How to Handle Christmas Eve/Christmas Day

Updated on November 04, 2013
A.W. asks from Peru, IA
17 answers

Hello! With holidays approaching me and my child's father are trying to figure out what to do with the holidays, really just Christmas, it's my year for Thanksgiving as he had her last year & we are doing every other year for that holiday. We do not have a formal custody agreement, we have our own set schedule that we've been following for the last 2 years, however because of how things have played out the past 2 years this is the first year we had to worry about Christmas. The first year we had just split so we spent it together & last year her father & his fiance were on vacation the whole Christmas holiday so I had her.

This year, I have her the weekend before Christmas, so right now what he wants to do is I will have her the 23rd & 24th, he would pick her up at 7 pm, and I would do Christmas sometime that weekend. He would have her the night of the 24th until that Saturday the 28th since it's his weekend. My fiance suggested splitting the day of Christmas so that way she gets to see us both on Christmas. The more & more I think about it, the more I agree with splitting the day of since we live so close (we are in the same metro area about a 15 minute drive to each others house). Also, I have to work on the 23rd & my fiance works both the 23rd & 24th this year (he works retail & he is guaranteed the 25th off & either the 24th or 26th but we don't know which day from year to year). If we did split Christmas I'd propose one of us having her Christmas Eve until 2 pm(?) Christmas Day, then Christmas Day until 2 pm on the 26th to resume normal schedule. Then switching that every other year. I don't think he will agree with this one because he wants to go to his family's for the day/weekend and they live 3 hours away. I just have no idea what to do. My daughter is 4 so she knows what's going on kind of. I wasn't sure if splitting the day of would be hard or not, we did it for Easter & she thought it was cool to get Easter baskets & Easter egg hunts at both houses. What are your schedules like or opinions on what I should do?

Sorry this is so long but thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for everyone's answers! We're going to leave it as is and have Santa bring presents on Christmas Eve. I'm worried that splitting Christmas day will be too much of a hassle/stress on everyone involved.

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answers from Washington DC on

I am just thinking of the child, and I can't imagine having to split the holiday like that. I think one of you needs to celebrate on the 24th and one on the 25th, but don't make the child bounce back and forth like that.

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answers from Cumberland on

I am exhausted just reading the combinations that are laced with the unknown. Choose, don't split, and then have that parent go over to the other parent's house on Christmas if need be.

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answers from Springfield on

I've read several responses about the need to celebrate on Christmas Day and how kids need to spend Christmas Day at home. Ridiculous. Christmas is what you make of it!

Growing up I was never at my own house on Christmas Day. We were always at Grandma's house. Always! And it was great! It was our tradition.

My parents asked Santa if he could please bring our presents a few days early. The presents would arrive while the evening before we left. We would all open our presents together. My brother and sister and I got to stay up as late as we wanted, while my mom went to bed super early and my dad packed up the car for our 7 hour drive to my grandmother's house. Then he would wake up my mom to drive and place 3 sleeping kids in the car. We slept for a few hours, stopped for breakfast and continued our drive to Grandma's. We were at Grandma's for 3 or 4 days, including Christmas. My aunt and uncle and cousins did this, as well. Our family is Catholic, so that means we go to Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. With 11 people staying in one house and another aunt and uncle and cousins living nearby, we had lots of choices for Mass times and went in groups of 3 or 4 or 7 of whatever. But it was part of our Christmas tradition.

Don't get too focused on the need to see her on Christmas Day. Rather, focus on having a special Christmas with her. It might be too soon to really know what your family's Christmas tradition will be. Our kids are 7 and 5 and our traditions are still forming. But we make sure we have some special time, just us, at our house. It might not be on Christmas Day, but why should that make it any less special for our kids?

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answers from Washington DC on

I'm sorry if I missed any details. First, I totally get not having your kid on Christmas is a bummer. But I also know that not being able to travel or include your kid in your side's events is also a bummer. With my stepkids, they have been to Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family once, and that makes me really sad. If we had them Christmas morning, their mom picked them up before we left for my side's events.

