• Other Friendship Advice

Family and Friends: Holiday Traditions Change Over Time

Published: December 11, 2021 | By | Reply Continue Reading
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A writer wants to “take back” the holidays and celebrate them with family and friends in her own home.

QUESTION

Dear Friendship Doctor:

My son is married to a nice woman from a large immigrant family. They expect our son and daughter-in-law to put them first at all times, especially during the holidays. 

They have a monopoly on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day—they fill their home with dozens of their family and friends, and they now expect my husband and me to be there for every holiday, too. They are friendly enough, but the whole situation is a bit too overwhelming for us. We often feel marginalized since we’re new to their group. 

My husband and I would love to host holiday parties or attend gatherings with our own side of the family and friends, but that means breaking away from our son and his wife’s family. 

Of course, our son feels obligated to attend all of his wife’s family gatherings, especially now that they have kids. He certainly wants us all to be together. This means that my husband and I have to shut up and go with the program because our son and his wife think it’s “easier” if we just go to all of his in-law’s holiday events.

This year, my husband and I have decided to back away and start focusing on our own family and friends. We decided to go to the home of another relative for Christmas Day dinner. We feel it’s time to “take back” our own holidays — but this is causing hurt feelings and our son and his in-laws don’t seem to understand why we don’t enjoy celebrating all of our holidays at their parties. Since my son’s in-laws are offended, this puts him in a tight spot. 

Are we wrong to want out of this? We are starting to dread the holidays.

Thanks for any advice you have,

Mrs. Scrooge 

ANSWER 

Hi Mrs. Scrooge,

When our kids get married or partnered, it changes the dynamics of the family as well as many holiday traditions. You’ve gained a daughter-in-law and grandchildren but you’ve also been robbed of the holidays (and probably other traditions) as they once were. 

You’re not being a “Scrooge.” Your feelings are understandable. You have been cast on the periphery when you were once the hostess and “grande dame’ of the party, in charge of deciding which friends and family members you wanted to celebrate with.

Your son isn’t in an enviable position either; he has to feel torn between his wife and his parents, and I’m sure you understand that his primary allegiance has to be to her. 

Try to think positively: It’s nice that he and his wife have a large group of family and friends with whom to celebrate and that they (and the in-laws) have welcomed you into their clan. (When I read that it was a “large” group, I couldn’t help but think of super-spreader events. I’m assuming that everyone is/will be COVID-cautious.)

But, back to your point. It would be nice if you could lay claim to one of these holidays next year and make it yours in perpetuity. You could speak to your son (perhaps in January, or sometime after the holidays) and tell him how much you appreciate him, his wife, and her family but it would be very meaningful and important to you and your husband if you could host one major holiday gathering each year. 

Tell him you would like to host Thanksgiving, offering to invite his family and his wife’s parents (or siblings), and whomever else they and you would like. Depending on whether or not your son lives close to you, another alternative may be to split Christmas Eve and Christmas Day between the other family and yours. Some people even work out every-other-year plans to share holidays. I would also encourage you to continue to attend some of the gatherings hosted by the in-laws.

Another thought: Maybe you could invite your son, his family and in-laws — to celebrate the holidays in a smaller, more intimate group, on New Year’s Day or thereafter.

This is a very common dilemma and source of distress for people at your stage of life. The worst thing would be to allow it to cause a rift in the family or to allow resentments to build up and spill over because of unexpressed feelings. I’m hoping you can work out an arrangement that is agreeable and satisfying to everyone.

Hope this helps!

My best, Irene


Previously on The Friendship Blog

How To Get Over the Holidays With NO Family and Friends

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Category: Family friends, OTHER ADVICE

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