing the silly holiday traditions; and all the sadness was tempered a bit by the happiness of watching little kids open presents and the bittersweet crying/laughing of telling silly stories/memories that only the people in the room knew.

  5. I read that it is the Newtown anniversary today.
    My DD’s school went into lockdown recently. It turned out to be a false alarm. But at that time, it was as if the threat was real. Some kids were crying and upset. Others were eyeing outside doors to escape. They could hear the police helicopter overhead.
    My neighbor a single guy who was suffering from a chronic illness committed suicide before Thanksgiving. He had his own small business out of his house and we didn’t know that anything was amiss. Now, the neighbors keep his property cleaned up, till resale perhaps.
    There were two joyful family events. We could attend one but had to skip the other due to DS’s illness. It was a tougher year than normal. Looking forward to a calmer year, next year.

  6. DH is having a sudden blue period. It is great that we will be going on vacation soon. He needs the one on one attention. But since Christmas isn’t a focused family holiday for us, we don’t really use it as a marker. Far worse for mood is darkness at 4pm.

  7. Louise – Newtown is absolutely weighing on me today. The fact that nothing has changed and I still feel a small twinge of worry each day when I put my daughter on the bus makes me feel angry and hopeless. How do we live in a country where it has become kind of accepted that kids might get shot at school? Not trying to start a debate but the depth of the loss of that day coupled with the kind of national loss of innocence is dispiriting to say the least.

  8. My only issues with the holidays are that standard family issues flare up.

    For years, we spent Christmas morning at home, then went to my parents’, as my sisters do with their families. My mother always tried to prevent our Christmas morning at home by insisting we fly, not drive, and then saying they would not wait for us. When I talked about Christmas morning with family, at home, she shrugged it off as completely meaningless.

    Living in Florida, going on Christmas Day is more difficult because the direct flights are awkwardly timed. I asked my sisters to get there earlier than usual, and my parents to come up with some way for my little boy to have a sparkly Christmas morning. They all agreed they would.

    But nothing. I had him wear pajamas, waiting to open presents under the tree. My sister showed up at 1:00 or 2:00, her kids already dressed for dinner, and sneered at him still still wearing pajamas. So I explained the problem, extricated more promises of change, had him get dressed and waited, waited, waited, year after year.

    It became more hurtful the more obvious it became that everything waits for my sisters and their families, although if we had been late, “the show must go on”. So my son’s Christmas mornings are spent waiting for the special guests to arrive, while clearly not being one himself.

    Last year I decided I’d had enough. I didn’t ask them to do anything different for the upcoming Christmas, but I let them both know shortly after we returned home that my family will spend Christmas morning at home, just like theirs do, and them travel to my parents, just like they do. They are, of course, telling me how awful this is. They simply refuse to accept that our time, just the two of us, has any value whatsoever. If they chose, the whole thing could be moved to later in the day, with presents after dinner or the next morning. I have no idea if our presence means enough to them for them to do that. Part of me is curious and always hopeful, but I should probably figure how not to have any hope at all, based on past years.

  9. Moxie – I totally agree with you. I was shocked to find out some years ago that my older kid was doing lockdown drills.
    In the home country, after your own home, your school was the safest place.

  10. My kid was diagnosed with cancer a week before Christmas. That was about as low as you could imagine.My older kid, who was then only 3, was too young to understand and had been really excited about Christmas. Luckily I had bought his presents a few weeks earlier. and DH’s relatives stepped in, got a tree, wrapped the stuff and made sure he had Christmas. I have always been a Christmas lover in general, but since then I have even more been into it.

  11. Kerri — Does that family rift make you reluctant to travel to spend holidays with your family? I’ve seen that sometimes holidays can be sad and stressful because of challenging family dynamics. Like one family gathering where the ex-husband brought his new wife (with whom he had an affair before the divorce) and it was just a trying situation. But even when some family member is missing from the holiday gathering because of a falling out it can be hard.

  12. Kerri, you are so right not to let this drag on, because there really are not that many years when our kids are little at Christmas. Go, Mama wolf, and let your holidays with your family be merry and bright!

    Moxie, I agree with you on the insanity of that daily doubt that’s become normal in our country.

  13. SM, I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

    There was a threat at my kids’ school last week – someone wrote a bomb threat on a flier on that was up on the wall. They sent out a message the following morning that they investigated it and it wasn’t credible, and school was open as scheduled, but they understood if parents kept their kids home. We sent the kids, and they said about half the kids weren’t there.

    Last year, DD told us one of his friends was making comments that he would shoot up the school. DW reported it and there was a full investigation. The only thing we heard from someone was that “it was good that he reported it”. The kid transferred to another school this year.

    I always get down at Thanksgiving, because we usually don’t have anyone to get together with. Thanksgiving was always a big family even growing up, and I feel sad that we don’t have that anymore. And at a larger level, I feel sad that our kids don’t have any extended family around and never get to experience the big family dinners and such that we used to have.

