How can I fine tune how I handle holidays? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 04-22-2014, 06:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Basically, I never celebrated holidays before having a baby, except to attend other people's gatherings. Well, maybe that is an exaggeration, but that is mostly what I did: wait and be invited to my Aunt's Thanksgiving, go to my Mom's house for christmas because it was a convenient time to take off work and visit, attend my husband's aunt's easter party one year, etc.

Now, we have less money than ever, and I'd like to start creating some traditions for my daughter, but not only is it hard to create any kind of budget for this, we have very little space to entertain. We did host my husband's parents for Christmas, but what we could offer felt very meager. There also seems to be some underlying conflict or confusion among my husband's side of the family, who live in the same state as us. My family lives elsewhere.

Here are some area of conflict:

- I don't see Thanksgiving as a fun or important holiday, and we are vegetarian, besides. When we accepted a Thanksgiving invitation from my in-laws and stayed only a couple of hours, leaving before the main meal was served to get our daughter home only a little late for bed, I later learned that was not only upsetting, but seen as "not coming to Thanksgiving." The problem is largely that my husband forgot to tell them we would be leaving early, but it is also the case that no food was made with us in mind; it was assumed we would bring our own. In the case of this holiday, I would like to either do nothing or attend the pre-turkey portion of someone's celebration if they welcomed our doing so.

- At Christmas, it seems to be assumed that we will spend two days with my in-laws, either hosting or being hosted. I am told it would be okay to do otherwise "if we wanted to visit my family," but seemingly not if we wanted to do anything else. I have ideas for what I would like to do for Christmas, but we cannot afford most of them, especially if anything we did would also have to include my in laws as guests, adding further constraints.

- We had a quiet Easter of giving our daughter a small present and chocolate bunny and then going to the park. I would have liked to have done more, and was looking forward to richer years when maybe this holiday could be made our own, my in-laws apparently being only casual or occasional celebrants. However, the next day, my mother in law expressed alarm that we had "celebrated," wishing she had been told, ostensibly so that she could have brought our daughter a present. She seemed to think we had some sort of anti Easter policy, possibly because, last year, we visited with my sister, who was in from our of town, and did not throw or attend an Easter party per se. (She had also not thrown a party that year, but offered to host us at the minute, which we turned down because of my sister.). Now that we are out as rabbit lovers, I don't know what is going to be mandated for next year. Don't get me wrong: the present is fine. I am just concerned that this will be yet another holiday eliminated by way of mandatory events.

Sorry if this was too long. I know no one can help with the small house/no money issue, but can I have a refresher on extended family etiquette? My family just never makes an issue of anything, and my husband only knows his family's expectations in terms of being a child and living in the same house with his parents. What are a nuclear family's obligations in terms of hosting events that include extended family, being put down as mandatory yearly attendees of others' events, etc.? Am I wrong to think that any adult couple may choose to host an event or not, and any invitees may say yes or no on a year to year basis? Is it wrong not to spend a holiday with extended family? Which holidays are mandated for extended family, and which may we have as our own?
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#2 of 8 Old 04-22-2014, 07:53 PM
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It seems to be the issue is that you want to do your own thing and that basically there is an issue with your inlaws. If that's the case, your DP needs to be the one to deal with it. Not you. That only will cause you to look like the bad guy.  


If you want to start your own traditions, have DP explain that to the in laws and stick with it.  It's hard and feelings will be hurt but that's part of being a grown up. You have to make decisions that aren't always look upon highly.


As for the food thing, if you wanted to be there for the meal but aren't going to eat the stuff I would have expected you to bring your own UNLESS it was cleared ahead of time that there would be something for you.  I've had to bring mine and my kids food many times because people don't get it (like when my MIL served "vegan" pizza and told me my dairy allergy DS could eat it when intact it was NOT vegan!  WTD MIL! lol)


I have ruffled feathers with my own family and DH's family with him over the holidays.  The fact is that my kids come first and while I think they enjoy the holidays, they also enjoy what we have built for them. Between health issue, food issues and behavior issue I'm not willing to deal with because of general holiday craziness, we've come up something that works for us and if they don't like it....well....


