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The Christmas Family Drama

I honestly don’t know what to think of this submission to EHell.  It touches on 3, maybe 4, very hot button topics and therefore could be an elaborate troll job.   On the other hand, I’ve seen several real life family dramas that could be considered quite implausible if one did not know the people involved and personally watched the drama unfold.

This may be a little long to post . . . but it will feel rather nice to get it off my chest!

I’m an American, married to an Australian. We live in Australia. My husband’s family is wonderfully multi-cultural. One sister is married to a man whose father was South African and mother was Scottish. His younger brother is in a long-term relationship with a man who was born in Germany and raised in Canada. And then there’s his other sister, Jill, who is twelve years older than me and married to an Egyptian man, Mohamed. When Jill and Mohamed married, Mohamed was rather secular and did not practise Islam. They owned a dog, they lived together before they were married, he enjoyed bacon. But over the years, he has grown more and more observant, and, sadly, more and more intolerant and controlling. Mohamed tells Jill and their daughters what they can wear – Jill doesn’t have to cover her hair, but the two young girls must; and all of them must cover from the neck to the ankles and wear long-sleeved shirts that cover to the wrists. Their son, naturally, runs around in shorts and tank-tops.

Ever since he embraced religion, Mohamed has made Christmas difficult. Jill brings their family’s own Halal food to all gathering (Mohamed doesn’t trust that the food we prepare is Halal, even if we are careful to follow Halal rules in procuring and preparing it), but my mother- in-law, who would bend over backwards to avoid insulting a fly, would go out of her way to make Christmas as comfortable as possible for Mohamed. No ham. Minimal Christmas decorations, and certainly nothing religious. No Christmas music. Never mind that everyone else who was there, was Christian or at the very least tolerant of celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday. However, it was never quite enough for Mohamed. Eventually he decided that his children could not receive Christmas presents – that it was a violation of their religion to celebrate even the most secular aspects of the Christmas holiday. None of us agreed with this – After all, what is Christmas for if not spoiling the children? It also bothered us that while he had banned Christmas presents for his children, he did not specifically ask that he not receive any presents (and this is a man who absolutely relished opening up his presents). I told my mother-in-law that I would not be buying presents for him or for his wife, if I wasn’t allowed to buy them for their children. The next day my mother-in-law called me up to say that, although her children could not receive presents, Jill was expecting them, and did not think she should have to miss out on presents simply because her children couldn’t get any. I asked why they would even be attending, as the other children in the family would be receiving presents, and wouldn’t that be quite distressing to her children to have to sit and watch as their cousins opened presents? My mother -in-law told me that it was very important to Jill to spend Christmas together as a family.

By this time, spending Christmas together as a family, for her family meant this: No participating in any traditional Christmas activities. No eating any traditional Christmas food. And now, no opening any presents. At that time their children ranged in age from 1 to 7. I will never forget the heartache on the 7 year old’s face after she’d passed out presents to all of her cousins: “Oh, it looks like Santa has forgotten about me.”

My husband and I did not have any children of our own, and so we reluctantly went along with it. Year after year, we would see these people at Christmas. Year after year, I would put up with Mohamed praising Osama bin Laden and insulting the US government, voicing an opinion that 9/11 was an inside job put on by the US government to attack innocent Muslims, and pointedly ignoring me. If I looked him straight in the face and said, “Hello Mohamed” he would look right through me and not answer. His wife would excuse all of this as “It’s part of his religion.” But I have studied Islam extensively. I’ve visited many Muslim countries, including Egypt, where I got to know many Egyptian Muslims very well, as I was briefly attending college there. None of this has a basis in Islam.

The first year we had a child of our own, their son, who is autistic, reacted angrily to her receiving presents. I could not blame him – after all, in his 4 year old eyes, why was it fair that everyone else would get new toys and books and clothes, and he and his sisters alone would leave empty-handed? I wondered again what sort of mother would do that to her own children. I have an aunt who is Jehovah’s Witness, and she and her husband and their children never celebrated Christmas with us – they understood it was too difficult for their children, and so they would wait until a couple of days after Christmas to visit. But this – It was bad enough that she made her children sit there and watch while others opened their presents; but to insist on receiving presents herself, while her children went without, was beyond me.

A month before our daughter’s second Christmas, it all fell apart.

I had come to loathe Christmas. I had come to spend half the year stressing about being forced to spend the holiday with Mohamed, and his rudeness, and his unbridled love for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. This is a man who would say, quite loudly, to ensure that I heard (never mind that he would never address me correctly), that 9/11 was a blessing, because it had sent 2000 infidel Americans to hell, and so it didn’t matter that it was an inside job; anything that killed Americans was a cause to rejoice. My husband, knowing how much I dreaded this, offered to speak with his sister at an upcoming function. It was clear Mohamed did not enjoy being there; and truthfully, Jill was a much calmer, more relaxed person when he was gone. Would she consider coming with the children but leaving Mohamed at home? Before he spoke with her he spoke with his brother and sister and mother and father, to ensure they were all alright with this. They agreed – enthusiastically, actually; they thought it would be a much better Christmas without him there, too.