  14. I worked near Newtown for a number of years, and had a room there during the week (was commuting back and forth to MA, long story). So I know the area well. My daughter was 6, a first grader, when it happened, the same as those kids. And to make things worse, because of my history in that area, I had some work related connections with someone who lost his daughter.

    I freaked that day. I was really upset, The next day, we went to get our tree – at a tree farm on the Newtown border. Everybody at the tree farm just looked sad and subdued. For me, it was just too close.

  15. SM – celebrate the way you want, if everyone else is doing the same.

    DH’s siblings and their families are our only family here and I had thought at one point we would have one holiday together every year. We do get together once a year and it seems that’s enough for the adults who want to do different things with their own family unit for the holidays/are not interested in meeting more than once each year. We have celebrated Christmas together once.

  16. Wow, S&M, you are a better, much more patient woman than I. Do that one year, I’ll give you a chance to make it up. Maybe. Lead me to believe you’ll change it and then do the same thing year 2? I’d have likely thrown a good-old temper tantrum* and stormed out. I get unreasonably angry when people diss my kid — the whole “you don’t matter” thing is probably my major hot button. And directing that at my kid? And then making me feel like a chump under the “fool me twice” principle to boot? I lose perspective and go full enraged mama bear in the blink of an eye.

    Good for you for doing what matters to you and ‘Saac and ignoring the pressure from selfish idiots. And for doing it in a calm, adult manner. :-)

    *And yes, I do mean temper tantrum. I do not handle family confrontations well, which is why I do everything I can to avoid them. But when I do lose it, I tend to revert to nasty, sarcastic teenager, sniping, yelling, and inevitably bursting into tears and leaving. It is not something I’m proud of. But the only plus side is that it does tend to make people understand that this is a big deal for me (even if they don’t understand why).

  17. “Does that family rift make you reluctant to travel to spend holidays with your family?”

    Definitely. I invited my mom to visit us for Thanksgiving so she wouldn’t have to awkwardly spend time with my sister’s family and then separately my brother’s family but for some reason she declined. So she had a miserable Thanksgiving.

    For Christmas, we’re traveling to see DH’s family, whom I love, so it should be fun. (We try to alternate years. Luckily this year is with DH’s family.) The kids will be totally spoiled. That side has its own family dynamics – including my wacky SIL – but it’s just typical stuff.

  18. LfB – Looks like we have something in common.

    My T-day blowup was over a snarky think my sister and mom said about something one of my boys made. It was a last straw and I completely went ballistic. I had to take a good long walk so I didn’t direct anything toward DH and the kids as collateral damage.

  19. I spent December 1-31 hospitalized while pregnant with the twins and my daughter with the lethal abnormality was born December 3. The experience of being in technically active labor for so long awaiting the twins during Advent had a long-term effect on my perception of Advent.

    Probably all of us have all sorts of memories at most times of the year- it’s the gap between our ideal and reality that often causes us pain.

  20. “My T-day blowup was over a snarky think my sister and mom said about something one of my boys made.”

    Guano crazy-making. I just sat through a 6th-grade band concert last night. You know what the only thing worse than a 6th grade band concert is? The 5th grade band concert I sat through last year. And you know what I said to my kid after? “Wow, great job, bud! Man, you were really working hard out there!” [tuba + fast song = massive puffy cheeks/red face]

    Was it objectively good? Hahahahahahahahahaha. But you suck it up and praise the kid because you know he is putting his heart and soul into it and is proud of it, and you love your kid and want to encourage that in him. Grrrrrrrr.

  21. Thanks Houston. Hearing from Mooshi, Moxie, WCE and others about cancer and the death of loved ones does help put it into perspective.

  22. Between my mother, my father, and my grandmother, Christmas was always a nightmare of psychosis, alcoholism, and well-aimed vicious remarks. Somewhere along the way my sister and I got the habit of surviving til 1:00pm when lunch was over and we were released from hell, and then running to the movie theater to watch anything. Whatever was playing. I kind of miss my sister on Christmas for that reason.

    This year I put my foot down and said that the last three nightmarish years with DH’s family are now over. DH can fly out there. Fine. I’m staying home. I might go to an Episcopal church service — they do lovely Christmas services. Or I might just sleep in. Either way, it’ll be depressing but not actively horrible, so that will be an improvement over the previous 56 Chrismases of my life.

  23. My dad always went in a funk from T-day through New Years. His mother and his grandparents died over the holidays. His dad died on his birthday.

    The Christmas after my niece and then my mother were very tough. Fortunately my kids were still small and I couldn’t wallow though I really wanted to.

    I too find it hard to go from large family gatherings to just our family. This year we are celebrating our family Christmas with Christmas Eve breakfast. My son’s girlfriend (ICU nurse) is working the 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and my son is on call Christmas Day.

