December 19, 2007
If you’re one on those people who don’t have anything much to do on Christmas day, or isn’t really fond of spending time with your own family, I have a solution for you. Get married, or get a steady significant other. The mere act of saying “I Do” or “we are a couple” or whatever, will complicate all holiday’s henceforth, making you long for the days when you had nothing to do but listen to your grandma drone on about her bunions. If you really want to be an overachiever, marry someone with kids, like I did. Holy crap it gets complicated.
Growing up in my house santa usually came early. Apparently he stopped at our house first because he knew that my dad prefered to sleep in every morning, including Christmas. Usually early in the evening, on Christmas Eve, when we were at my Grandma’s house, or when my sister and I were in the bathtub, or when my mom and granny had taken us to see Christmas lights we would return to the living room to find that Santa had came. Miraculausly, he was always so stealth-like, that my mom and dad NEVER saw him, even though they were in the house when he came. We would then usually open our gifts from mom and dad, and Christmas, for the most part, was over on Christmas eve. Sure, we had my Granny’s Christmas (my mom’s side of the family) on Christmas night, but Granny was/is a product of the depression who believes in giving practical gifts. The loot from her house consisted of savings bonds, school supplies and pantyhose, which were no comparison to Cabbage Patch Kids and Pogo Balls.
When I got married to a man with kids, Christmas went from being a bit of a bore, to a logistical nightmare. His divorce decree spells out what time and for how long he gets his kids on Christmas day. We always had to pick up his kids (an hour and a half away) at 9:00 am on Christmas morning. My parents decided they didn’t want to do things on Christmas Eve anymore, in favor of doing their gifts when my (almost) step-kids could be present. Granny’s celebration is written in stone, 5 pm, Christmas night, attendance mandatory, and J’s one family celebration was always held on Christmas day, all day, at the home of one of his sister’s.
For several years we managed this schedule. We picked up his kids, then went straight to his sister’s house. We left there in time to get to my granny’s at 5, by the skin of our teeth. Next, my parents, sister, and I and our significant others and children went to my parent’s house and exchanged gifts. Finally, we got to go to our house and exchange gifts amongst ourselves. This was usually around 10:00 pm, and was my step-children’s first opportunity to see their loot from Santa. And, oh yeah, unless the holiday was on a weekend, we both had to go to work the next morning.
We did this for Christmas’ 1999-2003. For 5 Christmas’ I endured that schedule. Christmas morning 2003 I awoke my 1 year old with the news that Santa had come, and then I hustled him past his presents so that we could get on the road for our annual Christmas chaos. Not allowing him time to see what santa had brought, broke my heart. Late that evening, as he slept while the rest of us opened our gifts within our immediate family, I knew something had to give.
The obvious choice was J’s family celebration. It was the furtherest away and the longest lasting one. Moving that to another day would provide some relief our busy Christmas day, and it would also allow us to spend more time with them. J and I discussed it, ad nauseum, and I surrendered my family’s rights to every other holiday, if I could just have Christmas. I hated bringing it up to his family, lest I look like the controlling sister-in-law, but J agreed that it needed to be changed, told them we would not be attending on Christmas day next year.
Their husband’s families had always been the ones to surrender Christmas day. They had NEVER had to share any of their siblings on Christmas day with another family, so to say it met some resistince would be an understatement. They were livid. I heard that the new schedule was “not what (their deceased) mom and dad would’ve wanted”, “Christmas is about family”, and that they, “didn’t have this problem until I was in the family”.
We stood strong, and the date was changed. Additionally, J’s ex re-arranged her schedule so that we are often able to get my step-kids before or on Christmas eve. We still go to my Granny’s and my parent’s houses Christmas evening, but we can now spend most of the day as a family, oftentimes not getting out of our pajamas until noon. I still sense a tinge of bitterness when my sister-in-law asks when we are doing Christmas with my family, and I tell her Christmas night.
I actually feel a little guilt for disrupting their tradition. However, now that I can see the wonder in my kids eyes at the magic of Christmas morning, I can honestly say, it was worth it.