Family Festive

Christmas. Traditionally a time for, well, traditions. Usually family ones, but there are also the Christmas Eve nights spent in the pub with old friends; same pub and same friends, every year. Midnight Mass in the village, Flight of the Navigator at 3pm on Christmas Day, toothpaste and a new toothbrush in your stocking. (Just me?! My Mum is such a numpty.)

It’s our first Christmas as Mr and Mrs. Certainly not our first co-habiting Christmas, this will be the 4th of those. There was the first one where I spent Christmas Eve night in the stinky House of Trouser where Phil lived with his four best friends, just so we could wake up together on our first Christmas Day. Our second festive holiday together was spent with Phil’s family; my first experience of a family Christmas that wasn’t my own and I loved it. It was different in so many ways to what I was used to; a little more formal, a lot more people coming and going throughout the day, a LOT more presents and a lot less board games! Our third Christmas we spent with my family. Almost perfect. I was 20, a young woman and a stroppy teenager all wrapped up in a body that didn’t know whether to settle by my Daddy’s feet to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ or curl up on the sofa with my boyfriend. It was easy to decide that our fourth Christmas would be spent in our home, just us two and our kitten. Utterly perfect. I wore soft pyjamas and fluffy slippers, accessorized with my new diamond necklace. I snuggled on our sofa with our kitten and read my book. Phil cooked a beautiful five course meal that he’d been practising  in pieces for weeks. He loved it, I loved it and our new family tradition was born.

This year it was clear to us what we would do. We would do exactly what we did last year. Our baby family would continue it’s traditions. We have made a conscious decision to not spend Christmas with either family in the foreseeable future but to concentrate on building ‘us’. It sounds slightly harsh when I read it back, rest assured we’re planning to spend plenty of time with all branches of both families in the New Year! But to my mind, a family has to build it’s foundations somewhere. Whether you start with changing your name, or moving into a brand new home as husband and wife, or holding onto the little things that make ‘home’ for you. We’ve laid our foundations and we’re building up, layer by layer. Starting with our Christmas.

It’s ruffled a few feathers, namely his mother’s. Deep breathe, I’m going to be vaguely controversial; we don’t get on. But that’s another story. Phil’s Dad and Stepmammy are totally cool with it and my parents couldn’t give a toffee apple. In short, they understand that we are each other’s primary family now and that the decisions we’re making are taking US into account, first and foremost. We’re lucky to have solid, understanding and happy families who want what’s best for us. One of my very best friends has a 6 week old baby and in the last fortnight she’s had to contend with every branch of their families assuming that her brand new little family will be with them for Christmas, leading to several arguments and one episode of tears. Another of our friends, the only other married couple we socialise with, will leave their house at 6.30am on Christmas morning and drive a grand total of 320 miles over the course of the day. They’ll stop at her parents for presents and breakfast, see his Grandma for presents and lunch, and do his parents for presents and dinner. Then they’ll get home, too late for Doctor Who and too tired to do anything but sleep. They’ve done this every year for the last 7 years. When they made tentative noises about staying at home with their kitten this year, you’d have thought they’d announced that Santa wasn’t real in a room full of 5 year olds. They can’t break the traditions they’ve made. They won’t and they can’t. Torture.

We’re quite confident that we’re not being selfish. We see all the little pockets of our families, spread all over the country with the scatter-pattern of a bag of marbles dropped from a great height, frequently. We use long weekends with the in-laws in Exeter as ‘down-time’. (When our plans actually go to plan!) We use dinner with my family as ‘forget your crappy day and get piddled’ time. We drive up to beautiful Norfolk to stay with his Aunt and Uncle and we bolt to Brighton to stay in my godmother’s castle-gate-keeper-cottage. We love our families, totally and utterly. They’re some of my favourite people on the planet. But my very favouritest person in the whole entire universe is my husband. And in 30 years time I want our children-if we are lucky enough to be blessed with them-to be confident enough in our love for them and in our desire for them to be happy, to stay at home with their kittens and their babies and make their own traditions.

I know for certain that Clare will have an alternate view to mine-living in another country is going to have all sorts of effects on how you build your family life! What about all you other ladies? How will you be spending the festive season and how did you make your decision?

Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Marriage
26 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted December 8, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Funnily enough, I feel sort of the same as Aisling, just for different reasons. My parents divorced and remarried just over ten years ago whilst I was still at university. One stayed down south, and one moved to sunny Yorkshire, which pretty much means that both sets of parents have got used to the fact that we CAN'T see them both every year on Christmas day. Before I met Andy, he spent 6 years in Japan, and so couldn't just pop home for christmas. So we're lucky in the fact that we have no parental pressure. In fact, as there aren't any small children in either of our families, I think they all like to sometimes have their own 'baby family christmas' as well, without us.

