A quickly made christmas dinner may be impossible
December 11, 2012 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Our Christmas Tradition has to change in a significant way this year. Any suggestions on how to make the best of it?

For unavoidable reasons, this will be my and fiancee's first Christmas not doing a big family Christmas dinner thing. We will share Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with family, but we have to leave at noon to drive back in order to deliver my step son to his bio-mom. The drive is too far to be able to justify driving all the way back to my parents' place for the dinner so we've decided to just stay put and have our own Christmas Dinner with just the two of us. At first we were thinking of trying to cobble together a mostly-traditional Christmas dinner with chicken and stuffing and pie but we're now deciding to try to create our own new Christmas tradition. Probably an Italian meal that we can prepare together with home made delicious lasagne and some sort of fun home made Italian dessert.

Spending Christmas dinner with just the two of us is a pretty gigantic shift from what we both have always known and it is taking a bit of an emotional toll. On one level it sounds really nice and romantic and calm and relaxing, but on another level it feels like we're losing a big part of how we each always defined "Christmas".

Any suggestions on how to make this the very best we can so that we aren't feeling like we're missing out on a major part of Christmas? What sorts of things can help to make this still a really special Christmas for us, and what sorts of things should we do to help to create a new Christmas tradition for us?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm Jewish and my family actually had a wonderful Christmas tradition that we shared with a number of other Jewish families in our town: we all volunteered with a local charity that delivered Christmas meals to people who couldn't get out and had a big Christmas dinner in the basement of a local church. My family and the other Jewish families did it because we didn't have family responsibilities (and there were a limited number of Chinese restaurants where I grew up (I'm joking, mostly)). It was actually a lot of fun and I think it was a good thing to do.

Since you're already having Christmas eve and morning with family, why not do something volunteer-ish for Christmas afternoon and evening?
posted by sciencegeek at 10:03 AM on December 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

Do you know people — a friend, a neighbour, a co-worker — who don't have anyone to spend Christmas with? It happens to more people than you might think, and its a difficult day for them. Invite them to share your day, and focus on giving them a wonderful time.

Otherwise, decorate the house, have stockings, play Christmas music, do something different that you really enjoy. If there's an open rink near you, you might go skating, or you could just walk around the block and look at the Christmas lights. Play a game, put together a puzzle, watch movies you've been meaning to see. In other words do all the homely, relaxing things you'd normally do with a family, because you are a family.
posted by orange swan at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2012

Go to the movies! And eat something not remotely Christmas-y. Thai is always my first choice.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:08 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Isn't this your first Christmas as an engaged couple? (I swear I am not an internet stalker.) I would try to take this situation and make a tradition out of it - you spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with family, and then the evening of Christmas day together, just the two of you. After all, you're planning on building your own family together now. Have a nice dinner of your favorite foods and concentrate on each other and your life together.

On a less serious note, my husband and I have spent a lot of holiday seasons far from family and we usually begin some sort of horrible themed movie marathon on Christmas Day that finishes up on New Year's Day.
posted by something something at 10:09 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you convince your family to have the big meal on Christmas Eve?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:09 AM on December 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd at least try roomthreeseventeen's suggestion as an option. Mrs MM and I once couldn't get back to family for Xmas and we did it a day or two later. My brother's in laws never, ever have the family over on Christmas Day itself, but it's a three line whip on the 26th.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:12 AM on December 11, 2012

For Thanksgiving one year my husband and I couldn't be with family so we had a spectacular dinner at a great French restaurant we had wanted to try. It was fun and although I love my family and our holiday traditions I did not feel like I missed out on anything that year.
posted by teamnap at 10:15 AM on December 11, 2012

Circumstances over the years have meant I spent a couple of Christmases away from family. Treat it as a day to treat yourselves in a way you might not normally for just the two of you.
posted by biffa at 10:21 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Could you Skype with your family, or do a Google Hangout, during Christmas dinner?
posted by dywypi at 10:25 AM on December 11, 2012

I love spending Xmas alone with my husband. A few of our afternoon/evening traditions include his awesome Xmas meal (it varies, except for the awesomeness), touring around in our car looking at Xmas lights and donating to local food banks, and watching Scrooge and Its a Wonderful Life together.
posted by bearwife at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Can you convince your family to have the big meal on Christmas Eve?
In my family our Christmas events happen much more on the days leading up to Christmas. We always do a huge Christmas Eve party with all the extended family and in a lot of ways it is "the" Christmas event for me. Christmas dinner is sort of a "closing ceremonies" of sorts for me. The big family dinner is a much larger part and a bigger deal for my fiancee. That was his big Christmas event so having it change up so dramatically is taking some more adjustment on his part.

Isn't this your first Christmas as an engaged couple?
Yup, and this time next year we'll be married. YAY!

