Holiday family dynamics

in reality, all of this has been a total load of old bollocks
sloopjohnc
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Holiday family dynamics

Postby sloopjohnc » 10 Dec 2018, 17:48

I always think they're interesting and am interested what other people have to go through and if it's similar to ours.

Typically, we spend Xmas eve with my family and Xmas morning with my ex's side. There were a couple years where I wasn't invited to that, but I did go over to my ex's early Xmas morning for the kids' present openings. After that, I'd spend the whole day at my dad's or in my apartment watching football.

My parents used to host Xmas eve. My two cousins who live in the area used to come over. My cousins would bring the men or women they were dating at the time and my brother and his family would attend. We'd have dinner and open presents. Then my mom died and one of my cousins stopped coming after a few years.

When my dad was nearing the end of his life, my brother took over Xmas eve. I think my brother kinda wanted to be the new patriarch of the family so was happy to host. Slowly, though, his kids got busier and we'd have to hold Xmas eve earlier and earlier because my nephew plays in a Xmas performance. Last year, we held it from noon to 3pm. This was kind of a hassle for our family, because we started going to Xmas in the Park in San Jose during the day before night time festivities.

This year, I called my brother and left a voicemail, essentially letting him off the hook, and telling him I don't know if we wanted to go over to his place since it's so early. His wife is now working and I don't know if he gets the day off.

Expecting him to decline, I talked to the kids' ostensible grandmother (she was with my dad for a long time after my mom died). She lives in a very nice senior home and she said she'd host it, but she wanted to invite one of my cousins and my brother's family.

Talking to her yesterday, my brother has decided to eschew all the family activities and they're spending Xmas eve elsewhere. I don't know about my cousin. His girlfriend works late, so it will be just the kids' grandmother, my ex and me, and her.

Still okay, but it's the one day we spend with my brother's family. He and I meet for lunch occasionally, but my kids only get to see their cousins this one day, really. I don't really like my brother's wife (she told a very off color joke once at the Xmas eve dinner with my mom there - mainly out of nervousness). They're kinda goody two shoes with a passive aggressive streak and I don't have to buy presents for them or their kids.

I assume we're still going to my ex's side of the family Xmas day. Everyone's kinda tired by then, but it's low key enough and we exchange presents with them. Our whole family gets along better with that side anyway.

End of an era in someways, I'm assuming.
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GoogaMooga
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby GoogaMooga » 10 Dec 2018, 18:12

My parents are both from the same town, so we'd spend the first half of Xmas Eve with one family, then drive the short distance to the other family for the last half of the evening. In other words, dinner, tree, and pressies one place, then coffee, sweets, more tree, and more pressies the other place. This was only in the 60s and 70s, if we weren't living abroad. By 1978, we were in Tokyo, and it'd just be us four - parents, brother, and me, until 1995. But we often invited friends of the family. Boxing Day was a later tradition at my maternal grandparents - 16 adults and a whole bunch of cousins. Envelopes were handed out, typically containing a fiver (there were many envelopes to be handed out), and we'd all shout "thank you" in unison at the end of that. By the 2000s, with the gramps gone, the greater family had splintered. Nowadays, it's just me holding the fort, my bachelor pad. My mother will drop by with some roast duck.

Danes make a big fuss over Xmas Eve, and it can get stressful, to the point where Xmas trees are flung out over the balconies in high rise apartments.
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby sloopjohnc » 11 Dec 2018, 16:46

GoogaMooga wrote:Danes make a big fuss over Xmas Eve.


I come from a Swedish family on my mom's side, and because it was just my dad and his mom on the other, she'd come over to my Swedish grandparents. My cousins would travel up from LA.

