Hot Topic: What’s Fair When Splitting Holidays with Family?

Couple Enjoying the Holidays Together
Photo: Photo: Thinkstock
Where should you spend the holidays? Every couple deals with this, even fights about it. Here's how these couples handle it, and decide where to go.

One of the first things I did when moving into a 940-square foot apartment more than 5 years ago with my then-boyfriend-now-husband was buy a large dining room table. “This space was made for entertaining!" I said. “Why do we have to have people over?" he said. The next year, we announced to both of our families that we were hosting Thanksgiving. Pretty much, I just started inviting everyone, getting them excited before my husband had a chance to stop it. (Women always find a way!) And host it we did — 20-plus people, including little kids running around. Was it chaotic? Yes! Was it cramped? Definitely! When you have a galley kitchen, and half the party is piling in there trying to talk to you while you're roasting the turkey, heating up sides, trying to coordinate with family members who are helping but also getting in the way, it's a complete circus. But was it wonderful? Totally!

Two more Thanksgiving celebrations later, and we're still doing it. And now, we're getting ready for our fourth Thanksgiving in our home this year. So why do we still do it? It's become our holiday, where we bring everyone together, because we split the rest of the holidays with each side of our family. It works for us. Tell us, what works for you?

Here, Nesties share how they handle the holidays:

My husband's parents live seven hours away and his sister four hours away. My family lives 15 minutes away. For the past three years, we have always driven down to his parent's house for Thanksgiving and have done Christmas here, but it's not a perfect solution. It's extremely difficult to travel every Thanksgiving and to not really get to do our own traditions on Thanksgiving and Christmas as a couple. But this year, we've secured the hosting spot for Christmas Eve, and we are SO EXCITED. We even went and bought a forever dining room table to hopefully help start the tradition.

[Remember] you're a married adult who can do whatever you (along with your spouse) want. If and only if I were happy to travel, I would alternate my holidays — Thanksgiving with my husband's family, Christmas with the opposite family, then next year, Christmas with my husband's family and Thanksgiving with the opposite family. But that would only happen if I didn't have children. Once children are involved, all bets are off.

My parents live far away and my S.O.'s family is in town here. We usually split Thanksgiving between the two sides of his family, and I usually go to my parents' home for Christmas alone, because my S.O. usually has to work. The one year I stayed in town for Christmas, we ended up running around trying to see everyone. I think we ended up going to four to five of his relatives' homes in an 8-hour timespan, and it was way too stressful for me. If I ever stayed in town again, I would put my foot down, and we would probably just host at our home for immediately family to avoid the stress. If we ever have children, we'd probably do this anyway. S.O. agrees.

This is really tough, but like other people have said, we eventually agreed what we wanted to do, and then told our family our plans and stuck to them. People grumble and complain, but at the end of the day, it's impossible to make everyone happy. We try to make things as “fair" as possible, but sometimes things just work out easier a certain way. We also have family far away, so we try to trade off who drives so the same person doesn't always feel put out.

My husband and I came up with a plan, stood firm and them communicated it to everyone before the holidays started. My family wasn't jazzed to not see me on Christmas morning, but they embraced the fact that I was growing up, and outwardly seemed happy that I was doing my own thing. It was the same with my husband's family. The hard part is coming up with something that works for you and your husband. Consider what's most important, and stand by your decision.

Well my in-laws live halfway across the country and my husband works retail, so seeing them for the holidays hasn't been an option since he transferred out here (before we even met). So now our the holidays are spent between us and my family. I remember when I told my family we wouldn't be there for Christmas Eve or Christmas morning anymore. My dad didn't like it and gave me a hard time, but I let him know it wasn't up for discussion, we were staying home and would see them later in the day.

This year, we decided that we would do one holiday with his family and one with mine. Next year, we'll rotate the holidays. I let my fiance decide which holiday to go where this year. He choice was Thanksgiving with his family and Christmas with mine. Both of our parents live an hour away from us, in different directions. We both refuse to split half the holiday one place and half another because we would spend more time traveling then enjoying our holiday. His mother has made it clear that something will have to change when we have children. I told her that we'll have to take it as it comes, because I refuse to make my children spend four hours in a car on Christmas (not happening!).

My husband and I have always done Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with my parents and Christmas and Easter with his. We always try to go the weekend before Thanksgiving to see his Nana who lives a town over. His other Grandma lives out of state, and I always send her a card for Thanksgiving. It doesn't take much to make a Grandma happy. We've also decided when we have kids if people want to see us on the holidays, they have to come to us.

For Thanksgiving we've had to go to my husband's parents' house first where they have tons of family over to eat and socialize. It's always a big get together for them. Then we end up being the first to leave to rush over to my parents' house to try to eat yet another Thanksgiving meal. At my parent's house, it's only my mother, father and younger brother. They don't have any family to come visit them besides me, so I would feel bad if I didn't see them. I just want to start our own family traditions without leaving my parents alone, but also not offending his family.

We have Thanksgiving at his family's for an early lunch and have a late dinner with my family, and then at Christmas, we have Christmas Eve at our house with my family and a Christmas Day luncheon at his family's. That way, our son gets to open up presents Christmas morning and enjoy them before we have to leave. My mother started the Christmas Eve tradition several years ago where we have appetizers, finger foods and dessert, so it's fun and super yummy.

We alternate between our families for Christmas. For Thanksgiving and other holidays, they usually celebrate on different days anyway, and we go to both.

We always have Thanksgiving at our house and both of our families come, so there is no issue there! For Christmas Eve, we go to my husbands family's house and then for Christmas, we go to my sister's house. It works out really well.

My advice is to see it as splitting your time not between two families, but three. You and your husband are a family, too, and the most important one. Look at a calendar and prioritize the holidays you want to spend with just the two of you, then fill in time with both sides. Also, remember that you don't have to celebrate on the specific day. You can have a second Thanksgiving a few days later and another Christmas one week before or even on New Year's.

My father always tell me that “fair" is a term used to describe the weather, nothing more. Work toward making your family (you and your husband) happy. It's never going to be perfect. Time will never be split 50/50 down the middle. Do what's best for you, and do not be afraid to adjust. My husband and I change our schedule almost every year. If we felt we should have gone and didn't, we apologize. If we went and felt it wasn't a good use of time the previous year, when the next year comes, we thank the host for the invitation and send our regrets. Try for happy, not fair or perfect.

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