    My daughter is taking us and my other daughter to dinner on Christmas Eve and then we will gather for Christmas breakfast and dinner.

    This has been a crappy year for me since I have been in pain more often then not since December 27, 2016. I keep telling myself to stop the self pity – I don’t have cancer or heart disease and this disease will be over in 2 to three years.

    I am not doing the decorating (it took me over a week to decorate my tree) or baking I usually do and my daughters want me to supervise while they do most of the cooking. Really hard for me as I am a control freak and hate having people in my kitchen.

    Oh well, enough bitching. I am going to count my blessings (which are many) and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

  24. My oldest brother died in infancy a few days before Christmas. My parents didn’t share this info until I was a teenager, but Christmas was a strained time growing up. After I knew I could start to understand why my mom was even more unhappy at that time. My dad went into the hospital for the last time the day after Christmas and died Jan 2 many years ago.

    WCE’s wise words capture the issue. At this time of year the difference between expectations and reality can be vast.

    Before we had children DH and I barely celebrated Christmas. I like the religious aspect, going to midnight mass, etc, but i hate the presents, must be happy mindset. once the kids were older we started traveling at Christmas time. This year we are traveling with friends. In the group we have Jews, Catholics, and atheists. Whoever wants to will go to mass. We have decided to have a secular Christmas and exchange presents.

    SM…at some point, I hope your mom and sisters can behave like decent people. If they can’t, it is their failing not yours.

  25. S&M – It is really important to have your family’s (meaning the two of you) tradition. I think it is more heart breaking to be with your extended family earlier in the day than to travel after you’ve had your time together.

    This year we are going on a cruise. Due to new flooring down stairs starting next week, we opted to forego decorating. It is a bit depressing to me as DD#1 is having her last Christmas before college. None of us are very prepared and school doesn’t let out until Wednesday, which is when we will all panic and start to scramble.

  26. I have never worried much about terrorist threats or bad things that could happen, but I have found myself over the last few weeks increasingly more anxious at public events. This past Sunday was the church Christmas program, and I didn’t pay much attention as I was trying to figure out what my plan would be if an active shooter situation occurred. How would I protect the kids? I’ve been saying prayers each morning as I drop my kids off at school to keep them safe. They are in 1st and 2nd grade, so Sandy Hook feels all too real to me. The kids’ school had a tragic event this summer, so I’m irrationally thinking that they have a pass on bad things for awhile. At work, I also think about where I would hide at work, but I’m pretty much screwed if an active shooter came into my building. I’m trying hard to not worry about things I can’t control.

    My mom loved Christmas. The year after she died was hard for all of us, but it was nice to all be together. We used to alternate where we went for Christmas and the year before my mom died we were at my in-laws. I’m still sad I didn’t get to have that last Christmas with my mom. My dad gave me a gift when DH and I had kids. He told us that when you have kids that was the time for you to start your own family traditions and that he would understand if we ended up doing our own thing. I really appreciate him explicitly giving his permission/approval to celebrate holidays the way we want to. I hope to do the same for my kids too.

  27. This year will suck. Royally. On Saturday, I am going to my dad’s family’s celebration. My aunt passed ~6 months before my dad, so tears will flow. My cousin (aunt’s daughter) will be a blubbering mess and expect me to join. They’ll expect me to cry. I won’t/can’t. It’s just me. I can’t live up to my family’s expectations to be a blubbering mess. I miss my dad (more than I ever thought I would). We repaired our relationship, he and my mom repaired their relationship, and he loved/knew his grandsons. We had our family back, even if it was only for a few years. That is the fullest life anyone can ask.

    Life is full of beginnings and endings. I had one of each this year. For my boys, I must focus on the happy, and remind them that even in sorrow (not that they know, but they will), we must keep hope and family alive. They will be spoiled, and loved, and remember Christmas as the time for family. Light in the dark.

    During Christmas week, we’ll be with the other sides of the family. I’ll probably have my quiet breakdowns then, when nothing is expected of me, and I can hide from the world. I’m not really missed with DH’s family.

  28. I love Christmas and the season, but for some reason people seem to die in greater numbers around the holidays – note, I’m not sure if this is objectively true or not, but it always seems that way!

    I remember crying the first time we went to DH’s family at Christmas bc they didn’t go to church (RMS – agreed, Episcopalians have the best music!), so the next time we went there I found a church with good music and went there so as to get in the proper mood. Will have to do the same thing this year – at our old house I would go be a ringer at the church down the street, which was great (and they did all the same descants that I have been singing for years), but I haven’t found any place around us with good music yet.

  29. “Episcopalians have the best music!”

    I know, right? I never left without feeling uplifted.

  30. Kerri, SM, I empathize and encourage you to put your immediate family first, especially SM since your DS only has you in his immediate family.

