Twas 3 Months Before Christmas . . .

Updated on September 27, 2017
M.6. asks from Woodbridge, NJ
11 answers

For the last 25 years, I have held Christmas Eve at my home. This tradition was passed to me by my mother, who held it for the 25+ years prior to that. I have 6 kids - ages 16 - 30 and the only real change that I have made in the last 25 years is if Christmas Eve falls (like this year) on a Monday or a Tuesday, then we do the event on Sat/Sun, instead of Sun/Mon or Mon/Tues. We made this change because that allowed kids who were traveling in from out of state to do so with some flexibility with driving and plane schedules. Also, there is an event held on Christmas day that some family members attend and if there is room to give an extra day of breathing in between my event and that one, I try to accommodate that. The only other changes that I have made over the years is that my mom's event was really small. When we had less kids and a bigger house, I extended the invite to extended family some years. As our family grew (and got married/engaged/boyfriends/had kids of their own) and our house got smaller when we moved 10 years ago, I didn't extend those invites as often. One of my brother's abused that and continued to come without being invited. Several years ago, he was very rude in my home and since then there have been a number of issues that made me decide that I didn't have to invite him this year into my home (for Christmas or any other reason).

This year, my oldest daughter decided that we should have Christmas somewhere else - namely this same brother's house. She says that I have been "controlling Christmas for years" and that this should be a democracy. I honestly don't understand. No one ever offered or even could have hosted any other year (including my brother - he got married this year and bought a house so in theory he could now). This is the 1st year that one of my other daughters could consider hosting as she moved this summer into her first home large enough. The oldest daughter who is throwing the fit can't host as she lives very far away (and siblings couldn't afford to travel there) AND she wouldn't want to host even if she could. My 3rd and 4th kids, both 20 are in the military (one serving overseas and one being deployed shortly). My 5th and 6th kids are both disabled. I don't see how I am "controlling" Christmas. I never even thought to have some kind of "vote" on where to have Christmas as we have done it here for years AND even if it was time to pass it along, it would go to my 2nd oldest daughter, not my brother.

Anyways, my oldest is calling the other kids (mostly daughter 2 and 3) and kind of rallying the troops about moving Christmas to my brothers. After giving it some thought, I've decided that regardless, I am having a Christmas here. My dad is in a nursing home a few blocks away and no one will see him if I don't hold Christmas here. My 20 yr old son overseas may get to come home for Christmas for the 1st time in a year and will want to have Christmas at "home".

My plan is to hold Christmas and tell the kids - "I get it - folks have to make some tough decisions as families get bigger about where they spend Christmas. I am having our regular Christmas celebration and if you can come, that would be awesome, but if you can't this year, we can find a time to spend together after Christmas to celebrate if needed."

My oldest daughter basically went bonkers when she read this (in our family event calendar) and is trying to get all the kids who can boycott it, to do so.

Although their is no "right or wrong" answer here, am I asking too much to simply just allow the kids to make the decision that is right for them? I have to admit the thought of not having my 6 kids together at Christmas is crushing my heart, but I cannot see having it at my brother's, not only because I simply cannot stand him, but to allow my oldest to manipulate this situation to the degree that she has doesn't seem healthy. Right now, I feel like just not getting angry or pushing/guilting folks into deciding is the right path, but maybe not.


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answers from Oklahoma City on

I would say the invitation you planned is fine. If they can't, or don't want to, come then they are the ones missing out.

I do have to be honest though, family Christmases like you've had previously aren't really going to continue. It's sad but people just want to stay home and have their own traditions with their kids nowadays.

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answers from Boston on

Sounds like your daughter wants to tell you you're not in charge anymore - but she doesn't want the responsibility either. So she's dumping on your brother, who may or may not want to do it.

So the best thing to do with people who don't like how you do things is to let them do it their way. That doesn't mean you have to decide now about going to your brother's, or even that you have to announce that you won't go at all. Take your event off the family calendar, even if in your heart you know that you are skipping your brother's but having your dad over and keeping the 2 disabled kids comfortable. There doesn't have to be an argument about it. Your daughter (I'll call her Nancy") wants to do it? You say, "Great! Have at it!" If it goes well, whether your attend or not, more power to her. If they hate it and start to appreciate all that you do, and realize that "control" is how you pull off a big event, then maybe they'll think of you with more appreciate and respect. You can't control them - only yourself.

Now here comes the hard part especially for someone like you (and like me) who is the big organizer type. When someone asks you what's going on, you say, "I have no idea. Nancy is organizing something I think, so ask her." Nothing more. And do this every time. If someone asks you if you're going, you say, "I have no idea. I haven't heard a thing about a date/time. And I haven't seen an invitation. Nancy is organizing it, so ask her." Period. If they are if you are bringing the ham or the dip or the folding chairs or the Christmas plates, you say, "I have no idea. Someone else is planning it." Every time. Do not waver. Say it somewhat cheerfully, with no resentment (even though I understand why you feel it), and do not include your daughter in your feelings about your brother anymore. If you're pressed, say, "Oh goodness, that's 3 months away! I don't know what I'm doing tomorrow!" But be sure you don't say, "Oh, it's at my brother's house" because that makes you complicit in pressuring him, and you don't want to do that - especially because it may give your daughter the ammunition to call you controlling even if it's not at your house.