It was the same with us. Lots of pickled herring, lutefisk, ham, homemade sausage, and potatoes for dinner. I can't every remember eating a vegetable.
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GoogaMooga
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby GoogaMooga » 11 Dec 2018, 16:49

Just brussels sprouts and red cabbage, the rest should be fattening
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Toby
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby Toby » 12 Dec 2018, 11:35

Mine is with my mother in law, whom invariably we have to be with. It's not that bad, as they only live 10 miles up the road and they want to see their grandson too. He loves it, but I have to admit that I find it trying at times.

She wants to put on a big spread and everything, but hosting doesn't come naturally to her and her husband is socially inept. As such, we eat Turkey they can't really afford and my wife then passes out because of the tryptophan for a few hours. All things considered it isn't like we have to stay for 3 days or anything, but they are not drinkers and getting into the holiday spirit isn't something that again comes easily to them. I imagine we will watch a few films, play some boardgames and then pass out as we are staying over this time.

As my father died this year in a sense we don't have to worry about what he's doing, but he wasn't bothered if we didn't see him. My brother, sister and I will all meet up at some point, but it seems to be a tradition that it happens in the New Year as his wife's birthday is on the 28th and they usually go away.

The best Christmas we had recently was a couple of years ago when we went away with some friends and their families just after Boxing Day. My issue is that I see all my family on a regular basis and as such seeing them at Xmas doesn't feel that special. I prefer Xmas with friends.

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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby watts » 15 Dec 2018, 17:42

This is the first year we've spent 100% on our own for Christmas. To me the holidays are all about the family.

Growing up we had so much routinized tradition. Baking all month long, making gingerbread houses, caroling, the neighborhood party, the cookie exchange and white elephant ornament exchange, assembling the creche, lighting the candles and putting our shoes out. All that Catholic stuff that makes Advent feel special. And getting together with the huge extended family and all the cousins and aunts and uncles.
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby Bent Fabric » 17 Dec 2018, 17:36

watts wrote:To me the holidays are all about the family.


Yeah, I suppose for as much as I tell myself that it's all about my wife and kids, and for as much as I feel that a little family goes a long way (my in laws are a bit of work, to be honest...though I do adore my niece and my nephews), I'd undoubtedly hate to celebrate without the slight chaos of having everyone around (my Dad often joins us, that's pretty huge for me).

My mother, stepdad and my two siblings are all the way down at the bottom of the country (Louisiana and Alabama). When I was younger and had far greater fiscal leeway, that trip was an annual tradition for me. I'm sad that this will be year number 12 without going down there, but...they're also landlocked on the same basis, so we're all in some mutual understanding of how this all works.

The fact that we have the most space usually means that we host, which I am 100% into. The control freak in me is quite happy to cook and clean if it means designing the menu and setting the ambiance. When my aunt was alive, we always went over to her place....Christmas was a HUGE fucking deal for her for as long as I can remember, and...I can probably thank her for whatever amount of Christmas spirit I now possess.

What's it all gonna mean when my children grow up and move out? This will presumably be the first year we don't leave cookies and milk for Santa (our youngest is 9 - he told us a few weeks ago that he doesn't believe...though, of course, there's a bit of hemming and hawing as he's - I think - weighing the actual benefits of living in a post-Santa childhood). Time is passing quickly. I may be ready when that day comes, but the prospect of "an empty nest Christmas" doesn't seem wildly appealing.

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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby sloopjohnc » 17 Dec 2018, 17:47

Bent Fabric wrote:This will presumably be the first year we don't leave cookies and milk for Santa (our youngest is 9 - he told us a few weeks ago that he doesn't believe...though, of course, there's a bit of hemming and hawing as he's - I think - weighing the actual benefits of living in a post-Santa childhood).


My son is 16 and still insists we leave cookies for Santa. I think he wants to keep his options open, the whole there are no atheists in foxholes philosophy.
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby harvey k-tel » 17 Dec 2018, 18:00

This past summer my mom sold her house and moved in to my sister's place out in the country. To say it hasn't worked out is an understatement. She thinks my brother-in-law, whom she used to quite like, is now the devil incarnate (he's not - he's actually a very nice guy) and my sister often messages me with grim stories of life with mom. So, my mom has decided that she'd much rather live on her own and has found a place in a seniors' residence back in the town where the house was. She's moving in this Thursday, and I'll be driving down to help with that, and to assemble some Ikea furniture etc.