    We also have a family rift– I don’t know why, but one family member got upset with me, and after that our visits to my Dad become increasingly uncomfortable. When I finally gave up trying, that opened up our breaks to do other things, and we had some great family experiences when we went skiing, something we could never do when our plans for the break revolved around visiting my Dad.

    On the bright side, DS will be home soon. We are all really looking forward to that.

  31. I sympathize with those of you dealing with family issues. I am trying to enjoy the holidays, but it hasn’t been easy because of some problems between my mother an my aunt. My grandmother died earlier this year, and now they don’t have much reason to even try to get along. My mom is mid 70s and they some how always made it work because of my grandmother. They wouldn’t get together at Thanksgiving, and now my mom is refusing to invite my aunt for Hanukkah. I avoided the whole Thanksgiving mess by going to DH family, but it was lingering over the whole day. My aunt actually hosts Christmas because my uncle isn’t Jewish, but she doesn’t want to invite my mother. I keep telling them that I don’t want to be in the middle, and it is like dealing with a bunch of toddlers even though they’re both collecting social security.

    I feel so grateful that everyone is still here, healthy (for this month) and I just want to enjoy everything with kids, but I don’t think the two of them will ever stop fighting.

  32. Wow, this is bumming me out today! I think the take away is that at some point you gotta make yourself happy. This whole compulsion to be with family even if it means we are unhappy has to be tossed away. We are doing something just the four of us this year and I’m having a hard time letting go of the guilt of not being with the rest of the family whom I love but who are also just suffocating. Ugh all of it. I wish I could give myself some sort of emotional Silkwood shower and be done with it.

  33. Reading these comments reinforces the idea that it’s important to celebrate in your own way and not be shackled by toxic traditions. Of course we make sacrifices to some degree, but we also have to look out for our own happiness and health.

    For my saddest Christmas I skipped the traditional family celebrations and instead went to see a movie and have Chinese food. I guess you could say I pretended I was Jewish. It was my way of handling it.

  34. Old Mom — I missed something but what do you mean by “this disease will be over in 2 to three years”?

  35. We are traveling to Mass/RI this year for the first time in six years. I grew up going to a huge family Christmas party on Christmas Eve and I want my kids to experience it this year (my aunt who hosts is 78 and so I’m realizing time is precious and we need to go). And we have a
    cousins night out on the 23rd that we’ll go to so I’m excited. I’ve convinced DH to stay through the 1st so we’re going to do First Night on Cape Cod and have a lovely dinner with my sister and her husband. I’m sure there will be let downs along the way as there always is with family, but I’m trying to focus on just enjoying the season.

    It was nice having Christmas morning to ourselves when the kids were really little, but then we get to Christmas dinner most years and it just feels kind of sad not to be sharing the day with extended family. It used to stress me out trying to split the holiday between families, but I just am not worrying anymore if we get to my in-laws’ on Christmas Day a little later than planned.

  36. It takes a lot of personal energy to craft your own nuclear family traditions or even to do without – without time honored expectations for times and places where everyone gathers and certain foods are always served and certain physical objects displayed. It can be lonely, and certainly I don’t advocate for it over warm and for the most part mutually satisfying traditions, but it a different sort of “owned” lonely than the enforced lonely when you, the seeming changeling planted amidst the clan during yet one more required gathering, find yourself yet again in an uncongenial position or reliving the worst parts of your childhood.

    I have mourned for many years for my opportunity to host a family Thanksgiving, which has been very infrequent in the past 25 years. So the one I got to do last month was all the sweeter, and everyone was there of his/her own free will. My son’s rescheduled small wedding, where the nuclear family without spouses and SOs and grandparents and aunts was re-united for 36 hours, was also a treasure.

  37. I’ve noticed before that we’re different from most people on here in how we handle Christmas travel. We alternate between my parents and my husband’s parents, and even though my parents are only about an hour’s drive away we still go stay with them for a few days to a week over the holiday since my sister and family are visiting and staying there (my brother never makes it, pilot work schedule). I myself grew up with the tradition of spending Christmas away from home in a house crowded with cousins, so I’m sure that’s part of why it doesn’t bother me to never be doing a Christmas morning in our own house.

    On the topic, my MIL’s younger sister was killed in a car crash on her way to the family Thanksgiving, such that they were holding off dinner and wondering what was keeping her and then the news arrived. I know that colors Thanksgiving for her.

  38. On a more up note, I’m off soon to see the new Star Wars movie tonight

    It was 40 years ago that the first Star Wars movie came out, and I fondly remember my gang of high school friends piling into Jim’s VW van and driving down to San Jose for the opening. We sat on a blanket in the parking lot and had a picnic waiting for tickets to go on sale. You couldn’t buy tickets online in those days, children, for there was no “online”. And yet we were happy. That was a fun day.

  39. For Star Wars We went to a big movie theater with another young parent couple (we both had two little ones) and I think couldn’t get into the show we wanted, so we had to ask for an extra late night (babysitting exchange days – no money changed hands). It was worth it.

