Personal

The Christmas experience

Before we got married, Margaret and her kids had their Christmas traditions and I and my kids had ours.

At Christkindlmarkt

Because our children are older — our youngest is almost 18, and our oldest is 33 — I hoped our families would blend their traditions and we’d have one giant Christmas celebration that satisfied everybody. That’s not how it has turned out.

I am surprised to find how strong my family’s traditions became. I always thought that we made them up as we went, as we flexed around frustrating parenting-time rules and my ex-wife’s holiday plans.

At Christkindlmarkt

But in the couple years Margaret and I have tried to blend our family’s traditions and get-togethers, I can see that the main flexibility my family had was in timing of our gathering. Sometimes it was Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, sometimes it was the weekend that worked out best before or after Christmas, and once it was New Year’s Eve (which was very cool). But we celebrated together in exactly the same way every year. Unfortunately, that celebration just doesn’t blend neatly with Margaret’s family’s celebration.

At Christkindlmarkt

So this year we decided to just honor each family’s ways separately, and have two celebrations. The Greys celebrated on Saturday. I’ll celebrate with Margaret’s family tonight and tomorrow morning. And I think everybody will have had a satisfying Christmas experience.

However you celebrate, happy Christmas to you and yours!

Ornaments photographed with my Canon PowerShot S95 at this year’s Christkindlmarkt Chicago.

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14 thoughts on “The Christmas experience

  1. Family blending can be tricky, and never more than during holidays. I am happy that you have found a way to make it work.

    A blessed Christmas to you and your extended clan.

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  2. Jim, I think this is a very wise approach. It provides further complications when the older generation are also not with their original partners. My mum is alive, but not my dad, and my wife’s parents are both alive but not with each other. So between us we have three parents to consider/please! Plus our own kids. It’s just not possible to do it all in one day, so having two (or more!) get togethers is an excellent compromise.

    The only problems come (in my experience) when some see only Christmas day itself as the important day of celebration, and by meeting up with them on days either side they feel they’ve somehow got “second best”…

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    • It is just so much less complicated when divorce isn’t a factor in a family.

      If there’s one benefit of my divorce it’s that my family learned to be very flexible on timing of Christmas. We learned that you can have Christmas any day you decide to celebrate it.

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  3. analogphotobug says:

    Good decision. Traditions just don’t always blend. I have enforced My Traditions on my Husband’s family. I say enforced, because one year I just had to tell them what they were doing was not anyway to celebrate. They liked to sit around and talk about old Family Crap, and who stopped talking to whom over what stupid thing in the past.

    Now I make them listen to Christmas Music All Day, and no talking about old family crap!

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  4. Although our children were older than yours when we wed, JoAnn and I had visions of blended celebrations. Once. Eighteen years ago. Expectations can be deeply ingrained and every individual has his/her own notion of how the Christmas experience should go down. So we, like you, adopted a different approach. I think our children harbor no animosities but there is simply too little in common– not to say they are set in their ways. grin
    Happy New Year!

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  5. DougD says:

    Belated Merry Christmas Jim. Flexibility is a good thing, my brother in laws blended family actually helps ours because we are no longer expected at my in laws on Christmas Day. Since he and his wife don’t have her children until Boxing Day we have the gathering then. We love not having to rush on Christmas Day!
    Christmas Eve at my parents was great, but bittersweet. It’ll be my mom’s last one but we all had fun and she directed cooking from her chair.
    Hope you’re enjoying your time off before hitting the new job in January.

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