In the immediate aftermath of the conversation, he said it went well. Jill was receptive and understanding. She apologised for the very rude way her husband had treated me for the past decade, and said that of course she agreed that it would be best if he stayed home, as he clearly did not enjoy being there anyway. I thought it was too good to be true . . . And it was.

What followed was three weeks of nuclear annihilation. There were angry phone calls from Jill to her mother – and my mother-in-law’s reaction was to hang my husband out to dry. She lied. She disavowed all knowledge of the plan, and told Jill that of course my husband was in the wrong, and no doubt I had put him up to it; and that she loved having Mohamed for Christmas, and that the holiday was better with him there. To my husband, she admitted she was lying, but justified it by saying, “Mohamed is furious, and he’s telling Jill that if I don’t take her side, he’s going to move the entire family to Egypt.” I pointed out that all of her children could play that game – that, through my father- in-law, they all had the right to a British passport; and that through their respective spouses/partners they all had the right to at least one other passport – but that none of us were stooping to that level. She insisted she had to take Jill’s side. (I am open to the possibility she was telling Jill the truth and lying to us.) Jill would call my husband in tears, telling him how horrible he was. He would just hang up the phone. She would call other family members, and tell them how horrible he was, and they would call and tell him how horrible he was. He would calmly and rationally explain the situation – and remind them that they all knew what he was going to do, and gave vocal support for it – and hang up on them.

About a week before Christmas, my brother-in-law’s partner sent an e-mail to my husband and my husband’s two sisters with a link to a podcast about religious tolerance. Unfortunately, there was a long, rambling, and slightly pornographic e-mail conversation below this link, that was quite obviously a private conversation between him and one of his friends. Around the time he started to talk about how a certain construction crew had a certain sexual effect on him, the rest of us figured out it was a private correspondence that we weren’t meant to be reading, and we stopped. Jill, however, insisted on reading all of it, and found, in the middle of this back-and-forth about things they would like to do to the construction workers, a passage where this very nice, wonderful, albeit horny as hell man had said that I wanted nothing to do with Mohamed, and that my mother-in-law was a hypocritical bitch. Jill immediately called her mother and told her about this e-mail.

I want to make this clear: Jill’s mother (my mother-in- law) would never have seen this e-mail. She doesn’t use e-mail. She would have no way of knowing what her son’s partner had said, in what was obviously a personal and private correspondence, had Jill not told her about it. Jill deliberately hurt her mother and attempted to drive a wedge between her mother and her son’s partner. It took several phone calls and apologies on behalf of my brother-in- law’s partner to smooth things over. Meanwhile, it left me feeling even more animosity towards Jill, for violating his privacy and for deliberately attempting to hurt her mother. At one point Jill also called my husband to ask if it was true that I didn’t want anything to do with Mohamed. My husband said yes, it was; that he had been very rude to me over the years; and that he felt she had sacrificed too much of herself to be with him. She responded by telling my husband to F off – that he had no idea what a wonderful, kind, generous man her husband was, and that my husband and I could go to hell.

I am not sure if it’s a sign of our goodwill, or a sign of our complete and total idiocy, that at this stage we still thought we’d spend Christmas with the family. But, all of that changed a few days before Christmas, when Jill announced that her children had chicken pox. The doctor had urged them not to go out in public, because they were still contagious. The doctor had told them to go home, put the children to bed, and focus on getting them better. However, Christmas was just so very important to all of them – they wouldn’t think of missing it – and so instead they would be making an 8 hour round trip to spend Christmas with the family. And Mohamed, because he was such a wonderful man, would be going too, because he didn’t think it was fair for Jill to face her horrible, hostile family alone.

Jill does not believe in vaccinations. More accurately, she believes that vaccinations are responsible for her son’s autism, and so refused to vaccinate any of her children further. Jill is also a nurse, who is well versed in matters relating to the vaccination schedule and to the period of time it takes chicken pox to develop. All of this is relevant. Our daughter was 17 months old – one month shy of receiving the chicken pox vaccine, and there was no chance of getting her into a clinic for an early shot, anyway. We were due to take a trip to the US to visit my family and introduce our daughter to her American aunts, uncles, and cousins in 2 ½ weeks’ time – conveniently, once exposed to chicken pox, it takes between 2 and 3 weeks for the onset of the disease, and what sort of monster would expose a plane full of people to the chicken pox? This wasn’t the first time her children happened to get the worst possible disease in the lead-up to Christmas. When I was pregnant with my daughter, her daughter had rubella, but Jill insisted they all come, knowing full well I was in my first trimester of what was a surprise pregnancy. I had had no chance to get a booster MMR before falling pregnant, and had had my last booster some 25 years prior. Why I didn’t run screaming from that holiday gathering is beyond me. I was too afraid of appearing rude. But this time, I put my foot down: I was not going to spend Christmas with these people. I was not going to deliberately expose our daughter to illness, and cancel my first trip back to see my family in 2 years, all in the sake of family harmony.