  40. July – lol and Yes Old Mom – what’s up – assuming you want to share.

    Atlanta – that makes me happy – I hope it is wonderful.

    Meme – my hope is that my children end up coming home because they want to. I don’t want hostage holidays – If it is too much, I’d rather do something at a different time that makes everyone happy.

    Taking my DD and her friends to see Star Wars this weekend for her birthday. I could not be less interested so I am going to see Ferdinand while they do that and then maybe tweet for the extra hour until they are done. I’m jazzed to go see Ferdinand by myself.

  41. I also still vividly remember going to see Star Wars 40 years ago, at the Cinerama. HM, did you see it there too?

  42. This year we’ll be doing a lot of hosting.

    After I finally finished remodeling our bathrooms, we hosted some of DW’s HS friends back in Sept, and we’ve tried to keep the house clean since then, and I’ve finished a couple more projects, so DW wants to take advantage of the host-able conditions.

    We’ll be hosting DS’ HS friends and their families, including (I think) one family whose DS, our DS’ classmate, isn’t coming home. I would be happy if this would become a tradition; DS has a nice group of friends.

    DD has been wanting to have her friends over for a while, so we’ll also invite them and their families, on a separate night. Unlike with DS, we don’t know the parents of most of DD’s current crew, as she calls them. so we hope this will help start us getting to know them.

  43. Up until we had our DS #2 we alternated visiting family for Christmas, and I really didn’t love it. I felt moorless, with no real traditions from year to year. Once DS #2 came along, I put an end to the traveling and switching off. Now we always have Christmas in our own house.

    My family lives in town, including my grandmother. So among my side of the family, someone always tries to switch something up. An aunt will come to visit my grandmother and want to host dinner over there, or some other visiting family member will come up with an idea for a new “plan” on Christmas day. And I say no every time. We will do Christmas morning in our house, and we will do Christmas dinner at our house. Any one is welcome to join us but we aren’t leaving. I’m happy to mix it up on Christmas Eve, but that’s it.

    Doing this has made me so, so happy on Christmas. The 4 of us always have the day we want. 100% of the time, our in-town family and visiting family has decided to join us for dinner but even if they didn’t I would still be happy. Setting boundaries has really been key.

    The week after Christmas we go to our beach house which is close to where much of DH’s family lives. Sometimes they are in town, sometimes his siblings are off visiting their in-laws. If we get to see them, great, we have a good time. If we don’t, still great, we enjoy our post-Christmas downtime.

    As I describe it, it sounds a little selfish with regards to extended family. But it makes our own nuclear family very happy and relaxed over the holiday, and that’s my priority.

  44. July – I have been diagnosed with Polymyalgia Rheumatica which is an inflammatory disease thought to be caused by a virus. The good news is that it generally lasts 2 to 3 years, goes away and you will never get it again.

  45. Checking back in and you guys! My eyes are welling up. Thank you for understanding and supporting me! Laura, I’m a sucker, but I want to believe so much. That cozy family togetherness that Denver describes is what I want for my kid, and if they don’t cooperate, then it isn’t just that they don’t see him as the bundle of awesome that I see him as; he also misses out on the feeling my nieces and nephews get when their parents get together or at their other cousins’ houses. But you all are right that it is high time to get over this, give up, and move on.

    On putting things in perspective—my cousin has avoided Christmas with her sisters ever since her dad (my dad’s BiL) and husband both died 2-3 days before Christmas nine years ago. And I’m aware that there are awful things in the world, not sure how they are more awful now than other times. Mooshi, wonderful that your in laws swooped in, and even more wonderful that you’ve got your fantastic little high schooler now!

  46. Old Mom – I wish you the best with that prognosis. My mom’s first flare up with polymyalgia rheumatica was in the 1979-1981 time frame and it was a bear. Then, her next flare up was 20 years later, but was not as bad as the first one, but still took a long time to go away. Finally, the last 8 years of her life, it would wax and wane with flare ups after bouts of illness or hospitalization.

  47. “Setting boundaries has really been key.”

    Along with your welcome to all family members, always giving them an option.

  48. Old Mom — I wish you the best with your treatment and recovery. I can sympathize a bit because I went through a some very difficult years with RA, but thankfully I responded well to treatment.

    We have celebrated the same way with a large gathering for 30 years with my H’s family, and before that they did the same for many years. I’m sure my kids will cherish these traditional celebrations, but these comments have made me wonder if some other family members would rather skip these parties and spend Christmas in other ways. We attended a family New Year’s Eve party for several years, but I was silently relieved when that tradition ended.

