It’s an issue most couples have to deal with, regardless of your religious beliefs. How do you decide whose family to visit during which holidays?
How I envision my family (Image from Cinematoria and A Muppet Family Christmas)
Two years ago, I spent my first Christmas with Mr. Whale and away from my family. Last year, we reverted to our old ways and each spent Christmas with our families. But now that we’re officially committed to each other for forever and ever, we don’t want to spend holidays apart ever again. That means coming up with some sort of reasonable plan for the holidays (mostly Thanksgiving and Christmas). But what exactly does “reasonable” mean?
In talking with other people about this issue, I’m amazed at how many different options have arisen. I have a married friend who says, “We spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. I’m the wife, so I get to decide what we do.” (And apparently her husband thinks this is a fine idea. I guess they were meant for each other.) My brother’s wife is from Mexico; this means that they’re probably going to spend more than half of their Christmases in Mexico…because when else does she have enough time to visit her family? But they’ll spend every Thanksgiving with his family, because Thanksgiving isn’t a thing in Mexico! My own parents have always visited both of their parents around both Thanksgiving and Christmastime, spending Christmas day at one parents’ home and a few days after at the other parents’ (and a similar arrangement at Thanksgiving).
I just wanted an opportunity to post a picture of the horrible gingerbread house I made last year. Guess who won’t be decorating their own wedding cake?
All things considered, Mr. Whale and I have it pretty easy compared to a lot of other people. Right now, we’re both students, which means we get plenty of time off. Plenty of time off means we have time to visit both of our hometowns during Christmas (we still have to choose just one for Thanksgiving). But since our hometowns are about 700 miles apart, one of those towns is not going to get a visit until well after Christmas.
The default decision is to just alternate every holiday every year. Kentucky for Thanksgiving and Mississippi for Christmas one year. Mississippi for Thanksgiving and Kentucky for Christmas the next year. But of course there are always complicating factors…
For one thing, Mr. Whale has a huge family that always gets together at Christmas. His dad has eight brothers and sisters, and Mr. Whale has 19 first cousins (!!! so many people!). I, on the other hand, have what feels like the world’s tiniest family. I have my parents, two grandmothers, one aunt, one uncle, one brother (and now one sister-in-law), and no cousins. So if we go to Mr. Whale’s hometown, it’s sort of like we get more bang for our buck. But at the same time, just because I have a smaller family doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get a visit.
From another perspective, Mr. Whale and I currently live about 500 miles from my parents, whereas we live nearly 1,000 miles from his parents. Because we’re closer to my parents, it’s a little bit easier to make the trip to my parents’ home at other times throughout the year. So if we’ve visited them other times during the year, should they get fewer Christmas trips? (But then again, my aunt, uncle, and grandmothers don’t live near my parents, so they don’t get more trips during the year.)
For now, the X-factor is my brother. He and his wife live in Iowa, which means he is the least visited out of both my family and Mr. Whale’s family. If he’s only going to be around for some Christmases, then we want to make sure we see him for those Christmases. So the plan is to alternate every holiday every year unless my brother is going to be home for Christmas on a non Miss Blue Whale Christmas year. Then, we’ll go to my home for Christmas and Mr. Whale’s home for Thanksgiving. And during the years where we don’t go to Mr. Whale’s home for Thanksgiving, we’ve agreed that we’ll visit his home sometime between the summer and Christmas so that he doesn’t have to go six months without seeing his family. And of course, we’ll have to re-evaluate once we graduate and move to a new city!
Phew! I can’t even imagine how much more complicated things would get with more siblings. I’m just so glad we’ve got some kind of plan.
What’s your plan? Are both of you happy with it? Has it evolved over the years since you first got married?