Could you Skype with your family, or do a Google Hangout, during Christmas dinner?
Not really, and frankly I think that would just make us wistful and sad, seeing everyone and not being part of it. Sort of like looking at pictures of delicious cupcakes when I am really craving sugar. Just a big tease. I think we're better off just creating our own tradition that is about just us, being together.

As for whatever we do being a yearly thing, it looks like due to shared custody of his son the Christmas-dinner-alone scenario will only be every second Christmas. Where this is the first time it is happening I'd very much like to do it "right" so that it isn't something we approach with regret or disappointment in the years to come. He and I are very much a "make the best of the situation you're in" type of couple so our risk of being grumpy sad sacks Christmas Day is slim. That isn't really my concern. I know we'll likely be happy no matter what we end up doing.

I mostly just want to find things to make our "alone" Christmas evenings something we enjoy as much as our big Family Christmas dinners, instead of it being something we have to "make the best of".
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:42 AM on December 11, 2012

I realize this is going to start out sounding like i'm not answering your question, but go with me a minute --

There's a really, really lovely moment towards the end of the movie A Christmas Story. It's the second to last scene - Ralphie's already gotten his Red Ryder, they've gone out to dinner at the Chinese place and come back - and it's night and the tree is lit up and the snow is falling. Dad is sitting in a chair by the window and watching it fall. Mom comes in from washing up in the kitchen or something, or putting the kids to bed - and Dad invites her to come sit with him, by the window, and watch the snow fall for a little while. And she does, and they do, every so often commenting on the day they've just had. It's just a lovely little glimpse of the couple that they are, the love between them, and the peace that Christmas can give you sometimes too.

So, maybe do that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:44 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

If the volunteering idea doesn't appeal, what about having it be the night that you try out a restaurant that you've been wanting to try (keep a list throughout the year of stuff that is outrageous or weird or intriguing in some way, and choose one) or cooking a dish together that is outside your typical routine - something that requires more time than you ordinarily have together?

We watch our favorite Christmas movie and have some rich Christmas goodie that we don't usually indulge in -- crazy rich eggnog, stuff like that.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:46 AM on December 11, 2012

You could also ask your stepson's mom to meet you halfway, so that you can go back to your family's house. That seems very reasonable to me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:47 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's kind of materialistic, but I'm all about presents (giving and receiving), so how about you each designate one "special" present (however you choose to define it) that you'll give to each other at this private dinner for two? That can lead up to some fun anticipation, make you think about this new tradition through the rest of the pre-Christmas season, and hey, more presents!
posted by xingcat at 10:50 AM on December 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Before I had a kid, when I was too far from my parents to go home for Christmas I did lots of different things on Christmas day. Almost always there was a long quiet walk somewhere, often supper in a restaurant (works better in big cities), sometimes a movie at the theatre.

One year my boyfriend and I got a hotel room Christmas eve, had a lovely elegant Christmas eve supper, late drinks, a walk around under the Christmas lights, an awesome Christmas day brunch and an afternoon matinee. That was a good one.

I loved those Christmases, mellow and intimate and forging my own tradition.
posted by looli at 10:52 AM on December 11, 2012

I think it is all about how you look at...and look towards it. Congrats- you get alone time and family time. Parent time and couple time.

My SO and I are planning a great sushi dinner. Maybe a movie. We had a huge thanksgiving that we shared with many. Christmas will be just for us as a couple and I love that.
posted by Kitty Cornered at 12:25 PM on December 11, 2012

My husband and I love family Christmas (dates vary - this year it's 12/26), but we also love our "alone Christmas." It's a peaceful oasis amid the kids and travel and family dynamics. We started by going out for sushi, but have branched out over the years (this year we're going with upscale Indian).
posted by JoanArkham at 12:39 PM on December 11, 2012

I'm from a really christmassy family, with my Jewish grandfather at the head of celebrations (while both my baptized grandmothers hated it. And my stepmother was mrs. Christmas herself.

But one Christmas, my then husband and I had fallen between chairs somehow. Maybe we couldn't make it to Belgium or the deep country, I don't remember. So we made a Christmas for those without Christmas among our friends, and their friends. This is maybe the best Christmas we've ever had. It was the very spirit of Christmas. We cooked a traditional dinner, but on a very relaxed schedule, since people would be arriving at very different hours. (Some people work on Christmas Eve, like nurses and firemen), we had tiny gifts, and we played games and talked of basic human values (because we didn't all of know each other enough to talk about private stuff or gossip)

After my Grandfather and my Stepmother died, my children don't want Christmas anymore, so we are experimenting with alternative holidays. This year, we are going to Rome; I'll probably be cooking something I find there, but not anything traditional, and we'll be spending the day and evening in different ways. This is our third Christmas in Rome, but the first in a rented apartment, the other years we've enjoyed eating out and meeting new people. The other years we were very much included in the restaurant-owners' and other guests' celebrations.
(I miss family Christmas, and would happily host everyone, but the kids are relentless. They are only reminded of sadness).
posted by mumimor at 1:13 PM on December 11, 2012

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