If your deployed kids want to know what you're doing, you say truthfully, "I'm not sure yet. I have to figure out Grandpa in the nursing home and your 2 siblings who don't travel well. But Dad and I will figure that out when we see how everyone is doing in December, so you just go ahead and do whatever would make you happy." Try to say that with no edge to your voice, which will be hard. Those kids who want to go to Uncle's house with "Nancy" can do so, and those who want to come to you can do so. Some may do both.

In your heart, you know you're having Christmas dinner in your own home, and it's okay to change the tradition with all the upheaval in your life. There are new circumstances now that your mother didn't have for 25 years, and that you didn't have for the first part of your 25 years. Maybe one big huge event isn't the only way to go, you know?

It might be good to figure out what your daughter is so angry about. Maybe because she thinks this is going to be HER job for the next 25 years and she doesn't want to do it?

FWIW I have a brother I barely speak to, and my husband has a daughter who has never been to our house at Thanksgiving (despite living 30 minutes away) for over 20 years. Sometimes we just have Thanksgiving with us 2 and our son, and it's okay. My son has a girlfriend whose family lives far away, and I'm preparing for the reality that sometimes our adult children have to divide their holidays. I may invite a friend this year who just lost her dad and who barely speaks to her sister. I'll enjoy creating new holiday traditions where others are no longer feasible.

Good luck. Try not to stress about it too much. Just let it be.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Times change - roll with it.
25 years is a long time - and traditions need to change as the kids age and have families of their own.
Our family hates traveling during any holiday and our tradition is to stay home, enjoy baking and lounging in our pajamas watching 'It's a Wonderful Life", etc, and making phone calls to people we want to 'visit' who are far away.
Compared to all the stress and hoops other families jump through - our holidays are extremely blissful and there is no such thing as 'it ain't Christmas till somebody cries' in our house.
When I first heard that it just totally blew me away that people actually desire their holidays to work like that.

You can do variations on a theme to change things up or you can throw the whole kit and kaboodle out the window and travel someplace special for your holiday.
Whether it's a warm sunny beach or a rustic cabin in the mountains or a ski resort or seeing a city you've always wanted to explore - you can celebrate any way you want any where you want and leave everyone else to figure out their own holidays.
You don't have to do it every year but it's nice to switch things up every so often.

If your oldest wants to do her own thing - let her have at it.
It's not a competition - although she seems to want to make it into one.
Other family members can pick sides or do their own thing.
What ever you do - just make sure that YOU enjoy it.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

Reach out to your daughter who is upset. Don't confront her. Don't get upset. Just listen. You need to find out why she's responding this way.

Don't do anything until you talk to her. If you want to have Christmas, don't do it at the same time as your brother. Don't compete. You can do your thing, but don't make anyone choose.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Sounds like a lot of drama. If you are inclined, you can try to find out why your daughter is throwing around allegations of you being controlling and trying to create a holiday revolution in protest. Or you can ignore the drama.

As far as the holiday itself, I would stick to the line of each person/family unit needs to make decisions which fit them best. No guilt trips needed. Do what needs to be done and let's all have a good time. Gatherings can be had all year and sometimes getting together without holiday stress works best.

My mother passed the Thanksgiving tradition to me. For three years I hosted at my house. The first year was fine; the second year was not so good with lots of low level grumbling and tons of sniping. The third year was painful and I overheard members of my family outright complaining about my hosting the event. It hurt my heart to hear their complaints but after talking it over with my husband, I decided to let it go. The next year well in advance I told everyone we should all do our own thing. There were financial reasons and extended family issues which made this arrangement best suited for all. I took the opportunity to host the holiday how my immediate family wanted it done; we cook what we want and do what we want and the hoopla is ratcheted way back. I wish I had done it when the grumblings had first started. Holidays are meant to be joyful and if for whatever reason they are not, then it is time for change.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

I have a similar problem pretty much every year. My parents who live an hour away want us to be with them for Christmas. My husbands parents who live 10 minutes away from us want us with them. I told my family we are staying home for Christmas. Our son has 2 weeks off for Christmas break. If people want to come to us during Christmas, great. If not we will visit sometime during my sons vacation from school.

Your kids are getting older. You guys don't have to all be together on Christmas eve or day. Don't be bitter about this. I feel like Christmas brings out the worst in people sometimes. Go with the flow. If its easier for you to stay home with your 2 disabled children - then stay home. Don't make their lives more crazy by trying to please everyone.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

If memory serves me, this is the difficult brother whose wedding you weren't even sure you wanted to go to, right?

