When I was young, it seemed that everybody had a go-to place for the holidays. Whether it be a set of parents, grandparents, or another relative, there was always a plan where the Christmas gathering of the family took place. Sure, sometimes things had to be balanced between two families since there was often two sets of parents (the wife’s and the husband’s), but it always seemed to be manageable. It doesn’t quite work that way today.
Most people my age still wish to have a holiday tradition to build on, that one place where a Christmas party is an annual event. It doesn’t help that a lot of family Christmas movies glamourize this kind of gathering, sometimes with problems and all, and make it seem like the norm in our country. By problems, just watch “Christmas Vacation,” and you can get an idea, even though some of it is outlandish. Still, it was a main family gathering.
Nowadays, with the high divorce rate and the increase of blended families, planning Christmas can be nightmarish. Some of these family units have to figure out how to visit 4 or 5 different houses in one or two days. Also, we are more prone to moving away from our families and that adds an element to Christmas planning. Like I said, nightmarish.
FATHER: So, what’s our Christmas schedule this year?
MOTHER: Well, on Christmas Eve, we’ll meet my mom at the candlelight service at church and follow her home…
FATHER: Wait, I thought we were going to church with my mom?
MOTHER: We are, I told you a month ago to invite your mom to my mom’s church so we can combine our Christmas Eve.
MOTHER: Oh great! Now I have to work your mom into the schedule!
FATHER: What about my dad and his new wife?
MOTHER: We’re having them over on Christmas morning.
FATHER: But what about your dad? He hates my dad.
MOTHER: That’s why he’s coming over in the afternoon.
FATHER: Well, that’s not fair, he’ll miss the opening of presents.
MOTHER: Fine, I’ll switch them.
FATHER: No, no. Then we’ll have to deal with those snide remarks from my dad’s wife.
MOTHER: That’s true, she can get quite bitchy.
FATHER: Well, she’s not half as bad as your mom’s husband.
MOTHER: He’s not so bad.
FATHER: Not so bad? Last year he polished off an entire bottle of booze because he was depressed at not being able to see his other grandkids for Christmas!
MOTHER: That was just a one-time thing!
FATHER: A one-time thing? His kids won’t and will never allow him to see those grandkids! I’m going to hide all the booze this year.
KID: That won’t matter, dad. He keeps a couple of bottles in his car.
FATHER: He what? How would you know that?
KID: Cause that’s what he drank the year before last, remember? That was the year he insisted he wasn’t too heavy to ride that big wheel and he broke it.
FATHER: I hate the holidays…
MOTHER: You? You? All you guys do is ride along! I have to do all the planning, all the cooking, all the presents, all the…
FATHER: ALL RIGHT ALREADY!!
All of this agony is usually interrupted by an ill-timed phone call. The mom will usually get it and go off into another room for a few minutes before stomping back into the room.
FATHER: What now?
MOTHER: That was my mom…apparently her husband has been having an affair with your dad’s wife!
FATHER: Wait…that might be good news! Now we don’t have to cater to either of them for Christmas!
MOTHER: My mom’s bringing Aunt Matilda for support…
KID: No! She’s worse than anybody! She smokes and coughs all the time! The last time we saw her, she spit up something gooey when she was talking to me!
MOTHER: I’m sure it wasn’t that bad…
KID: I had to change my shirt!!!
FATHER: I hate the holidays…
So, as you can see, the holidays have become less joyous for many people nowadays. There’s something about hectic over-organizing that just sucks the happiness out of everything.
My wife and I think we have it somewhat under control. We just let all the kids decide when they want to see us, whether it’s before or after Christmas, and this way we have become the least of their problems during the holidays. My wife just makes sure all the favorite Christmas snacks are available for every visit. So far, so good.