Girl Talk: My Real-Life “Four Christmases”

Like a lot of people, seeing the month of December flip over on the calendar every year brings on both excitement and dread for the remaining days of the year. Presents, parties, merry-making, decorating trees: pros. Spending hundreds of dollars I don’t have, the inevitable cookie- and cheese platter-induced weight gain, and a to-do list that doesn’t end until January: cons. But the biggest challenge of the holidays for me, as a person with divorced parents, always has been choosing where to spend them. And now that I’m married to a guy with divorced parents, too, it’s getting even trickier. We have four sets of parents, but, of course, there’s only one Christmas Day. We live in New York and our four sets of parents live in three other far-away states: North Carolina, Vermont, and Wisconsin, So, each fall, as my husband and I consider how many days we can take off of work and what to do with those precious days around the holidays, it becomes clear that these are the options:

  1. Take Enough Time Off To Go See All Of Them Christmas Week. Granted, this is the most expensive and exhausting option, but it does the trick in terms of seeing all close family as close to Christmas as possible.
  2. Alternate Years. Make a commitment to ourselves and our families ahead of time to alternate the years we spend with each side (mine/his) for Thanksgiving and Christmas because, hey, sometimes you don’t have more than a couple days off of work around Christmas and any other travel plan is impossible.
  3. Blame Our Plans On A Budget. We could say we have a tight traveling budget and that we can only travel to the closest parent’s house for Christmas, the place that’s cheapest to get to and/or within driving distance. Given the fragility of the economy and how expensive it is to fly, this is a plausible excuse, or reason, for not traveling much during the holiday season. And if traveling anywhere at all is too expensive, then …
  4. Just Stay Put. Let Them Come To You. We could host Christmas at our apartment in New York City and see which family members show up to see us. This one could get tricky if multiple sets of parents show up, because a) we don’t have much room in our NYC pad, and b) that could require lots of juggling of attentions, especially when dealing with divorced couples.
  5. Screw The Holidays — Go To Maui. Although my husband and I fantasize about going on a true vacation, to a romantic, tropical getaway, for the holidays, we haven’t done it in the six years that we’ve been married. Though I’m jealous of couples who are liberated (and wealthy — let’s face it) enough to do this option, to me Christmastime means being with family. Even if it’s not relaxing.

I know it’s ridiculous, really, to put so much pressure on one or two days of the year. Though, through movies and ads and whatnot, pop culture paints the holidays as the ultimate time for family and, though I try not to, I continue to fall for the myth. So this year, like most years, we’re trying to see everybody. We spent Thanksgiving at my dad’s in North Carolina, are going to Wisconsin for Christmas weekend and then flying back to New York, checking in our cats, and then driving a car up to Vermont to see my mom and sister for two days the week after Christmas. Will it be tiring? I’m sure, but it seems worth it — I think? Next year, though, we’re staying home. We’ll see who ends up showing up at our house. I’ve already decided: It’s time we establish our own Christmastime traditions. Though, maybe all our parents will decline their invites to come see us and just go to Maui instead? And I wouldn’t blame them.

What about you, Frisky readers: Do you have a hard time deciding where to spend the holidays? How do you decide how and where to spend them?

Photo: iStockphoto