Christmas is an oddball for us because it is also my stepson's birthday. Many days we were watching the clock instead of relaxing. And if the other parent is early/late, that throws off the whole day. I would much rather have had a standard on/off like we do for Thanksgiving. Even as adults, they are here one year and there another. We never got Easter, as Spring Break was her custodial time. (Not doing anything with them on Easter was DH's choice as it is not as important a holiday to him.)

If you trade off years, then consider things like one parent gets Christmas Eve (maybe baking cookies to leave for Santa even if Santa knows to go to Mom's house this year) and one gets Christmas morning and swap at bedtime. Or have your own celebration later in the week. I love my in-laws for going "Okay, so...what day between December 22 and NYE works for everybody?" That way I get to actually ENJOY my in-laws vs rushing and I never have to miss my own family dinner.

My family events are 2-3 hours from here and my in-laws are fairly local. If you know that he will want to travel, then splitting the day will be harder in the long term. See above about my stepkids ultimately missing out on my family's traditions. You mentioned that he has a fiancee, so there may be more kids in the future and on/off will be easier as a family (same would apply if you remarry).

It sounds like you would like to split this year and then go to an on/off schedule. I would ask him to consider this as a transitional year. I would also look at the holidays and try to do back and forth. If you you miss Christmas, you get Easter. That way you aren't missing ALL the holidays one year. Just some of them. For things like Easter, there are often community events around the day, but not on it. On years you do not have her with you, do something in advance. My DD did 2 egg hunts this year, and then on Easter Sunday we were focused on church and Nana's house.

I give you a lot of credit for wanting to do the right thing by your kid and working with her father. It won't ever be entirely "fair" but you can get a close approximation. And down the road, if there is a standard in place, the kids will not fret who is going where. They will just know, and you can all have a better time.

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answers from New York on

Splitting holidays is very stressful for everyone involved. I'd say you should alternate holidays between you and your daughter's father so that the parent in custody will be able to enjoy the day without worrying about wrapping things up in time to trade off your daughter. Let her father had Christmas since you had it last year. Santa can leave things at your house which she'll find when she comes home or you can make sure she knows that Santa is going to her father's house because that's where she is.

Not having a formal agreement is hard because you are basically making it up as you go. If you aren't going to have a formal agreement then please sit down and discuss this kind of stuff so that every situation isn't a major 'oh my god we need to figure this out' thing.

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answers from Chicago on

I would ask if he can pick her up on Christmas morning at your house . You can all have a quick brunch and she can open her Santa gifts in front of you both . This way you all get to be in on the magic of the day . If you are all not on speaking terms to do this , just ask if he can pick her up that morning so she can have her Santa gifts from you before she goes . I don't think leaving the night of the 24th is really fair to you or your daughter . Maybe you could offer to let him see her part of the day on Thanksgiving . Try to figure out what will be fun and fair for everyone , especially your daughter :0)

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I think dad should go ahead and have her. He should get to do Santa with her too. It's not just about you getting to do Santa for her by keeping her that one more night.

You have her every night and will get your Christmas before on the weekend. Let him have Santa this year. When she comes home you can tell her Santa left her something under the tree.

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answers from Anchorage on

He had Thanksgiving lasts year and you had Christmas, it seems only fair to do a trade and you have Thanksgiving this year, and he gets Christmas. Splitting the day just makes it stressful for the child. You will be off on Christmas Eve, and there is still time for your husband to see if he can get the day off, or go in late or come home early. It is the fathers turn this year to have the actual day. He is fully right to want to be able to share the day with both his daughter and his family, you can have her again next year.

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answers from Austin on

Santa can always come early...

We did that many times when our children were small.... we wanted to spend Christmas with our parents, so we had Santa "come early", then we drove (6 hours) to be with either my parents or hubby's parents for Christmas itself....

(Sometimes we spent Christmas morning with one family, then drove 3-4 hours to the other family that afternoon.)

Santa came early so the kids could get a bit of time with THEIR presents, too.