The plan for Christmas is, for the third or fourth year in a row, to host it at my house, which I enjoy doing for many of the same reasons that Mr. Fabric enumerates above, with my mom spending two nights in our house, and my sister and b-i-l in a nearby hotel. Three of my sister's four kids from her previous marriage will be here, as well as the b-i-l's son and his girlfriend. All the kids are grown now, so it will mostly be an evening of enjoying good food, wine, and each others' company (I hope). My mom isn't too vocal about things at the best of times, so I don't imagine there'll be too much stress regarding that whole situation (I hope), and she'll sit and sip her pinot grigio and enjoy the company of her grandkids (I hope).

B's parents are pretty much housebound these days, so they won't be coming over on Christmas day. Instead, we'll trundle over there on Boxing Day with either leftovers or takeout and listen to B's mom tell the same stories she always tells, and try to keep her 97 year old dad amused. These old people sure do hang on til the bitter end.
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby sloopjohnc » 17 Dec 2018, 18:10

It's funny, I never would have thought as you and Mr. San Juan as control freaks. I would have thought just the opposite.

I'm just Mr. Happy to Be There, myself. I don't want any responsibility, whatsoever. Kinda the story of my life, actually.
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby Still Baron » 17 Dec 2018, 19:17

sloopjohnc wrote:It's funny, I never would have thought as you and Mr. San Juan as control freaks. I would have thought just the opposite.


I can absolutely relate. I would rather do the work myself than be subject to someone else’s weird choices and whims. If you have a vision, then it’s burdensome to endure those who don’t. The downside in my case is that I’m talking about dozens of people, and my skills aren’t there yet.
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby GoogaMooga » 17 Dec 2018, 19:55

"Cookies for Santa" is a tradition I had not heard of, although we have a similar tradition in Denmark, or at least we had in the old days. Danish Christmas lore has Santa and any number of red-capped gnomes, usually gnomes with an impish streak. So, out on the farms, families would leave a bowl of rice pudding with cinnamon and melted butter for "the gnome", to keep him happy so he wouldn't play tricks. It would always be out in the barn, in the hayloft. The kids believed in this myth and it was all very exciting. By Christmas morning the farm cat would usually have eaten it all, and the illusion was preserved.

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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby harvey k-tel » 17 Dec 2018, 20:39

Stille Baron wrote:
sloopjohnc wrote:It's funny, I never would have thought as you and Mr. San Juan as control freaks. I would have thought just the opposite.


I can absolutely relate. I would rather do the work myself than be subject to someone else’s weird choices and whims. If you have a vision, then it’s burdensome to endure those who don’t. The downside in my case is that I’m talking about dozens of people, and my skills aren’t there yet.


Dozens of people is something I’m not prepared for, that’s for sure! Last year we had fourteen including ourselves in our house. This year it’s only going to be ten. No borrowing plates from my friend’s restaurant!
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Re: Holiday family dynamics

Postby sloopjohnc » 18 Dec 2018, 00:27

My ex brother-in-law loves having guests over for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Super Bowl. His wife has put the kibosh on him though.

For Thanksgiving, there was us four, his five kids, one son-in-law, one son-in-law's mom, and his wife.

There were still fourteen of us, but they seem to handle it pretty well.

At some Super Bowl parties, they've had upwards of 50 and I've found his wife, my ex sister-in-law, crying in her home office.

She's managed to reign him in though in the last few years. Xmas Day has scaled down a lot and there will probably be the same 14 or so coming in and out.

At his older kids' grad parties, he's invited his whole side of the family from New York and elsewhere. It practically doubled the african-american population of Campbell, the town where they live.
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