Sharing Christmas

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?


Mrs. Blue Whale

College Park, MD
Wedding Date:
May 2013
Calligraphy Love
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  1. mswallaby Member
    mswallaby 2070 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:50 am

    We are in pretty much the same exact boat. We’ve decided to alternate holidays and years. This year we missed Thanksgiving because we were on our honeymoon, and we’re flying to Seattle for Christmas. Next year we’re going to Seattle for Thanksgiving and hosting Christmas at our house. Lots of logistics!

  2. Member
    debeachgirl 543 posts, Busy bee @ 10:53 am

    It is so hard to figure these things out. Add in my Dad’s Christmas Eve birthday and it gets harder. We had a good system until his mom moved 4.5 hours away. This year we just won’t be seeing her as the wedding is less than a month after Christmas. We did spend Thanksgiving with her though. I think with time off it is easier to see her on Thanksgiving (4 days) rather than Christmas (2 days).

    If we do alternate Christmas I have to get on the same plan as my brother (meaning we are both home the same year and away the same year). It is also fun b/c his SIL has a birthday on the 26 and his MIL the 28. So we are not just dealing with Christmas but dueling birthdays too.

  3. Member
    Merelymere 476 posts, Helper bee @ 11:03 am

    My cousin and his wife spend Thanksgiving with one family, Christmas with the other. My FI and I both have parents who are divorced, with one parent remarried- we are having my Mom and brother here with us this year, since he has to work the day before and after Christmas. We are doing Christmas Eve with his Mom/stepdad, spent last Sunday in Nashville with my Dad’s side of the family, and we’re going to see his Dad’s family when they’re here in January for the wedding. Going forward, it will be interesting, especially when/if we add children into the mix.

  4. Member
    kit_kath 1327 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:09 am

    I thank my lucky stars everday that our families live close by! We have to do a lot of running around on the holidays, and end up eating multiple dinners per day, but we end up seeing just about everyone.

  5. msmongoose Member
    msmongoose 264 posts, Helper bee @ 11:57 am

    Wow definitely sounds complicated BUT it’s great that you both get so much time off. We have it easy–Mr. Mongoose’s family lives in Wisconsin but Thanksgiving is always hosted at his parent’s house. So since that’s their big gathering each year, I started flying out there with him last year (it was 5 days after we got engaged so it was perfect timing!). For my family though, Christmas is our thing and is ALWAYS celebrated at my uncle’s big house in Long Island, NY (where we live in CT, driving to Long Island is pretty easy).

    I have a huge family so Christmas is a rowdy event with lots of people, food, music and dancing. Mr. M has been celebrating Christmas with me and my family for the past 6 of the 7 years we’ve been together so that will not change.

  6. Member
    Beltacular 51 posts, Worker bee @ 12:03 pm

    My parents live in FL, a flight away, and the Fiance’s parents live about an hour and a half drive from us. We see them pretty regularly, so we usually do Christmas in FL, and then all other holidays (easter, thanksgiving) and his parents house. Right now we aren’t in jobs that give us the money or time to take trips to FL for those other holidays, so this is what works for us.

  7. Member
    brooklyn55 743 posts, Busy bee @ 1:09 pm

    My parents and my FI parent’s live in the same town which is great, but, we still have trouble figuring out what we are doing when. It is complicated because he has 2 siblings, both of which are engaged and his brother and his fiance have to spend time with both their families as well. Thanksgiving Day for example, his mom emailed us all and asked if dinner of lunch worked better for who. My family always does lunch so I told her dinner for us. His brother’s fiances family always does dinner so she said lunch. She ended up doing it at like 2pm in the middle but we didn’t arrive til 3:30 and barely saw his brother until 5 (now, we live in the same town, so we saw him off and on the next few days.. no big deal) but Christmas is where we really struggle. I am having a hard time accepting that I may have to give up Christmas traditions. My sister passed away a few years ago and my nieces (14 and 8) are being raised by my parents, so my parents still do all the old traditions we did growing up. A close family get together (just my nieces, my other sister, my brother-in-law, etc) Christmas eve night and then my grandmothers Christmas night which basically just leaves lunchtime Christmas open for me. We used to just do our own thing and meet up when we could but now that we are getting married in 3 months, we decided to compromise and stick together for the holidays. I am secretly keeping my fingers cross that his mom will decide to do something at lunch on Christmas day (they had no set “traditions” so it could be whenever, she will base it off of when is best for everyone else.. majority wins) but I know compromise is coming and I may not get to do everything with my family this year.

