How to divide Christmas when families are so far apart?
December 20, 2010 1:20 AM   Subscribe

How to reconcile Xmas when are families are so far away from each other?

This is the first Xmas my SO and I will spend together. We'll be spending it with her family here in Denmark (where we all live although not in the same city as her family). That means that for the first time in a looong time I won't be spending Xmas with my parents.

I usually travel to visit my family for Xmas because it's the one time a year that we all see each other mainly because they live 9,000km away in South America (my brother also flies in from the US with his wife and child). An added bonus is my parents live in a tropical country where, for one glorious month, I can escape the dark, cold, windy, depressing danish winter and return with recharged batteries (and a great tan).

My SO sees her family multiple times a year, but obviously Xmas is a special family time. If I don't travel for Xmas and plan to spend every other year with her family that means I only see my family every 2 years. This is a tough trade-off and I'd like to find a solution. Is it reasonable to ask my SO to accompany me to my parents for *every* Xmas (since I'd like to spend this holiday time together with her as well obviously - this is also assuming that she gets along with everyone there). Should we split up for Xmas/New Years every other year (that'd be a bit sad to be sans SO while everyone else there has theirs)?

AAArrghh... Xmas family/travel blues....

Any ideas/suggestion/own experiences would be GREATLY appreciated!
posted by alchemist to Human Relations (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: My SO sees her family multiple times a year, but obviously Xmas is a special family time.

I am in a similar situation. Her family is nearby (and so we see them a lot) and mine is 5000 miles away.

We do swap Christmas. At least in our case, I don't think its fair to not spend Christmas with her family because of distance. And we refuse to split up.

The solution for us isn't that complicated. We make an effort to see my family at other times in the year. It is less expensive and stressful that way too. Christmas is a terrible time to fly. This year, we are spending Christmas with her family but are seeing mine in early February.

Out of curiosity, what does your brother do with his wife? Or is he married to a South American.
posted by vacapinta at 1:27 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for sharing your experiences vacapinta! My brother's wife actually prefers to always travel to South America for Xmas (i'm thinking the sun and beach is a big factor in this decision for her).
posted by alchemist at 1:31 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: Having spent every Christmas of my life in Denmark, I would be very sad if my SO asked me to leave Denmark every Christmas. Believe it or not, for me, Christmas is the one time of year where the Danish winters are actually nice and enjoyable, so even the lure of tropical sun would not tempt me. Of course, I don't know your SO and how attached she is to her family/Danish Christmas traditions.

However, I do know that once the 26th comes along, all of that is forgotten, and New Year's is a time that could easily (preferably) be spent on the beach. If you're staying in South America for a month anyway, why don't you just move the vacation and leave right after the last julefrokost? Win-win, you get to see your family every year (+ every other for Christmas), and she doesn't have to miss out on Christmas with her family, either.
posted by coraline at 1:53 AM on December 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My parents swapped me for Christmas for most of my life (yay divorce.) My dad's wife's family has a complicated "this year it's Easter at X house, the 4th of July at Y house, Thanksgiving at Z house, Christmas at your house" swap. And my dad takes the whole family to his brother's house up north for New Years most of the time, to the point that part of me is sad to miss the holiday lights in a town 3000 miles from where I live now.

If you are concerned about parity, consider two South American Christmases to every one Danish Christmas plus South American New Year, or something. We like divisions like 50/50 because they're superficially fair when considered in isolation, not because they necessarily maximize happiness and familial harmony.
posted by SMPA at 3:27 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Talk with her. Ask her how she feels. Obviously, yeah, if it's important to your SO to spend Christmas with her family, then asking to spend every Christmas with your family is unreasonable.

On Denmark Christmas years, why not go to South America some other time? New Years or some other time in the winter will still have the benefit of it being warm and sunny when you need that.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:00 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: We've often moved holidays in my family so that we can all be together. I mean, we'll celebrate a certain holiday two days before most people do, or a week later. To us it's the being together that's important, not honoring one particular day. I mean, aren't most holidays set on sort of arbitrary days anyway?

Could you have Christmas with her family a week early every other year, and then make your once a year trip to see your family and escape the cold? The next year, celebrate Christmas with her family on the actual day and then leave on December 26 to see your family for a month. Then you get to see your family every year, and every other year you get to celebrate on the actual day. If Christmas has religious meaning for either of you, it still allows you to celebrate it on the important day no matter where you are, and you each get to share that special day with your own families every other year.

What does she say about this?
posted by Kangaroo at 6:09 AM on December 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The other option is that you can occasionally do Christmas apart. My partner and I are doing this now. He's in London (thankfully he flew in before the snow), and I am meeting up with my family at a beach house. Last Christmas was particularly awful because I was having major health problems and was in and out of the hospital all during December and January. This Christmas, we both wanted to it to be special. But that meant different things for each of us. He wanted visit close family friends, one of whom was celebrating an 80th birthday. I really wanted to be with my family, and besides, I can't take much time off this time of year, so a trip to Europe wasn't really feasible.

So we are both doing our own thing. It's a little sad, and I miss him terribly. But since we live together and generally only separated a few days at a time for business trips, this is not that big of a deal.

You could make some holiday rituals with your girlfriend before and after the actual holiday (my partner and I put a tree up before he left), and still enjoy time with your families.
posted by kimdog at 7:32 AM on December 20, 2010

Best answer: I second coraline. Christmas evening means quite a lot in Denmark, but everything is a different world from the 26th and on, depending on Christmas traditions in that family of course.

I would consider the New Years idea too. Then you could still meet your family and spend time in the sun. This would be win/win :-)
posted by KimG at 8:12 AM on December 20, 2010

It might be helpful to not think of it as a "fair's fair" type of trade-off. It's a compromise, but that doesn't necessarily mean a 50/50 split.
For anecdata, we spend every other Thanksgiving with my family in CA, and the rest of the time here with his family in NC (there are some other visits to CA during the year, but nothing regular). This is a good solution for both of us, and I don't feel like it's unfair to me or my family. However (and that's a big HOWEVER) everyone is different and their relationships are different. You just have to discuss what you'd both be comfortable with and not rely on strangers on the internet to tell you what is "fair".
posted by purpletangerine at 10:30 AM on December 20, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you all for your "best answers"! It is great to hear about others experiences and it will definitely lead to a good discussion with my SO. Thank you and have a great holiday season.
posted by alchemist at 6:16 AM on December 21, 2010

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