  49. We went away once for CHristmas – went to my sister’s. It was nice being there, but the flight was so unpleasant, and the younger kid developed RSV while in transit so we had to find a ped on Christmas Eve in a strange town, and he almost got admitted to the hospital!! And when we got back to NY, the whole tree had fallen over and my older kid, then 2, had hysterics over it. So after that I said no more spending Christmas away from home. However, we do drive the two hours up to the ILs on Christmas Eve for their big celebration (they follow the French Canadian tradition of doing the big shebang on CHristmas Eve). And we have travelled several times on the day after Christmas . Three years ago, we went down to KY when I realized my father’s health was going downhill and spent New Years there. It was the last time we saw him so I am glad we made the effort.

  50. Meme said
    “I have mourned for many years for my opportunity to host a family Thanksgiving, which has been very infrequent in the past 25 years.”

    I have never hosted one, and probably never will. Sometimes, when looking at all the articles on cooking turkey, I get the urge to do my own and do something crazy like curry. But in reality, when we get to the stage of no longer going to the ILs, if that ever happens, most likely we will just go to a restaurant. My family never did Thanksgiving so it isn’t really a custom for me.

  51. Old Mom – I’m so sorry to hear about that but glad you can knock it out. Polymyalgia Rheumatica is a mouthfull. Have a few glasses of wine and try to say that five times fast!

    I’m so glad to hear about the people with happy plans!

  52. he also misses out on the feeling my nieces and nephews get when their parents get together or at their other cousins’ houses.

    Yes, that sucks. But I’m sure he is also well aware at this point that you and he have “unfavored status”, so IMO, it’s better to stop subjecting yourselves to it.

    We went away once for CHristmas

    Same with us. When DS was 1, we went to my inlaws in Florida. When DW was growing up, they went down there every year for Christmas, and she was hoping to re-create that. We both agreed it totally sucked and have never traveled again for Christmas. Like Lark, anyone who wants is welcome to come visit us.

  53. Austinmom – it sounds like your mom started at a young age. I turned 67 in October and have been told that it typically occurs between 65 and 75. Hopefluly, I won’t follow your mom’s path.

  54. I do miss my own extended family in the home country this time of year. My mother’s sisters and my mother do either Christmas lunch or dinner at one of their houses. There is no set rotation and it just depends on what everyone has going on. The food is a mix of homemade, catered and dishes brought by the family.
    It is just a wonderful gathering of family.
    My DH’s family is sad by contrast. MIL is so intent on cooking tons of food and cleaning the house, that she is exhausted and instead of enjoying the company of family, she is stressed and makes people uncomfortable. The meaning and pleasure of the visit is lost.

    I had ordered things that DD wanted, she was eagerly waiting the boxes. When they came, she took out the items and put in tissue and gift bags. Gifts to herself ! Clearly she is in the wrong family and I am sure her own house will be highly decorated.
    We are not going away for the holiday so minimal decorations this year.

  55. From the time our oldest was 1 till our youngest stopped believing in Santa DW said we’d do Christmas morning at our place. (She’s the Christian of the two of us). Since then we’ve been traveling over some Christmases. Sometimes long family trips (Europe, Hawaii, skiing), sometimes just to my ILs, where our kids get to see their cousins. Except when all 3 of ours were little, and even then only a couple of times, my in laws came for Christmas (to be fair DW is one of three, so they rotated among).

    Now it’ll be good to have the two younger ones homes during their breaks from College. DS1 is here this week helping out DW with some Christmas prep and ostensibly with me and my recovery, but not much to be done on that. ( he had to take vacation now since he’s low man and has to work btwn Christmas and New Years). Nice to have him around too.

  56. Well we’ve had 2 Xmas miracles… DS1 will finally have an IEP and proper treatment. And DH’s Aunt offered us a place to stay in NJ. Who knew?!

    Sorry for being such a downer. I just know that Saturday will suck. But Xmas week should be great. I have 2 nieces and 2 nephews. The nephews and my boys are all under 3. The magic is amazing.

  57. I felt moorless, with no real traditions from year to year.

    In our case, there are traditions, it’s just that there’s two different sets, one for when we’re spending it with my husband’s side and one for when we’re spending it with my side. And although the in-law family traditions didn’t start out feeling like mine, by this time they do. Some of them I’ll never really get used to (opening presents on the eve and with everyone opening at once — my family is a Christmas morning opening set with everyone taking turns from youngest to oldest). Others I quite like (singing carols on Christmas eve lit only by the candles on the freshly cut tree). So I end up feeling connected to both families’ traditions, rather than moorless. Clearly this is something that varies from family to family!

  58. I’m happy this Christmas. DS2 got engaged last weekend to a girl we love. We pared down our tree and decorations to a really easy minimalist level. We just watched the Great British Baking Show Christmas episode and envision making a yule log just like Mary’s. I did not help with the children’s Christmas pageant at church (and yeah, I haven’t had a kid in the pageant myself since 2011, but I’ve worked on it every year anyway) and instead spent that weekend celebrating DS1’s birthday. So I guess you could say less is more for me at Christmas this year.

