The temperatures are dropping, the waistlines keep expanding and some overzealous celebrators already have their trees decked. That’s right, friends, break out the fruitcake and that old copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, because the holiday season is in full swing — whether we’re ready or not.
When you’re in a relationship, the holidays are a whole different animal. Sure, there are snuggly nights watching holiday classics and ample opportunities to get gussied up for holiday parties. There are decorations to be hung and heartfelt presents to be bought. But there is also a whole bunch of people to be pleased, and it’s hard to keep everyone happy.
There are decorations to be hung and heartfelt presents to be bought. But there is also a whole bunch of people to be pleased.
Having spent only two other holiday seasons as someone’s significant other, I’ve never dealt with the prospect of splitting time between families. More than that, Thanksgiving for my family of three was a scaled-back affair — a whole lot of effort followed by 10 minutes of eating before resuming our normal routine. I love her dearly, but for my European mother, comfort food has always been a bit of a task.
My boyfriend has a big family. A big family that lives within about three hours of one another, so family gatherings aren’t exactly few and far between. It's a lovely group of people, and both my mother and I have felt very welcomed into their fold. But as someone who sees her extended family once a year at best, it’s been a very different change of pace. A wonderful change of pace, but a change nonetheless.
I realize that once you get into a serious relationship, you do holidays a little differently. Instead of one family to see, you have two, sometimes more. And unless you live in the same city, it’s impossible to see everyone. I get it. But it’s still a little hard.
My half-sisters and their clans, with whom I’ve spent the last 28 Christmases, hail from the Pacific Northwest. Though my father’s illness threw us a few curveballs in holidays past, we’ve always been together Christmas morning, playing Santa to the little ones and delighting in the well-chosen gifts we selected for one another as part of our annual Secret Santa exchange.
But things change, and this year, I’ll be spending both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my boyfriend’s family, learning a whole new crop of traditions. While I’ll most certainly miss the absurdly competitive Floyd family game of Trivial Pursuit (don’t cross me …), I’m excited to see how other families do things.
Will the mashed potatoes taste the same? Will the kids open presents before the adults? Will a parental figure get a little too toasty before dinner? Chances are at least one of those things will happen — (I’m looking at you, Mom — we’ll never forget the eggnog debacle of 2004), and I’m excited to find out.