It isn't fun but over time they will get use to it OR they will bitch about it behind your back and really, who cares if they do!!!  Good luck. It's never easy!

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#3 of 8 Old 04-23-2014, 03:07 AM
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I think there are a few possible solutions here

1. Find out which are the most important holidays for the ILs. Attend those and have the ones which are important to you at home.

2. Alternate years. This is very common amongst people I know. One year ILs, next year your own thing.

3. Do some activities with them and some just you. For example, have create a special Christmas Eve tradition for your family, then spend Christmas Day with extended family.

We are in Australia so we don't have Thanksgiving but my understanding of it is that the meal is a pretty central part of the day. If that is the case, I can understand why your MIL was upset that you didn't stay. Although why she hadn't organised food you could eat I don't know. In my family, that is all arranged in advance so everyone knows what they're doing. My husband is the only vegetarian so we often bring a main dish for him.

I, personally, would not like a random, turn up if you feel like it, approach to holidays which I consider important extended family times. For me, this is Christmas. I would hate it if, in November, my brother & SIL just said they were doing something else instead of our family traditions.

I realise that not everyone feels this way, I'm just offering one perspective. You asked what the etiquette was. I don't think there is one. I think it needs to be negotiated among each family. I guess the main things are 1. Be inclusive and 2. Be prepared to embrace a different way of celebrating

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#4 of 8 Old 04-23-2014, 06:58 AM
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We've just done a mix of things over the years. I think it's nice to recognize that family likes to see family on whatever holidays are important to them. It's also nice to start your own traditions for your new family. For us it's just a balancing act of what's most important to who and doing our best to accommodate everyone while staying in our comfort level/financial budget. 


One option for your situation is to give one holiday to your in-laws. That's a nice peace-keeping gesture. 

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#5 of 8 Old 04-23-2014, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by katelove View Post

3. Do some activities with them and some just you. For example, have create a special Christmas Eve tradition for your family, then spend Christmas Day with extended family.

I think that's an excellent suggestion. 


Also, with regards to Thanksgiving, how about going for pie?  My BIL doesn't really like turkey dinner (he's not a vegetarian, just not fond of it) so he and my SIL and niece do their own thing for dinner (Cornish pasties) and have pie with his extended family later.


You could divide Easter up into brunch and dinner, with one part being celebrated with your nuclear family and the other with extended family.

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#6 of 8 Old 04-23-2014, 09:14 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, guys. I just wanted to add that I was not upset at not having Thanksgiving dinner cooked for us. I was just making the point that, despite my husband's failure to communicate, no effort or expense was wasted in preparing a veg meal.

It is looking like giving Christmas over to my in laws is the way to go. I have basically already done so. The trouble is that Christmas Eve is a large party with cousins that my husband would not want to give up (and is also more fun for me), while it is the Christmas morning consumer fest that seems more important to his parents, so I wouldn't know which half to take.

Thanksgiving can be given to the highest bidder as far as I'm concerned, EXCEPT that I don't want to bring my child to such a specifically meat-centric dinner, and I don't understand why guests aren't welcome to bring an appetizer and socialize during the first couple of hours of the party. For this reason, I suppose we'd better just not go, making it our holiday, or our day to clean the attic or something.

I'm a little bummed about Easter, which could have been ours. I wish I'd done more this year, knowing now that next year, there may be considerable demands on us, given my MIL's renewed zeal. It had not seemed like she cared about celebrating on most of the years I have known her, especially more recently.

Another idea I have is to make more out of the less celebrated holidays. Halloween is awesome, and no one has tried to snatch it yet. Maybe I can think of others, such as Earth Day, May Day, etc.
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#7 of 8 Old 04-23-2014, 04:26 PM
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We had similar issues on a much larger scale when my first was an infant... My husband's aunts always got Easter afternoon/dinner mainly because past the hunt and a small present Easter was never a big part of my family. So we'd do the hunt and bunny basket in the morning at our house, rest/shower/dress and go to his aunts (sisters who live together who are more like grandparents) for Easter afternoon and a hunt at their house and then dinner. Even as we changed the other holidays this stayed fairly intact until we moved too far away. 