  59. SM, my heart breaks for you and your son. And Old Mom, I wish you a speedy recovery that doesn’t take 3 years! What a disorienting diagnosis! Everyone’s stories touched me today.

  60. HFN, congratulations!

    Is it me or does it seem as if the kids here are marrying relatively young? I don’t know why I have it in my head that totebagger kids will not marry in their twenties. Probably I’m in my own little bubble.

  61. I married at 22 so I’m not fit to judge 24 year olds! They are fans of John Mulaney’s “why buy the cow?” bit:

  62. We do different things. Last year we drove to Michigan, Illinois and made a quick stop in Pennsylvania on the way back. In past years, we have stayed home a couple times (sometimes family has joined us, sometimes not), just visited one side of the family, and taken a trip. This year we are taking a trip, along with 2 of my brothers and their families.

    Saac and others who have family issues – so sorry. I hope things get better.

  63. honolulumom said “opening presents on the eve and with everyone opening at once — my family is a Christmas morning opening set with everyone taking turns from youngest to oldest”

    Exactly the same here. The ILs always have a big gathering and gift opening on Christmas Eve. It is quite overwhelming, both as it happens and also shopping for it. Three sisters and their husbands, MIL, 3 adult cousins and their spouses, and 9 of their kids, plus a couple of sister friends that always show – I buy gifts for every last one of them. And you know what? I like doing it. When we all get together on Christmas Eve, everyone dives in at once and starts opening. The paper flies! It is so different from the way I grew up where we took turns opening gifts. Tons of excitement and energy. But then we drive home, and on Christmas morning, we do Christmas my way – taking turns opening the gifts. I think the cousins with the kids do the same thing.

  64. Old Mom – My mom was 60 with the first bout and 80 at the next flare up. From what we learned, hers did come on earlier than most. I forgot to mention that with her rheumatologist, we developed a treatment plan that we could enact on our own. Flare up – go up to 5 mg per day of steriod for a week, then taper back down to 1 mg (or as low as she could go without pain). We had to track it and report it to him at her quarterly visits so he could see the pattern of her dosages. Once she was able to control of the meds within the given range, she was rarely uncomfortable.

  65. July – I married at 24; my mom married at 26 (dad 31), DH’s parents married in their early 20s. My experience is that I married young. Most of my friends married in their late 20s to early 30s. Of the friends who were married “early” (where both parties were 23/24), we are the only ones still married. All of the friends where one party (usually woman) was 23/24, and the other party (usually man) was 3-6 years older are still married.

    The shortest marriage I know of is 5 months. Both parties were in their early 30s (both same age as DH and I). They were married in February, and by Memorial Day they were separated, by July divorced. We attended their wedding, and by the time we made it back to NJ again for the long weekend, they were separated.

  66. True to my preferences, I used to find big family group opening presents to be the most tedious part of the holiday. The taking turns was the worst because it took longer as we were expected to ooh and ah for each gift. And there were tons of gifts for each person. But thankfully we ended that a few years ago. Bah humbug get off my lawn! :)

  67. I hate taking turns and watching everyone open gifts one at a time! Growing up it was one big free for all and I have continued that tradition. 15 mins max for opening presents and move on to something much more interesting. I dated a guy whose family took turns and everyone had to ooh and ahh over every present. It took so long and I wanted to die by the end. I just can’t feign excitement for the plaid shirt Gram selected for your 14 yo brother.

  68. We only take turns for Secret Santa (because you have to guess your Secret Santa). Other than that, it’s a free for all. We do split into ages – the kids go first, then the adults. But that’s because we have limited floor space. As a parent of a young child, I just sit on the floor and am handed presents. Sometimes I only know if the present is for me or my child by opening it.

  69. Both my family and DH’s do the one-present-at-a-time thing. For some reason it wasn’t as bad in my family, maybe because there were fewer of us. It’s endless at DH’s family.

  70. We typically do kids, then adults. The main reason was the fun of watching the kids open things and see their expressions. Even though we are a 5 presents each family, the wrapping seem to cover the entire floor!

  71. Denver, sad to say it, but you are right. I’ve protested, complained, bitched and moaned to alternate degrees every year, thrown a few true fits at their balking this year, but simple action is probably overdue.

  72. We used to do the free-for-all, until I came back from my exchange student year where each person only got a few gifts and told how great it was that they went one by one. Now it takes for flipping ever, and half of the presents are just what you came up with when asked, so no surprise anyway. My favorite was the year my son was three. To the packages that had been under the tree a week or more, “Santa” had added a great big long present with kid-sized garden tools, but the first thing my kid said was “Mama, do you want to open my present? Look what I got you!” I don’t even remember what it was, but so sweet.

  73. ^^^^ just realized I switched houses mid-paragraph. First part is family of origin, now 13, including grandkids. Second half is our small family in our own home. ^^^

  74. We do it one present at a time, but there’s only the four of us, or maybe one or two more if someone comes to visit. So it doesn’t take a ridiculously long time. When I was growing up we always did the free for all. There’s something about it that rubs me the wrong way as an adult, it seems so greedy or something, I don’t know.

