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. panda Bee
    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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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