    So we've done various types of christmases since we've been together. Spa hotel christmas's (where there are always a SURPRISING number of young couples with babies under a year old, who were obviously taking the last opportunity to have a 'grown-ups' christmas before the toys-r-us christmases they would have to have for the next 15 years). Family christmases. Christmases with just the two of us. Christmas's in our home where people come to us (last year my dad, his wife, and my borther flew all the way to Russia for a snowy christmas).

    I could write a whole post myself on this. I love Christmas. But it just isn't that big a deal to me to spend it with family. Maybe in the future, children will change that. But at the moment, I like that we haven't created any traditions, so there are no expectations on us. Gradually I would like some experiences to become tradtitions, but for now, we're happy taking each year as it comes.

  2. Posted December 8, 2010 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    This will be our last Christmas spent with our respective families – next year, the two of us (or three!) are going to stay at home, together. It will ruffle many feathers, but we have to do the 200 miles of driving thing and while it's lovely to see everyone, it's a tiring sacrifice and saps the enjoyment out of the day xxx

  3. Posted December 8, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Umm…I just re-read my comment and I would like to apologise for the various spellings of christmases throughout it. Can we please blame the phone?

    @LWTLM I think it's worth ruffling a few feathers – it's your christmas as well as other peoples, and sometimes you, as opposed to them, have to be a little bit selfish. But equally if your mum would be sat on her own all day with a microwave meal for one, I would totally understand the need to think of others first.

  4. Posted December 8, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Ah, you're both angels of sanity in my humble view.

    Who sat down and wrote the rule that you HAVE to spend Christmas with your family? And that means your WHOLE family? and that just the two of you somehow doesn't count? and that once you've done something once it suddenly becomes a TRADITION YOU CAN'T BREAK???

    Apologies for the multiple capitals but its so nice not to be branded some kind of christmas pariah for choosing to stay at home!

    Peace and good will to all men (and women,and mothers in law!)

    Claire x x

  5. Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Eek…I feel like the odd one out saying this but we do the whole alternating Christmases thing. Last year was at my lots, and this year we're at M's parents. Three days at each, and then another mini Christmas of our own in Paris over New Year (celebrating again at New Year is a tradition of ours left over from when we used to have Christmas apart before we got married).
    For us, spending Christmas with our parents and siblings is an intrinsic part of the celebrations, and we really enjoy doing so (and don't feel like it is any reflection on our own mini family – it's a joint decision that we're happy with after all). But once we have children we'll definitely be looking at having our own Christmases – and I can't wait to develop more of our own traditions. For now, though, this is how we like it. I guess the important thing is that you do what you want to do, not what others are making you do, as otherwise you'll just be miserable – for us, for now, that means being with our immediate families. But really, the main thing is that M and I celebrate together.

  6. Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Oops, just read that back….apologies if that sounded a wee bit agressive/defensive – it wasn't my intention, and I love hearing about what you're all planning! It's great to hear about what works for other people. :)

  7. Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Ahh… Christmas…
    Well as Gavin and I live in Scotland, where his family are and as my family all reside in Belfast, Christmas is an interesting one.

    We have only been together a short time, about 2 and a half years. First Christmas was spent seperate (which was hell). Second Christmas was spend in Ireland with my lot and the third one… well, it's going to be spent in Ireland with my lot. Selfish? Maybe. But I have one last Christmas as Farrell and I still have the childish joy of always being home for Christmas. I'm 23.
    Gavin is 30 and has spent several Christmases away from home with ex girlfriends etc. So he doesn't have the same homeward bound gravitational pull come this time of year. His family are also super laid back and after chatting to his Mum, she thought it would be best if we went back to Belfast as I would be a married woman with my own family soon.

    And when I am a married woman, with my own little family. I will want to be with my hisband. And maybe in time my sprogs. But I rest safe in the knowledge that although people winge and moan… they will get on with their own Christmas and should allow you to do the same.

    I heart festive posts :-)

  8. Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    I should also add, we see Gavin's family every month. I see mine once every 4 months. It. just. makes. sense.

  9. Posted December 8, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    @ Emma – honestly I totally love spending time with my family, and Andy's – I love being all tucked up and watching films and eating quality streets and wearing christmas jumpers, so I would never ever say that you shouldn't do that, fear not. It's totally about saying what works for us, and because of the journey times involved, we just can't do it all. Swapping works for you, and I'm pretty sure it will be what we do at some point in the future when we're more settled. For me, trying to fit everybody into one day just to appease them just doesn't make sense.

