How To Plan Christmas In A Multigenerational, Multiblended Family Without Duels To The Death

How To Plan Christmas In A Multigenerational, Multiblended Family Without Duels To The Death

By Carrie Eckles

The bulk of my childhood was spent splitting Christmas day between the houses of both of my grandmothers’. For lunch, we would go to my dad’s mom’s (Ma’s) house; for supper, we would go to my mom’s mom’s (Grandmommy’s) house. And it was very evenly split like that until my mom’s mom lost her husband; then, both sides of the family consolidated Christmas at Ma’s house.

But then things got complicated.

My sister got married and had a kid in the same year my dad got divorced, remarried, and had a kid. Now, you’re probably thinking: “Well, that’s just adding two new families to the family stew.” No, it’s not, because my sister’s then-husband came with a mother, two grandmothers and a great-grandmother. So, he already had a lot of Christmases. My stepmother, like my sister and I, also came from a blended family. So, she had Christmases with both her mom’s people and her dad’s people. Essentially, our family just added FIVE Christmases to our repertoire.
And that’s when things actually got complicated.


This is how we enforce Christmas peace where I’m from

In the South, and maybe the rest of America has an equivalent, we have something Grandmommy likes to call “Mama Women”. These women are generally—but not necessarily—thickly-accented matriarchs who take control and utterly dominate Christmas. They always have Christmas dinner at the exact time every year, because the family has obviously done so since Jesus Christ Himself was born and how dare you insult the blood of Christ—and your family—by diverting from The Plan?
To further illustrate this, let me give you a scenario.


You moved to New York, because you just couldn’t take it anymore. Oops, your plane is snowed in, because it actually snows on Christmas up north. So, you call to tell your Mama Woman. “Mamaw, I’m snowed in,” you say. “How dare you?!” she replies. She then woefully laments that you are doing this on purpose. If she’s a tough cookie, she’ll say she’s having Christmas without you, and you’re no longer welcome. If she’s the more lovable sort, she’ll start crying and say Christmas is ruined. You, somehow, got yourself snowed in and ruined Christmas for your entire family, a population of people bigger than many of the villages in England. How dare you? You ruined Christmas for an entire village and you might be going to hell.


If your holiday gatherings look like this – maybe fewer rum balls?

We all know it’s not your fault, but this is how seriously Christmas is taken by Mama Women. So, what if you’re in a blended family and every sub-family and family branch has its own Mama Woman? Ideally, they would duke it out Mortal Kombat style and leave you out of it. That would be cool, but it’s not going to happen. Navigating these deadly waters is up to you, the weary Christmas explorer.

Here’s how you do it four steps:

1.) Prioritize.

Your blood family and your partner’s blood family come first. Divide the time and plan accordingly. Next, you move onto your respective stepfamilies. The stepfamily of your stepfamily is the lowest family priority—even if you love them, because they’re the most distantly related, and you really aren’t “obligated” the way you are to see your parents or your husband’s ancient great-grandma who makes wonderful dressing.


2.) Plan your “Friend Christmas” on a different day.

For many people, your friends are your family. And that’s well and good. But unless your friends are literally included in your family Christmas celebrations, schedule “Friend Christmas” on a different day, like Christmas Eve. My family is so big that Christmas Eve is usually booked by relatives and family friends, so my “Friend Christmas” is traditionally backed up to the 23rd. The upshot of this is three solid days of Christmas cheer. Feel free to weep now. (Whether joyously or sorrowfully is your own business.)


3.) Do NOT put your in-laws ahead of your own family. Explain to each side of the family that they are both equal in the hearts of you and your partner.

The worst mistake I see newlyweds make at Christmastime is putting their in-laws above their own family, either because they want to impress them or because they feel pressure from their spouse. Don’t let this be you. Stick with #3. Do what I say. It will save a lot of tears, eardrums, and wasted food because your aunt got so upset with you that she threw away Christmas dinner, and ruined the holiday for the rest of the family/village.


4.) Be where you say you’re going to be.

Wherever you are – that’s where you are! Don’t go wasting thought on wherever else you could be.


If you’ve followed the above steps, you will have narrowed down exactly where you’re going to be and what time you’ll be there on Christmas day. The final step? BE THERE. Don’t be late. Don’t beg off. Following through lets people know that they matter to you.

These simple rules have had to be untangled as the branches on my family tree knotted, snapped and were glued together.  I’m giving them to you, as a Christmas gift, in the hopes that your Christmas will be stress-free and devoid of Nana and Mawmaw duking it out ninja style. (Though that would still be really cool.)

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