Fast-forward. I'm 66 and the only one left of my family, sister, brothers, mother, aunts, uncles, all gone. I have great memories, disasters to triumphs, and I miss all of it.
I did this for 20 years, hosting 40 or more people every year, while raising my kids and working an extremely demanding job. I was exhausted, began to dread and HATE Christmas, and when I asked for help, I got excuses instead. One year, I asked people to do a few things that would help with cleanup, such as bringing food contributions in disposable containers. I received all sorts of complaints and negative comments.
So: the next year I quit. I sent out a message in the fall saying: "Twenty years has been a good run, and we have many happy memories, but I have finally become too old and tired to continue. It is time for one of the [30- to 40-something] 'kids' to take over. There is plenty of time to plan, and I am happy to contribute."
It was like a nuclear bomb went off in our family! I was pressured, reviled, blamed, scorned. Despite the fact that one of my nieces hosted a party — half as big as mine, but still major, bless her — my sister stayed home that Christmas and cried. She made sure everyone knew this.
Interestingly, my niece did this for three years, then begged off "because it was too much work."
— Old & Exhausted
I am the host of my husband's family for all holidays and get-togethers for 35-plus years. Hosting means working hard before, during and after every holiday. It means spending hundreds of dollars on food, wine, beverages. It means organizing ahead of time for people to bring side dishes.
Unfortunately, many family members do grasp what that means. They help in the kitchen for 10 minutes and feel that is good enough. Many have never helped. I make sure they know there will be 20-plus people and they bring a side dish for six. One family member who is quite wealthy walks in with a package of rolls and thinks that is fine.
A couple of years ago, I decided to host my few family members instead and got indignation for not letting everyone on my husband's side know sooner. One time a sister-in-law brought her mother, and this woman decided to include her entire family at my house. I got a lot of fury for expressing that such a big crowd was too hard on me. I could go on and on.
Let me finish with this. When you go to someone's house for a big holiday meal, help in the kitchen, help with the setup and the takedown, and bring a bottle of whatever you like to drink and a side dish that will feed the necessary number. Understand when they have to stop hosting because they want a relaxed holiday for once.
— Oregon Host
May I suggest that those who wish to drop a holiday tradition of a family meal be sensitive to this situation? Please suggest an option such as a meal or other gathering before or after the holidays. Or make your holiday gift an activity that provides the recipient with something thoughtful that reminds them they are loved — supplies for a hobby; a delivered special meal; a holiday concert — or at least, something more than a greeting card with only a signature.
— Struck a Chord
Starting new traditions is easier and a lot more fun than your reader may think. If you have the resources, experiencing Christmas in another culture can put the ridiculous pressure and materialism of a traditional American Christmas into hilarious perspective. Even just a visit to different area of this country can put your own expectations and those you put on other folks into clearer focus. Take a year off and relax.
My mom passed away on Christmas Day two years ago. She was our North Star and holidays revolved around her. We're still in a bit of a scramble to figure out how to celebrate holidays, but we've approached it as a time to try new things. On Thanksgiving morning, I organize a team to do a local Turkey Trot that benefits the homeless. If I don't see my sisters that day, we plan a gathering for another time. While traditions are hard to change, the focus is on getting together, no matter what day or the reason.