    Also. I promise I'm going to stop commenting now – I have a quiet day at work today, so am happily chatting away. This is Aisling's post and I'm interested to see her take on everyone elses opinions…

  10. Posted December 8, 2010 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I'm all for the ruffling of feathers! Our first year living together as proper boyfriend and girlfriend was also the year I lost my Mum, Auntie and a very close friend and having moved to be in Mr O's neck of the woods I put my foot down and just decided that Xmas day would entail wearing pj's and scoffing cheese on toast! It upset my sister and the (now) Mum in Law but we had the most fantastic time, in fact Mr O's best mate joined us, as did one of his cousins, so we basically got sozzled and ate lots of cheese!

    It was possibly the best Xmas I have ever had. This year I am going to my sisters to spend it with her and her grown up kids – we shall laugh like drains the whole day, watch Eastenders because my sister is an addict, and eat scrummy roast potatoes.

    Xmas time is so political and we all normally do what everyone else expects us to – when really I think most of us just want to stay at home and play with our new toys!

    Jenny x

  11. Posted December 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    For our first married Christmas we're going to be with my Dad, various siblings and their respective partners, it'll be like a tin of sardines and i can't wait
    However once (if) little ones arrive I am going to be a bit stubborn about travelling up and down the country to see everybody


  12. Posted December 8, 2010 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Ladies! Am loving the stories and different opinions here-this is exactly what we hope to inspire when we write; a group of awesome girls with important and valuable outlooks on life.
    On a serious note, I'd like to say now whilst we are still in our infancy, Clare and I never want you to apologise expressing your thoughts and feelings. As long as you're honest, relevant and appropriate whatever you have to say is fine by us. If you're rude or mean then that's a different matter. We'll demand a written retraction and apology and I'll send my kitten Harry round to chew on your toes.
    I concur fully with Jenny and Clare-ruffling feathers is where it's at. As long as, like Clare so eloquently pointed out with her microwave meal for one, no one gets hurt. A lesson that's becoming clearer to me the older I get, no-one will put you first except you. Emma is so right-do what you want to do. There is no 'wrong', only what's right for you. (Sounds like I'm giving a seminar on how to be selfish!)
    Naomi-your mother-in-law sounds ACE. Would you consider hiring her out? And what part of Belfast are you from?
    Most importantly, Clare…can you really spend ALL OF CHRISTMAS in a spa hotel?! I've led such a sheltered life! That's next Christmas sorted for us!
    Even repeatedly typing the word 'Christmas' is making me feel festive…I'm so excited!

  13. Anna K
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    This is a really difficult, and sensitive, topic for me. Mr K spent Christmas no.1 with me, and really missed his family. I refuse not to spend it without mine – that's just where I'm happiest. So we just don't spend Christmas together. He comes to ours the preceding weekend and we have a pre-Christmas feast, and I always go to his for New Year.

    Sounds like a great set up.

    Except what happens if/when we have kids? I won't give in on not seeing my family. He will not give in on not seeing his. If we have anything less than twins, we're shafted. I worry that he's not that interested in making our own traditions. I worry that I'm not as important, or as "family" to him, as his family are. He's not budging, I'm not budging, and because of that we're spending Christmas away from each other, AGAIN, and everyone always raises an eyebrow, like "great start to married life, they can't even sort out Christmas, how are they going to make other big decisions?", which makes me even more paranoid.

    Which is RIDICULOUS and if my friends were saying this to me I'd be telling them to get a grip and TALK to the boy.

  14. Posted December 8, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    WOW Anna. That's amazing. You'll be putting in your order for twins now then…? Is it Christmas Day specifically that's the problem? It seems sad that you'll be apart, can you not spend a few days with each family and not attach the importance to the one day?

  15. Anna K
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I think that's what we'll have to do….see it as a whole week of celebrations and split the time, and not make it like the 25th is everything. Also, I could do with being more flexible. (But my family are more FUN, dangnamit!) Aisling, please be my life coach, I pay in cupcakes

  16. Posted December 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Amazingly, I charge in cupcakes. What a coincidence.

  17. Becca
    Posted December 8, 2010 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

    We've been together eight Christmasses. We've not spent a single one together. First because we were students and going home was what we did. We celebrate our day on New Years Eve. Neither of us wanted to give up Christmas at home. Him because he's young brothers and sisters, divorced parents and a need to get around everyone, me because my family come to us Christmas and it's the only time we see them.
    New Years Eve we do exactly what Jenny described. Pjs, films, icecream and cheese and chocolate (cheese and chocolate are amazing together) and then we watch free fireworks out the window like kids.

