It’s possible to enjoy the holiday season without the “perfect” family


A.N.: Before we begin, please know I will be swearing quite a lot and I will abuse the ™ symbol in this post.

I’ve been very open about my relationships with certain family members, but the truth is, my entire family is very much, in every sense, not the “perfect” family. After years of feeling sad, angry, furious, ambivalent, and stressed, I can now radically accept this unalterable fact.

First, I’d like to say that you don’t need that picture-perfect family bullshit. It’s all a lie. We all have our problems, our weirdness, our tragedies. We are living, breathing fuck-up machines – and, fucking amazing creatures. Do you really want that nuclear family shit? No, you don’t; it’s inequitable and a damn myth.

Since I officially moved out of my parents’ house, I became more relaxed, but still indignant and embarrassed. Now, I see the truth: my immediate family has never even tried to appear normal…

So, why did I want them to be “normal” so badly?

That’s a whole other story, but it was definitely because of the Myth of the Nuclear Family™. We celebrate Christmas like millions of other families, but I was constantly resentful of the fact that we didn’t have “what everyone else has.”

I don’t want what everyone else has. I want to continue having what I have: an understanding and patience for my parents and brothers I didn’t have before that leaves us all at peace (especially since I also limit contact). But I do still have these Feelings of Inadequacy around Christmas™... know – the kind where you wish your parents’ house was huge, had updated electrical wiring, wasn’t in a shitty area, and could accommodate a “real” dining room table. The kind where you wish that the best Christmas you ever had wasn’t a Social Services Miracle™. The kind where you don’t feel sad about your friends being too busy to hang out because they have better relationships with their families. The kind where you don’t resent your significant other for having a “normal family” and you dread spending Christmas with their family, mostly because you know they won’t say it, but they do feel bad that you “don’t have a Proper Family.”

Fuck. Apparently, yes, I still hate holidays, despite all this personal growth. You know, a slow work in progress. I’ve tried a few things to get over it, but nothing helps as much as creating the holiday feeling that I want with the people I want.

This is what I’m doing to make the holiday season awesome: 

Eating the food I want: I’m gonna get Caribbean food. I’m gonna eat a giant curry goat dinner with extra oxtail gravy. I’m gonna enjoy the shit out of it. I’m also going to grab some Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough after I finish writing this. I had pizza last night and I’m still eating it today!

Throwing festive parties with friends: I’m having Festivus at my house this year – on December 22 instead of 23, because that’s when my friends are available. We’re gonna gather around and air our grievances and drink mimosas. We’re gonna do the same thing for New Year’s Eve. I’m gonna create my own good as hell Holiday Memories™ and take poorly-framed disposable camera photos of it all. Especially my extensive list of grievances (I wrote down 40, so far).

Nesting, so much nesting: My apartment is lovely and I am very proud of it. It has been decorated to my liking, there is no tree that my dog will eat, and there isn’t ANY fucking red or green plaid, nor buffalo check, nor anything else that I find tacky and Christmas™. It’s all cozy and Elizabeth™ here. I’m also not gonna be commuting to Christmas things, which is a bonus.

Have the Christmas Morning™ I want: I am gonna have a mimosa (I’m obsessed) and I’m not gonna feel bad about it. No matter where I end up. And I’m gonna wake up when I wake up. I’ll probably also have 2 cups of tea and an espresso.

Accepting leftovers: I may not want to go to Christmas Dinner, but my mom will call me on Boxing Day and will insist I come over and take a bunch of food. I will comply. Especially because I’m broke right now and haven’t felt like cooking for myself. And I would rather see my family without it feeling obligatory.

Sitting at a bar and writing or whatever: Because I’ll likely be alone on Christmas Eve and my favourite place is likely open!

Buy myself presents, give my dog gifts: I’ve been doing this all of December, so…I’m putting this one to rest.

Appreciate the uniqueness of my situation: My entire childhood, I couldn't WAIT to never have to do the Christmas things I was forced to do, and now I don’t have to do any of them if I don’t want to! Or, I could do all of them if I wanted! I can choose what I want to do at this point in my life, and it is a beautiful feeling!

Do some traditional Christmas things that make me feel good: Truth be told, I really mourn my grandparents at this time of year and that’s why I can be a bit of…ugh, a Grinch. As I write this, I’m wearing my grandpa’s old cardigan and I’ve been listening to the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. I miss the backyard hockey rinks and the real tree with the 50-year-old decorations. But I love the memories and traditions their lives gave me, and I can re-create them to fit into my own, untraditional life. Some now, some later on.  

So, even though I have made myself cry with that last one, I’m having a pretty good time. If you have a similar history with holidays, you should know you’re not alone…and that it’s possible to have a comforting holiday season with yourself, in your own way, focused on your own joy.