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answers from Dover on

I have to say that as a child who had to leave her home Christmas Day for a week every year, I hated it.

As a parent who had to split Christmas Day with my ex, I was glad to always see my son on Christmas (I had him 99.9% of the time anyway so why shouldn't I get to spend time with him on Christmas Day?). I hated that he had to leave but that is just the way it was. But let me add that the 1st year that his dad didn't get him on Christmas and we were able to stay home and enjoy each other and our presents, my son said he was glad and wished we could always do that.

That said, I would probably still split Christmas if you can. Just tell your ex that you have to work the 23 & 24 so while you aren't saying you can't have her, it will not be your Christmas time with her. Maybe agree to celebrating Christmas Eve in the evening so you can wake up Christmas morning and spend time together. and have Christmas breakfast (rather than Christmas Dinner) together..maybe agree to him picking up around 11 am or 12 pm...2pm is awful late.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

What would be best for your daughter? We have a joint custody arrangement and we are technically supposed to rotate big holidays. As my daughter got older she began requesting to see both families on the same day so we make that work. My daughter will spend Christmas Eve at one house and Christmas morning she is at the other house by 10 am still in P.J.s

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answers from Washington DC on

i would think more about setting up a nice custom that will allow her to anticipate her christmas routine and give her lovely memories than who gets to have her. i think switching every year on top of the frantic running between households that is inevitable is putting a lot of stress on her, not to mention you.
your idea of a quiet christmas eve and morning before moving onto the next household is the best one. just decide who will do it and stick with it.

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answers from Boston on

I think the wrench in your plan is the travel to spend time with his family, which is important. Find out what his options are for that - if he can wait until the 26th to do that, then a split on Christmas days sounds possible. If his plan was to drive to his family's house on Christmas Eve and spend the next few days with his family, you may have to let that happen this year (because you had her last year the whole time) and then come up with a more formal plan going forward.

FWIW, we never spend Christmas day at home the whole day. We host Christmas Eve at my house (parents and siblings) and then the next day, go to my parents' house 45 minutes away at around noon for dinner (same crowd as the night before plus some aunts and uncles) and then drive an hour to my aunts house and see my dad's side of the family for dessert. It's a long day but my kids enjoy seeing so much family the same day. My in-laws are Jewish so we don't have to worry about that side of the family.

That said, before my SD lived with us, we had several years where we split Thanksgiving in the middle of the day and it sucked. Basically my husband and she never got to sit down and eat a full dinner that day. So when that got old, they did every other year.

If you can engineer a hand off during the day that is in between meal times and isn't a hardship on anyone, then great. If you can't though, think of Christmas as the full season that it is and be more flexible with who celebrates with your daughter and when.

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answers from Houston on

If you and your ex decided on alternating years (good idea, by the way) and it works for you, your current beau's suggestion should be greeted with a sweet kiss on the cheek plus "Thanks, but we've got this." If her parents are fine with splitting things up like so, then he should have no complaints. Sorry, but he doesn't get to decide that she should see both parents on the day of. You guys will see her on Chrsitmas Eve, right? That's good enough. If he wants to spend more time with her, then he needs to make the most of when she'll be there.

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answers from Grand Forks on

I think it is important that your ex and your daughter be able to spend that time with the family at Christmas. How about she stays with you Christmas Eve and he picks her up on Christmas morning to drive to see the family? You can do a traditional Christmas Eve dinner with her and open some gifts, then she can see what Santa left in the morning.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I would definitely split Christmas. This way you both get to have her.
You can flip flop Christmas Eve every other year but for Christmas day I
would split the day.
You can do the 2pm & flip it every year if you want so each parent has the child Christmas Eve to have her wake up Christmas morning.
Flip flopping every year makes it fair. Best of luck to all of you!


answers from Houston on

My son is an adult. I'm flying him to come visit. The tickets are way higher for the week of Christmas. He suggested flying the next week. I told him, no. It would not be the same for me.

That said, split Christmas. Christmas Day is special to me.

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