So does your brother even want to host Christmas? If it were me, and I'd just gotten married, I'm not sure I'd want your entire family showing up there any how - I think once you're grown, you don't necessarily include aunts and uncles in your plans, do you?

I know my husband's family likes to - and my kids have zero interest. They don't want to spend Christmas day with people they hardly know.

To me, just the way you've written this, it sounds like there's a much bigger issue going on - your daughter (eldest) seems to just be making a point about your parenting or personality here. I just think she's challenging you for the hell of it. What's that about? I'd just focus on that and ask her what her concern is. This controlling nature she's hinting at - is this related to something else? I don't get the democracy thing either. In our family (my side), one family members invites everyone to join the holidays (the day after, never the day - that's reserved for her family only - as I feel it should be) and we go, or we don't - depending on what we are doing with our families.

I agree with you - walk away from it. She has an issue, you do not. It's her beef. Let her stew for a bit. Just stay clear of it. That's what I would do.

*Added: In short, it sounds like drama at this point. Is she known for drama?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you should let it go. Really, I do. Let him host. Go to the party. See everyone and have fun. I think you should also plan to have your dad over for dinner, since he won't be able to go to the party. Plan that for a different time, and let your kids know "Hey, since grandpap won't be able to go to the Christmas Eve party, I'm going to have him over for dinner on Christmas Day at 5PM" or whatever. Don't make people choose.

Since you sometimes don't have your event on Christmas eve, you could even move your dinner with your dad. If your brother is having his party on Christmas eve, you could have dinner with your dad (and whoever else wants to come) on Saturday or Sunday before - you've done that before, so there is precedent there. Or if your brother is doing the Saturday before, then you have dinner on Christmas eve. As long as you 1) make sure your dinner doesn't overlap with the one at your brothers and 2) you go to your brother's home to make it clear that you aren't choosing, and you are not making others choose between the events either, then I don't see why it's a problem.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I don't know, maybe you should let it go this year. Is it worth so much fighting about? It seems to me your oldest daughter is the one acting as controlling, so why not let her. Does your oldest daughter understand the strained relationship dynamic between you and your brother? And why isn't it your brother the one extending the invite? It just seems weird to me that your daughter is the one trying to rally family members to attend an event that hasn't even been planned by the host, or has it? But maybe she and others miss some of the extended family that they get along with, so that's fair to try and change it up a little, especially if you won't invite them (which is understandable too) I think your plan to still have a Christmas celebration at your home, even if it is smaller is fine. It makes sense that you would want to not have your dad be alone. And if your 5th and 6th children are disabled, I can understand travel being difficult. I'm not sure what your oldest wants you to do. Let everyone make their own decisions, stay out of the drama. Keep taking the high road, and enjoy your smaller and peaceful gathering this year.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

It might be time to make a new tradition of your immediate family and dad for Christmas. Holding a tradition for 25 years is a long time.

Family dynamics change as you see you now have two active duty who may or may not make it home. Your younger sons have disabilities that you need to tend to. Your father is not going to be here forever and you should enjoy your time with him. Your older two daughters might feel it is time to switch things up. Your brother who caused drama in the past is now married and trying to maybe may amends for his actions. These are all hypothetical conclusions as to why things may need to change.

Yes, your mom did it and passed the torch to you. It may be time to pass it to another family member. Just think of it this way, you don't have to go through all of the hoops and hurdles and cleaning and cooking as in the past. Have a simple meal, give out a few gifts, enjoy each other's company and call it a day.

Your family is growing up and they will make their own way(s). Time to start a hobby or something for you and not worry so much about the adult children who do not live at home. It's your time now.

the other S.

PS I would have been done a while back with all the drama. Life is too short so make the best of it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I think it's just a day. These are adults you are talking about and they can have Christmas at their houses some years. I think you are taking it too personally. I think you should take a deep breath and let this go. You can either choose to spend that day with everyone or you can choose to spend it at home. You can always celebrate more than one Christmas...that is what we do. You can celebrate with your dad in the nursing home a couple days before or after. Or you can join in with everyone wherever they plan on meeting. I would call each adult child and say, "I'm so sorry if I came off as controlling about Christmas. I didn't mean to. You guys are adults and of course you can make your own plans." I would never expect my kids to spend the holiday with me every year when they are's too complicated. We have to split our year with my mom, one year with my dad and stepmom, one year with my husband's family, and one year at home (which is SOOO much easier bc we don't have to fly somewhere with kids). Some years I want to visit my elderly grandpa who lives on the other side of the country. One year we spent it with my two stepsisters. One year we went to Hawaii. So, you sound like you have had it a lot easier all these years always getting to hold it at your own home. PS - If it were me I would probably want to be with the group because I'd want us all to be together more than staying home and I would plan a celebration with dad before or after. PPS - I would be happy to let my oldest kid take over the organization some years...switch it up!