As a newlywed couple, you've just navigated the perilous waters of planning a wedding to the tastes of two families and (hopefully) kept everyone happy. You think you're done with family-related stress and complications for a while once the wedding has come and gone... and then come the holidays.
Fortunately, in our case, there hasn't been much drama around holiday-splitting. Our main obstacle is geography: my family is in Atlanta, where we live, and Jon's is in northern Idaho. Thanksgiving is sort of a non-issue because of the distance. Jon has done Thanksgiving in Chattanooga with my mom's family for two years already, and his younger brother even joined us last year from L.A. since their mom was out of the country on sabbatical.
Christmas is where things get trickier. In years past, Jon has flown out to Idaho (via Spokane) a day or two before Christmas to be with his family while I've stayed in Atlanta to sing and do my family's Christmas thing, making the trek to Idaho on Dec. 26 or so. Now that we're married, Jon's mom has insisted that we stick together for our holiday travel rather than fly on different days (which I think we would have done even without the maternal mandate).
We started talking about it months ago; not just about dates and flight times, but about what parts of our respective traditions are most important to us. Yes, I have a paying job in a church choir that demands my presence at church on Christmas Eve, but singing those services is pretty much essential to my holiday experience. I told Jon that if the day comes that I don't have a church gig and we're out in Idaho (or somewhere else) for Christmas Eve, we're going to have to find me a church so I can sing christmas hymns and light candles and all that jazz.
My sister and I were always singing in the choir and mom was on the church staff for more than 20 years, so most of our family stuff happens on Christmas Day itself: presents, brunch, foodcoma naptime, dinner, holiday movie outing is how it normally goes. In Jon's family, the boys have tended to nag their mom until she gives in and lets them open a few presents on Christmas Eve, and they do the rest on Christmas Day, which is also when they eat their big festive meal.
The approach we're taking this year is to try and split Christmas Day between both families, despite the 1,924 miles (as the crow flies) between them. We've booked a flight out of Atlanta at noon on December 25, which means we'll have to get started a little earlier than usual at my parents' house so we can get through all the presents before Dad takes me and Jon to the airport. No brunch for us! Boo hoo. We have a 40-minute layover in Salt Lake City (yikes! hope the weather's good) and arrive in Spokane around 4 p.m. Idaho time, which will put us at Jon's folks' house around 5:30, just in time for more presents and dinner. At least we'll get one fancy Christmas meal in! We'll stick around out there until New Year's Day, as we did last year, so we can get a good visit in.
Logistically, it's all sorted... but, I gotta say, I keep thinking of new ways in which it will be just plain WEIRD. Jon will be sitting out in the church congregation with my family, and he'll come to Waffle House with me and my sister and my best friend Winston (and Abby if she's in town) for late-night Christmas Eve waffles. I'll go home and finish wrapping presents, like usual, and then Jon will sleep with me in my bed at home for the first time. WEIRD. (Emily told me to remind her of this fact so she doesn't try to climb in bed with me half asleep on christmas morning while we wait for our brother to wake up.) It also just occurred to me that we'll have to find a spot for Jon to sit for present-opening, since we all have our usual christmas morning places in the christmas tree room... it never ends! (Not to mention I've totally meant to make Jon a stocking for our house and have yet to do so. Doh!)
On the other hand, once we get out to Idaho, it will be nice to not be the only one opening presents for once! I'm looking forward to my mother-in-law's delicious dinner, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn't miss the Swiss steak in my family's dining room that night. Jon probably has some thoughts on what will be weird about me being in the middle of his family's traditions on christmas day, but since I don't know those, I'll spare you any speculation. This post is way too damn long already.
So, readers, now it's your turn to weigh in. How did you decide to split holidays with your family-in-law once you were married? Was it totally bizarre having your spouse suddenly in the middle of your own family traditions (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, otherwise)? Or are there some of you out there who avoid the hassle altogether and do something on your own, sans families?
*apologies for the inconsistent "christmas" capitalization throughout... it got late and I stopped caring :)