  8. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 1:09 pm

    We’re doing the switching every year thing. It’s not perfect, but it is what we sacrifice for living far away. I don’t want to think about how this will change once we have kids, it’s already too much!

  9. Member
    dollface313 20 posts, Newbee @ 4:44 pm

    This is the last year my FH and I will spend the holidays apart. We are going to do Thanksgiving with my family next year then xmas with his family. Then the year after we are going to switch. It should work well!

  10. Member
    ecjohnson 157 posts, Blushing bee @ 7:31 pm

    we plan on doing the same, although we don’t that far from our families. However, we do live far enough that going to both towns in one weekend is a pain. So, we alternate thanksgiving and christmas holidays. We make sure to go to my family’s christmas on the same schedule as other members of our family that rotate as well. I feel the worst for my mom when I don’t come home for thanksgiving or christmas because it is just me, my brother, her, my dad, and her parents for her side of the family. so if my brother, who is a cop and has a varied schedule year after year, and i aren’t home for the holidays, she gets super sad. :( so i try to go home early or later instead.

  11. panda Member
    Mrs. Panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:43 pm

    we’re doing the switching thing every year, but of course, it’s complicated. This year, we’re doing Christmas at my house, New Year’s at his. Tooo much traveling. ugh.

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    Lone Star, Guest @ 7:34 am

    My husband’s parents are divorced, and his dad, who he hasn’t had that much of a relationship with, lives far away. His mom and his stepdad aren’t big on Christmas (they probably will be more into it when we have kids). Since we don’t have tons of vacation, we usually spend the holidays with my family, who are in town. We’re going to see his mom and step-dad in Jan., though. It’s odd- they don’t really care. No one invites us to spend any holiday with them, and his siblings rarely spend holidays with their parents either, so we just kind of don’t as well.

  13. Member
    colorofmyheart 2831 posts, Sugar bee @ 8:57 am

    we plan to do the switch off thing. thanksgiving will be spent with one set of parents, christmas will be with the other. then, the following year, we switch. and so on and so forth. seeing as his family is on the opposite side of the country, it’s a bit harder. but we’ll figure it out.

  14. Guest Icon Guest
    Brittney, Guest @ 11:45 am

    What makes it even WORSE is when not only you have 2 families thennnn you have divorced parents. Even MORE people to think of. :/ I think it will get easier when we have kids. Then we can say we’re cooking dinner, whoever wants to come is welcome but we are staying in our home. We ready agreed on this.

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    cookecutter51, Guest @ 8:38 pm

    My daughter and her boyfriend have split their Christmas Day between the two families for the past three years. Now that they are married, they are trying to decide which traditions to keep and which to change. His family is not big on communicating so the newlyweds aren’t always sure what is happening when. I ususally just write out a list of events that our family is involved with–potlucks, concerts, church, etc. and leave it up to each one to choose what will work best for them. This year we are having a family potluck at Nana’s on the 23rd, and turkey dinner at our house on Christmas Eve, before our church’s service. On Christmas Day, the newlyweds plan to have breakfast at his parents’ place, come to our place to open gifts, then go to his grandparents for another turkey dinner. We’ll probably be feasting on re-runs. I think the key is being willing to consider other options without one person sacrificing everything that is meaningful to them. Change can breathe new life into old traditions. Try not to let all your families’ expectations determine how you make decisions as a couple.

  16. Member
    ChelsE1004 7 posts, Newbee @ 10:35 am

    My FH and I have a hetic holiday schedule but are far luckier than you. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas last two days for us. the day before each holiday we eat lunch with his dad’s family then go to dinner at my mom’s side of the family. The day of the actual holiday we eat lunch with his mom’s family (all travel in from Illinois) and then we eat dinner with my dad’s family. Thankfully most of my cousins have gotten their S.O. to agrre and work with these times so my family isn’t having people come and go all day. We alternate on all other holidays except Father’s Day and Mother’s day. It’s hetic but i would rather have to eat and run to be able to see everyone rather than missing out on one Christmas, especially as grandparents and such get older.

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