Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'll be home for Christmas...literally.

My family has a long-standing, deeply rooted Christmas ritual of never celebrating the day together. This time-honored tradition of avoiding relatives during the holidays goes back for generations. I’d be willing to bet that my entire immediate family hasn’t joined hands around the Christmas dinner table since Nixon was in the White House.

As a kid, our celebration included only my parents and five siblings, and my father didn’t even grace us with his presence during the meal because apparently, Walter Cronkite needed his attention more than we did. The logistics for moving a group as large as ours prevented us from traveling much, so unless some brave soul wanted to be a part of the Holiday Dysfunction Junction, we would spend the day without the company of grandparents, aunts, and uncles. This does very little to promote family unity, although it did mean more leftovers for us to enjoy. (Yay, us!) One by one, each child grew up, left the nest, and kept on walking. Our Christmas Day participation slowly dwindled until I, as the youngest, was the last one standing.

There are days when I feel a little melancholy from dwelling on the fact that my children have first cousins they have never met and aunts and uncles they would have a hard time identifying in a line up, but I understand because I have first cousins whose names and faces I can’t even recall. So, while other families are making extensive grocery shopping lists for their communal feasts, drawing names for a raucous gift exchange, and pulling out the sleeper sofa to make room for that long-lost cousin who showed up at the last minute, my family will be rehearsing their standard lines such as “Sorry, we have other plans”, and “We’re just going to stay home this year.”  Don't feel sorry for me, though. I have decided to put a positive spin on our lackluster holiday attendance and list for you...

The Top Five Reasons to Avoid Your Family at Christmas:

1. You Won't Have to Eat Green Bean Casserole - If I’m in total control of the menu, this gag reflex-inducing dish won’t make it anywhere near my table. I don’t know who decided that canned, gelatinous, gray soup is delightful when mixed with green beans, but I’m going out on a limb here by saying it must have been a stoned, cash-strapped college kid rummaging through his cabinet during an attack of the munchies. He found the beans, the jiggly mushroom soup, and a can of fried onions that was left by the previous tenant, mixed them all together and, DUDE! An instant classic Christmas dish was born. So, if no one is coming for dinner, then that means no one is coming for dinner with an undesirable casserole in hand.

2. Silver and Gold and Plastic – With so many bank accounts in the crapper, who among us isn’t looking for ways to save money? If all of my siblings, their significant others, children and grandchildren showed up on my doorstep, that would be three dozen extra stockings to fill, and with my bad luck in shopping at the dollar store, well, let’s just say I’m dodging a big bullet here. Christmas Cheer doesn’t come cheap, people, and the liquor store wasn’t running any Buy One, Get One Free promotions last time I checked.

3. So…umm…how’s the weather? – If you haven’t seen your relatives in a year (or five), then you should go ahead and make peace with the idea that you will find yourself seated on the couch uncomfortably close to a virtual stranger, and a period of awkward silence that makes you sweat from your upper lip will ensue. Maybe there is a reason you don’t hang out on a regular basis. Maybe the only thing you have in common is your DNA, and the single topic you can agree on is how your power bill will take a hit from the approaching cold front. You will struggle to find words that form even the simplest of chit chat, and you may start to question if you were adopted.  It would be in your best interest to just stay away.

4. ‘Tis the Season to Be Congested – I’m already walking on the wild side by not getting a flu shot this year. I would really hate to spend my Christmas by the sink making sure each and every family member properly washed their hands. (Remember to sing the ABC song!) All of that laughing, hugging, hand holding, and close talking are just the vehicles needed for each and every communicable disease out there. Since I’m sure it’s against the rules of etiquette to require all guests to wear a face mask while not eating, this season you should probably stay home and kindly keep your cough to yourself.

5. One Thing Leads to Another – The whole "Celebrating with Family Thing" is a vicious cycle, really. It starts off with Christmas dinner, but before you know it, you are remembering birthdays and even sending cards. Then, you discover that seeing your relatives outside of government-recognized holidays is (gasp) not so awful, and you plan a backyard barbecue FOR NO REASON AT ALL, and everyone comes. It’s a downward spiral from there as you begin to talk to each other on a regular basis and plan outings that actually include family members. (Oh yeah, you’ll be out in public for everyone to witness.) Very soon you’ll hit rock bottom with all the talking, visiting, laughing, bonding and carrying on, and then the whole lot of you will start to look like a close-knit family, and….oh…wait…


  1. I always laugh when anyone asks if I am going "home" for the holidays. Mind you it is usually someone from the Carolinas doing the asking. We, peoples of Colorado, are almost all transplants and are here on purpose : )

  2. That makes me sad :( I always imagined Christmases at "home" would be great. I never get to be there except once every five years it seems. Next time I am in town we will have to go out in public somewhere.Can you handle it?!

  3. Heather, that makes me smile!

    Christy - If you don't mind hanging with an old lady... :-)

  4. 6. Being with relatives can be a buzzkill. There you are, mellow and relaxed on a cloud of your favourite medicinal product and in walks your sister-in-law, the crazy one that burned up your brother's kitchen when he pissed her off.

    Now she's gone in the kitchen and you can't see what she's doing in there and your mind starts a little pitter patter of drip drip drip worrying, and, fuck, there goes the buzz...

  5. Holy Crap!! Are you my long lost brother????? :-)

  6. Dysfunctional is the new normal…welcome to the club.

  7. hey, at least y'all never had the cops come investigate. we did. guns and hit men were involved and my mama's waterford china got all messed up.

  8. We've be blessed or cursed with little family nearby. The extended family disbanded years ago, or simply stopped inviting us to Christmas (which is possible as I have been known to be opinionated from time to time;)). So it's just us and the kids and whatever friends we have hanging around who also happen to be without family. I miss the family chaos, but only a little.

  9. I scheduled some surgery right around the holidays so I can avoid traveling to see my husband's

  10. I have first cousins I've never met, and others I rarely see! And there's nothing like being unfriended on facebook by your cousin and you don't know why! Viva La Familia!


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