Thanksgiving was usually rotated between his aunts or my mom's best friend's house (more like a second family to me) for the first few years and eventually just the aunts as there were other circumstances (personal and dietary) in play after a few years. Again this worked for us until we moved away. Now we simply do what we want for Thanksgiving and will often have friends over that have no one else to celebrate with :)

Christmas started as a nightmare! OMG! Everyone wanted to see us for the day itself and I was adament that my children would wake up in their own beds and have Christmas morning in their own house. So the first few Christmas' looked like this. We'd host a big Christmas Eve party (often still do!) where anyone and everyone was invited. Friends, family, coworkers and we often had Santa drop in and surprise the kids with a present. It started as a potluck and after my own personal dietary issues came into play I just made 99% of the food as we always had too much anyways. And I catered to all different dietary needs. There was seafood free, there were veggie dishes, there were GF dishes and peanut free everything and everything was prepared separately and kept away and on different plates and places. I knew "who" was coming and made sure to let them know what they could or couldn't eat. 

Then on Christmas itself (I'd often be up late on Christmas Eve partying and cleaning up and finishing wrapping!) we'd wake up and do Christmas morning at our house. Then we'd get cleaned up and dressed and drive to the side of the family where we were not having dinner at. We do a visit and gift exchange. Then we'd drive home, unload and head to the side where we were doing dinner. And often on Boxing day we'd do dinner with the side of the family that we only visited in the afternoon.

Finally when the second baby was on the way I said "ENOUGH"! I wasn't doing it anymore. We still threw the big Christmas Eve party. I enjoyed that. Then we stayed home for Christmas Day. ALL DAY! Our families were so upset. Both sides. And it took DH a couple years to really enjoy it. I always said that people were welcome to join us after 2 pm on Christmas Day for a visit and dinner if they like but that it was pajama casual and we wouldn't be leaving. No one ever came ;)

And I also said come out on boxing day and I'll put out leftovers for lunch and you can visit with us then and exchange gifts too but I wasn't running around. I had an infant and a 3 year old and they could come to us. And you know what? Everyone adapted. 

We ended up moving away a couple years ago far far away! So there's no more fighting about holidays. Everyone is welcome to come visit at Christmas or any other time of the year. I was considering going down for Christmas this year as my kids would be 9 and 6 and more able to deal with the go go go that is visiting... But I'm pregnant again and will have another small infant! So nope! We're staying put. I think my parents are coming for Christmas this year and my MIL moved to the same town last year (but went away for Christmas last year). My FIL may come up at Christmas or he may not. 

Everyone has survived. Even though many of them were set in their ways. MIL always wants to be the matriarch and have these big family gatherings in her house (she doesn't get along with the aunts... FIL's sisters) but the issue is that she can't cook and it was often a redundant type gathering. 



My biggest advice is figure out what works best for you guys as a family. You don't have to give up the stuff you love (like the Christmas Eve party) and you should find ways to give time to your inlaws without sacrificing yourself. If you want Easter to be yours then have a big talk with DH and practice with him what HE'LL say to the inlaws. You shouldn't be relaying anything to them. That's on him. However you need to make sure that he has all the info and gets all the info and passes it all one. Even if that means you write him a "script" to read from. 

And your inlaws will be miffed at first but they will survive and they will respect and fall into the new normal after a couple times. I am detecting that this is all new for all of you. It's two different sets of traditions blending as well as a third starting to be formed. It's ok to say no. It's ok if they feel hurt as long as your DH has explained that this is about you guys making your own traditions and that you will still celebrate some ways with them and fit them in. It may not be what they expect but they need to be flexible too.

A holiday doesn't need to be celebrated "on the day" to be special. It's about spending time with each other and enjoying together made traditions. 

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#8 of 8 Old 04-23-2014, 04:40 PM
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I forgot about Boxing Day -- my favorite day of the year.  We go out on Christmas evening and stay out late (one of us parents bring the kids home).  Then on Boxing Day I have a bit adult party (kids play with their gifts). We eat so many artichokes and drink wine and play Risk. It's so fun!   So, yea, give a little and make some holidays for yourself. 

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