    I'm sure soon we'll want to spend it together but we'll shuttle between families and alternate years with our NYE together alone.

    For me, Christmas is about giving. We have 18 Christmas lunch and 50 cousins, kids (not including cats) boxing day. More people to give to.

    Merry Christmas one and all. However you spend it and whomever you spend it with.

  18. Posted December 9, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Oh my god Anna and Becca, you are a revelation to me. This is why I'm so glad you lot all chime in. I had no idea that people did this, and now, I can totally see why you do, particularly if you come from big, fun loving families, I wouldn't want to give that up either. Our families are much more chilled out, and I only have a single early twenties brother who I'm missing out on waking up on christmas morning with, and in all fairness, he's most likely going to be hungover and not up til well past midday so I'm not missing much.

    I'm absolutely sure if either of us had a big family with lots of siblings and nieces and nephews running around, the decision would be way harder.

    Kudos to the two of you for making that decision, but also, I like Aisling's idea – make a week of it, have two christmases during that week and swap it every year so that everyone gets a turn at 'real' christmas. That way you get two christmases, a week long celebration, get to see all of your families, AND get to be together.

    But also, if you're happy what you're doing, stick with it – as Aisling rightly pointed out – do what makes YOU happy, not what any one else thinks you should do.

  19. SVK
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    What a timely post Aisling…especially as it’s cat related, but also because Christmas family traditions can make me feel sad.

    I'm delighted for people who refuse to spend Christmas anywhere else than with their own families in the same house as they grew up in, with the same decorations that they've had since they were kids and so on, but if your parents are divorced, or if someone died, or if 'Life Just Happened' that isn't always possible, and it can annoy me when people think any other way is wrong, or second best.

    For us, as our first year with a dependent (Roger the Cat) we now have a sneaky excuse to return to our house on Christmas night. We're lucky that both our families live within a half hour drive, although my parents are separated. So Christmas eve is drop in to see Dad, and stepmum and stepsister. Then to the pub for the aforementioned same-people-every-year-since the-dawn-of-time drinks, then back to his parents for a late night buffet. Then Christmas morning with his parents and siblings, (lovely, but you're discouraged from putting your feet on the sofa, in his house, which I find hard), then lunch with my mum and younger brother – otherwise they would be eating together, but in silence. Then for the first year EVER back to ours by 7pm, for Champagne and smoked salmon and SkyPlus and feet on the sofa and Roger the Cat! Cant flippin wait. And Aisling, I am SO hoping I get to accessorise my pyjamas with a bit of bling too. x

  20. SVK
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Eek, and sorry also didn't mean to sound defensive either about people who have the same traditions with family every year. It's just quite an emotive subject! x

  21. Posted December 9, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Um….SVK….I have only one word.



    Oh and…I LOVE Roger for a cat. My sister-in-law's moggy is called Colin the Cat which I think is AWESOME.

  22. Posted December 9, 2010 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Oh I'm so jealous. Me and my boy have been together 8 1/2 years, making this our ninth Christmas, yet we have never spent Christmas day together. We grew up in the same town so for the first couple of years of our relationship we were both living with our parents. When we then moved down to London we continued to each go back to our respective parents when we visited home (including for the whole week of Christmas and New Year) and now we're unable to shake this tradition off as it would mean upsetting people and choosing one family over the other. We're not married yet, currently planning that to happen in our 10th year, and I'm hoping that that will be the event to break the tradition, but in the mean time I'll be waking up Christmas morning in my old single bed once again.

  23. Posted December 9, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Ah just read comments and realised Anna and Becca do the same, which makes me feel a lot better – friends always pull the same annoyingly pitying and judgemental face at me as when asking why we're not married yet.

    I love the 'getting drunk and eating cheese' Christmas model though – that may be the way forward!

  24. Becca
    Posted December 12, 2010 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Amy f

    Sod people who don't get it.

    Our families five hour drive apart so we can't do lunch with one tea with another which has no doubt contributed to our NYE celebration.

    When people ask why you don't spend Christnas eve together, look them straight in the eye and say 'we have too much sex all year it's nice to get a day off'.

    Obviously I have never had the guts to do it but I bet they'd not ask again.

  25. Posted December 13, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    I pretty much could have written Emma's post word for word.

    When/if we ever have children I should think we might change our alternating Christmas scenario – although it might well be very nice to drive to one of our parents and not have to cook.

    I am extremely happy with our alternating arrangement. Both sets of parents seem happy. It would seem (to me) odd and un-Christmas like not to be with our extended families at Christmas.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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