November 2010: HE SAYS, SHE SAYS - Where Do You Go For The Holidays?
Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton | Photographer: Photography by Anne
The holiday season can present a daunting challenge to the unprepared. I need to have everything planned and mapped out ahead of time. I need to know which relative is deep frying a turkey and who has the best flat screen television for watching football. You know, the really important stuff. A relative serving sweet potato pie is also important, with pumpkin pie being a very close second. My brother in-law has shown me that pumpkin pie during the holidays is a good thing.
There’s always a flurry of activity during the holidays, with multiple events taking place at the same time, and it can overwhelm you if you don’t have a solid game plan. This is especially true for couples. Where do you go? Do you spend the holidays with her family or yours? Do you bring your loose fitting competitive eating pants?
For a married couple, this one should be a no-brainer. You simply alternate, visiting your relatives one year and hers the next. However, for today’s modern unmarried couple, things are a bit more complex. You have to be extra careful, because couples need to treat any holiday visits to family members like a celebrity treats red carpet appearances. You can’t be seen at the premiere of Police Academy 55: Mall Cop Madness if you want to remain on the A-List. The same holds true for holiday visits.
Most guys would normally insist on having home field advantage. Spending the holidays with your family should be life on Easy Street. You can avoid the crazy relatives, ignore the lazy ones and to keep the ones that just got out of prison for tax evasion away from your stock portfolio. Simple, right? Wrong. You know that being around your relatives during the holidays is a disaster waiting to happen—like inviting Bill Clinton to Rush Limbaugh’s surprise birthday party.
Your uncle James is going to have one too many light beers during the game and loudly ask when you’re going to get hitched to that nice girl Tabitha. Unfortunately, your present girlfriend’s name is Claire. While Claire tends to be easy going, she won’t like the fact that your uncle still thinks you should marry Tabby. That’s why I suggest that you let the lady have home field during the holidays.
When you’re on your lady’s turf, you’ll be the guy under the microscope for most of the visit. Now, of course her kinfolk are going to pepper you with questions about when you’re going to tie the knot, and now’s the perfect time to use the “Jedi mind trick” on her family. Pull one of her male relatives aside and ask him if your sweetie would possibly like to raise a family in the jungles of Borneo where there still might be head hunters. Let one of her nosey female relatives know that you’re a really big fan of marriage and that Utah is high on your list of places to relocate.
Trust me, after a few hours of talking about head hunters in Borneo and settling down in Utah, her family will pull her aside and warn her that you’re a bad seed. We all know that women love bad boys, and you’ve just gone from being a dull goody two shoes, into a dangerous rogue in 60 seconds flat. Welcome to the big leagues, my friend.
Now, all you need is a big slice of pumpkin pie and a glass of champagne to celebrate your victory and impending nuptials. What? You know there’s always a downside to using the Jedi mind trick during the holidays.
There are plenty of things I envy about couples. Aside from the obvious, romantic advantages, being part of a couple provides a few more practical aspects. A couple always has someone to spend a Sunday afternoon with; whereas we singles have to make it on our own. Couples have someone who can perform favors, such as picking you up when your car is in the shop, working out at the gym together or stopping by the store on the way to your house for necessities. Couples do countless things together that they surely take for granted. But I don’t envy them, not one little bit, when it comes to deciding where to spend the holidays.
My family rocks, especially during the holiday season! My brother is hilarious. My mom is a wonderful cook. Dad is the most generous person I know. My sister and brother-in-law love to laugh and are always up for a game. We have the sweetest dog in all the land. We also have a huge, beautiful kitchen that empties into the living room, and during the holiday season, we eat and drink by a roaring fire. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? I have been so spoiled, that I’ve never spent a holiday away from them. That’s because people want to come to OUR house.
This has always been true. After school, friends would be piled into our kitchen around a plate of baked goods, chatting with Mom. Naturally, the hospitable nature of the Wharton home carried over to the holidays. We have always welcomed other people at our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas; the more the merrier.
You hear horror stories of couples making the decision on where to spend these special times of year. I understand why. I would have a very hard time giving up one part of my family traditions for someone else’s, and I’m sure he would for mine.
There are a few reasonable solutions. A well-organized year-to-year plan is an effective way to keep everyone happy. Trade holidays. If I go to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving this year, that means he’s coming to my house for Christmas and vice versa the following year. It is not ideal, since you only get to celebrate the holiday with your family in your house every other year. Compromise, yes, but we’re talking about keeping families and couples together, so compromise is key.
Another option is trading both holidays year-to-year, but this seems so much harsher, especially if you don’t live near your family and wait to see them over the holidays each year. Again, compromise.
If you have children, use them as the excuse. “Oh, it is so hard to travel with little Johnny this time of year.” Play the worn-out parent card; they will come to you. The easiest thing is to make your home an inviting and viable option for your family so they will want to join you for the holidays. See paragraph two for details on that: roaring fire, tasty food, good wine, fun board games, funny brother. When you host, you are certainly giving up a lot of the more relaxed features of the holiday season you could experience as a guest. It is a lot of work (or at least it looks like a lot of work. Thanks Mom and Sis). The advantage here is that all of your family can come together—both sides. Food and wine have a wonderful way of doing that. Look into it. You can of course forego your traditional family celebrations and create one of your own. Plan an amazing trip. Throw a neighborhood party. Go camping. Do something that you want to do, and give up feeling that you HAVE to spend time with your families. I say this knowing that I will never be able to do this myself. Again, I refer back to paragraph two. But plenty of people who see their families on a regular basis use the holiday season as their vacation from normal life. By doing so, they don’t have to have the discussion about whose family they will spend the holidays with; they simply take themselves out of the equation.
I, for one, will be snuggled up with my family and dog, celebrating the year with a cup of nog. Best wishes to everyone for a peaceful and restful season.