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Carolyn Hax: Picking the day for a family Christmas


Dear Carolyn:

For two years, we have been celebrating Christmas on the Sunday before. It started when Daughter 1 couldn’t make it on Christmas and asked if she and her family could come the Sunday before. Daughter 2 said we should all be together and celebrate on that day.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

All the kids and their spouses have tons of fun and no one has to leave early to visit in-laws. It worked out fine — until last year. Daughter 2 had a baby and now wants to have Christmas on Christmas Day, no deviation. She refused to join us because she wants her son to have things the way she and her siblings grew up with.

All things change and cannot be the same forever. There is mega-arguing going on among a few kids about it so I got angry and canceled Christmas.

Of course, now I’m getting flak from my husband and the other kids because they feel it’s not fair to cancel our celebration just because Daughter 2 won’t attend. It’s about the fighting, that’s why I canceled.

Daughter 2 is a wonderful person but just can’t get it through her head that nothing ever stays the same. I thought that from last year to this, she would think things over and see the light, but no such luck. Her child will not know the difference of what day we celebrate, he’ll just remember all the fun with his aunts, uncles, grandma and grandpa. She won’t come to the celebration even if we offer to switch every year. I’m so very sad.

Looking forward to your help

I’d point out that Daughter 2 learned her stubborn ways from someone, but I’m afraid you’ll cancel your newspaper subscription.

I don’t doubt that the fighting among your kids got ugly, and I sympathize with your frustration. You had something that worked for everyone (once, but who’s counting), and you want to preserve that.

It’s just that in resorting to my way/highway tactics, you did exactly what you decry in your daughter. She wants her Christmas on Christmas or not at all, and you want your family together and merry the preceding Sunday or not at all.

Backing down is never easy, and two conditions make it even harder: certainty you’re right, and having made a big public stink about being right. You’ve got both. But, I suggest you back down anyway, if for no other reason than to show your inflexible daughter (and you?) what loving flexibility looks like.

Start by apologizing to everyone for losing your cool. Then, demonstrate leadership by explaining to all that from now on, you will schedule the gathering for the date that allows the most people to attend — be it the Sunday before or the day of or the week after.

When you relate this to Daughter 2, assure her she’ll always be welcome, always missed when she can’t make it, and always free to do what she thinks is best for her family.

Why include the last part when you don’t feel it (yet)? Because the traditions “she and her siblings grew up with” arose, presumably, when you and her father did what you thought was best for your family. Embrace all change, not just change that benefits you.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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