  75. I enjoyed reading about everyone’s traditions – the good and the bad. My condolences for those that do not have joy this time of year. I work in a field that see the consequences of the Christmas blues, and some stories are unbelievably heartbreaking. Years later I still think about the families.

    When DD1 was an infant we traveled for Christmas. After that I put my foot down and we stay put (choosing to travel at Thanksgiving every year instead). I’m much happier spending time with our small family. And I honestly don’t care if some sibling or aunt is hurt by my decision. The holidays are about spending time together and spreading joy. If I’m not happy than what is the point of celebrating. On Christmas Eve we go to church with the extended local family and have a big dinner. It is DH’s tradition and I do like it, but I find it exhausting with all the people. Having a low-key Christmas day is a perfect end to celebrating…and the kids can spend all day playing with their new stuff. I hated when I was little and had to leave my new toys to spend the day at grandma’s, with cousins that were much much older than me.

  76. S & M, I think you’re doing the right thing this year. Plus, I’m freezing today and Florida sounds great for Christmas. My phone said 16 degrees when I checked earlier today. I’m in the city and it’s cold!!

    We’ve been celebrating Hanukkah each night at home, but DD is going to a Hanukkah party tonight. Family stuff is Sat and Sunday. She’s bringing a lush gift set for grab bag. Seems like every teen around here wants Lush. I know July knows my feelings about that store, but I start coughing the minute I walk in the store. No discounts!! It’s a lose lose, but her friends will be happy.

  77. Lauren – Lush is fairly big here too. I agree that I can’t handle the smell too long. But, I love their bar hair soaps. DD#1 and I both use them. DD#1 also uses a face soap and a couple other products on her face, which seems to have helped with her acne. I purchase bath bombs for a friend there each year because she loves them. It does encourage me to get the present to her quickly because otherwise I am sneezing from the smell.

  78. To Old Mom, Fred and others here is wishing you good luck with the medical issues and speedy recoveries.

    There is no Christmas gift giving tradition for adults in the home country. It is all about Christmas sweets, food, socializing, huge Christmas dances. There are church services and some churches hold Christmas fairs. New clothes were definitely a must. Growing up I always had a Christmas dress made. We had many events to attend so the “nice” clothes definitely got a lot of use. It is wedding season as well. My mother still makes sure she has adequate sets of “nice” clothes to get through the season.

  79. Lauren, I took DD and friend to the mall. We went to Lush and since the girls had limited money to spend, all they got was one bath bomb each. A version of the half cookie for flouncy bath products !

  80. @Denver I’m with you on the opening. I HATE, HATE the free for all! You put all this time and effort into finding a gift for someone and then you don’t even get to see them open it plus it does feel kind of gross – like when Cookie Monster is jamming all those cookies into his face. Did I mention that I hate it. We do one by one and talk and laugh and joke and guess what the gift is. It also teaches children patience. Gotta wait your turn.

  81. ” And although the in-law family traditions didn’t start out feeling like mine, by this time they do.”

    This is how Thanksgiving is for me now. After 16 years, I feel just as close to their traditions as the ones I grew up with (although I still prefer my family’s stuffing). We do a family party with my side each Saturday after Thanksgiving, but since the food/details change each year, it’s not quite the same as Thanksgiving. More like a kick-off to Christmas.

    OTOH, the IL’s Christmas traditions have changed since I joined the family – they used to celebrate more on Christmas Day, and now the big gathering is on Christmas Eve because we wanted Christmas Day for ourselves. My family is the day after Christmas. Everyone gets to wake up Christmas morning in their own house, which is much more key to be than having a fmaily gathering on the actual day. We have our own family-of-3 traditions for Christmas that I love. DH is enamored with the idea of someday spending Christmas in a snowbird location – I am a little more skeptical about that, but we’ll see. I have a hard time picturing a warm-weather Christmas. Even when I lived in NC, it wasn’t warm really – and I flew home for Christmas anyway.

    Count me in on liking the free-for-all present opening when with extended family. I can see the greedy aspect, but watching others open presents or being watched while opening presents is just so ridiculously boring. It’s the worst part of any shower or birthday party. I realize that is the entire point of a baby/bridal shower, so I suck it up and ooo and ahhh at blenders and burp cloths like everyone else. But I don’t have to enjoy it! Does anyone enjoy it?

  82. “Having a low-key Christmas day is a perfect end to celebrating…and the kids can spend all day playing with their new stuff. I hated when I was little and had to leave my new toys to spend the day at grandma’s, with cousins that were much much older than me.”

    Me too. I love it. We usually go to the movies as well. DS is in the same boat except all his cousins are much younger than him. He’s always stuck entertaining them, just like I was when I was in the same position as a kid.

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