Muse. Ramble. Rant. Repeat



Fra-gee-lay

Ah Christmas. That warm and fuzzy time of the year where families magically get along and everyone sings “Fah who for-aze!”* while holding hands around a giant Christmas tree. Heh.

Despite my intense commercial conditioning, I am not the biggest fan of Christmas. In fact, I’m Scrooge, Grinch and Oogie Boogie* all rolled into one for one simple reason:

Family obligation kills me and aggravates my drinking problem.

 No other time of year has such expectations to be family centric. No one bitches you out if you can’t spend Easter with them. No one holds grudges about forgetting to give them a birthday present. But at Christmas? To do anything less than cheery, happy and holy is to slap your family in the face. It holds a lot of stress for me. Trying to run around between the various families, making sure everyone has a gift, everyone gets a visit; the appropriate Christmas cards get mailed out on time and to the right people. Make sure you see every friend who comes home, only a Christmas, for the various social functions. I would prefer to not join in. However, like all Christmas villains, despite my stubborn attempts to boycott the holiday every year, I get sucked in. Sitting out and counting my saved money doesn’t seem to be a socially acceptable option. Saturday night I hung out with LRB’s family and decorated a Christmas tree until I broke out into hives because I’m allergic to pine trees. Next weekend I will host a giant Christmas theme party for all my friends who come home from far away. I will attend at least three work related festive parties and drink gross cocktail concoctions made with eggnog. We will also (informally) host Tib’s** Eve as we do every year. Then we have the actual Christmas events, which usually involve a family dinner at my house Christmas Eve, Christmas morning at my sisters, Christmas dinner at CJ’s parents, and weather depending trips to visit the grandparents who happen to live on the opposite sides of this province. Despite a hectic schedule, CJ and I’ve always managed to balance everyone. Until this year.

This year my parents decided to take Christmas to another level and have rented an inn in Small Town, Nova Scotia where my grandmother/extended family lives and we will spend three days cramped (ok, cramped is excessive, it’s a 9 room inn with private bathrooms for each room) together in a town with an ill stocked liquor store… errr…. celebrating family togetherness. It’s a big deal and one that I agreed to last year when my parents asked, knowing I would forget and would agree to anything so far off in the future. Of course this means we won’t see CJ’s parents on Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day, or Boxing Day. Something I told him he needed to tell his mother a month ago but that he’s neglected to do… until last night.

Last night we had dinner with his parents. At some point, the conversation shifted to Christmas. CJ and I danced around it – he hadn’t told her yet and I did not want to be the one to do so. It’s not my job to tell her I’m stealing her son away to spend time with my family. She asks if we have our Christmas decorations up, I tell her we don’t. That since we don’t spend Christmas at our place we don’t see the point; she asks if my parents have put theirs up yet – I nudge CJ with my foot under the table. She smiles at me and expects an answer. I tell her no, that they aren’t putting them up this year since we are going away. I forcibly kick CJ under the table. He starts with a stutter:

“ Um, ah, yah, um, we’re going with Martina’s parents to spend Christmas in small town, Nova Scotia – they rented out an inn so everyone in the family can stay together but it’s for 24 hours if that, we leave Christmas morning, well, actually we leave Christmas Eve morning but then we’re back Christmas night, well, actually Boxing Day night, actually probably the morning of the 27th, it’s a really quick trip the entire family is getting together, her grandmother*** is threatening that it’s her last Christmas… so yah.”

I pipe in helpfully that we did spend all of Christmas with CJ’s family last year because we knew this plan was in the works. But in reality, we spent Christmas Eve and morning with my family but I’m not going to mention that now. At this point CJ’s mother looks heartbroken. Tells us that it sounds like it will be a fun time and in the same breath tells CJ it will be his first Christmas not celebrating it with them. She then changes the subject.

And there it is. The first Christmas we’ve had to make a choice between families… and we choose mine. This simple little act of her being hurt that we chose my family over hers is exactly why I’m not a fan of Christmas. Family obligation kills me – any other time of the year it’s no big deal if we go away with my parents. We can choose to spend a week at CJ’s family cabin and my parents say nothing. But at Christmas… hurt feelings and a sense of being less abounds.

*If you don’t get these references, you are dead to me. Or I need to sit you down and force you to watch several Christmas movies. Also, since I couldn’t fit it in anywhere else: fra-gee-lay.

**Tib’s Eve (pronounced Tip’s Eve which comes out as Tipsy) is a Newfoundland holiday our Newfoundland friend brought to our attention five years ago. Celebrated on December 23rd, traditionally the night is an anything goes night, in our world that means we liquor ourselves up for the upcoming forced time with family. One year my mother could still smell the tequila on me on Christmas Day.

***My grandmother is 74 and in fantastic health, but my flair for the dramatic? I came by it honestly.

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