When my husband told this to his mother, she told him I was ruining Christmas for everyone.

As it happened, my brother-in-law and his partner decided to sit that Christmas out, too, and we spent a lovely day together. The next year, our son was born on Christmas Eve. (When people commiserate with me about his birthday, I respond, “This child is my ‘Get out of Christmas with the in-laws’ card. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to travel on his birthday! Believe me, he’s getting anything he wants for his birthday.”) Things have never been the same between Jill and her family and my husband and our family – but I can’t say I miss it, the rudeness, the praise for Osama bin Laden, the anti-American conspiracies. (Apparently he told my father-in- law that the termites in his house were planted by the CIA, in a global attempt to take away Muslim wealth by damaging their homes.) And us? Well, our Christmases are relaxed, low-key affairs. We celebrate our son’s birthday, and make a point of not mentioning Christmas until bedtime, when we leave birthday cake out for Santa. We wake up to a rush of presents, followed by waffles for breakfast. We play with our toys, we splash around in the pool (after all, it’s Summer), we eat too much ice cream and laugh at the melted chocolates. For Christmas lunch, everyone chooses a favourite food, and we have a crazy smorgasboard – last year, it was a Thai soup, watermelon, lasagne, and crackers and hummus. After the kids go to bed, my husband and I relax in front of a schlock horror film. My mother in law has told me that she wishes they could spend Christmas with us, and that she misses being around happy children who are excited to see what Santa brought them; but she feels obliged to spend it with Jill. Of course, I’m open to the possibility she’s lying to us.

After that first Christmas away, my brother-in-law and his partner have continued going to the big family Christmases. Each year, my brother-in-law’s partner tells me how much he hates it, and how he wishes they weren’t going; but that it’s important to my brother-in-law, and so he goes to keep the peace. However, this year they will have their own child to consider . . . . My brother-in-law and his partner live half an hour from us; my husband’s parents live three hours from us and from them; Jill lives two hours in one direction; and their oldest sister (whose children are all grown now) lives two hours in the other direction. I refuse to host Christmas if Jill and her husband come; my brother-in-law’s partner feels the same, and refuses to even let them in his house. Will the pull of three children who can celebrate Christmas be enough for my mother-in-law to tell Jill she is going to spend Christmas with the grandchildren who can open presents? And if so, what will Jill do next? Watch this space . . . I have a feeling there is at least one more terrible, horrible, no good, very bad nuclear Christmas yet to come! 0410-13


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • lakey December 15, 2014, 2:47 pm

    I stopped reading this about a third of the way down. Troll. First, I’ve known quite a few Muslims and people from the mideast and Egypt. NONE of them are like this. There are nutjobs like this, however, but no normal family would put up with this behavior. That’s why I believe this is a troll, because of the number of years the rest of the family tiptoed around the crap. Come on. Picture it, he spends Christmas praising Al Qaeda and Osama. They all listen to it, drink their egg nog or whatever, and then say, “Hey, let’s open presents now.” Nah. In a real family a brawl would ensue.

    • Amanda H. December 16, 2014, 5:55 pm

      I’m inclined to agree. Some of the other behaviors (like the MIL’s apparent two-facedness) seem plausible enough, if a bit extreme, but the Egyptian BIL’s overall attitude and behaviors just strike me as far too “out there” to really come from an actual flesh-and-blood human rather than an overactive (and exaggerative) imagination.

      • Nonya January 17, 2015, 2:55 pm

        I’m sorry to say that a real flesh and blood person could have said this.

        I was once in a computer lab of a college, and a woman, after having seen my anti-Che Guevara book I needed for a paper (I really should have hidden it), she started to say that violent killers like Che, Saddam Hussein, and Hitler all have other sides to their stories, and that I only care because I’m white. Being stunned, I could only say that that was racist. She replied that it was “better than being white.”

        Granted, I’m pretty sure this person wasn’t a muslim, but the fact of the matter is freakshows do exist, and you can find them anywhere.

  • Cherry91 December 15, 2014, 3:01 pm

    Either this is a troll, or the Body Snatchers are truly among us given the number of people in this story who have full personality transplants when the story requires it…

    I actually facepalmed when I got to the anti-vax bit. That’s where I called shenanigans, or dear-deity-I-hope-these-are-shenanigans.

    If this is really real (and I pray it isn’t) then the people I pity most are the children…

  • Jane December 15, 2014, 3:15 pm

    Troll or not, I wonder if today was the best day to publish this particular letter, considering the events in Sydney.

    • admin December 15, 2014, 4:52 pm

      Posts are typically scheduled days, sometimes weeks, in advance.

    • Sel December 15, 2014, 7:14 pm

      The black humour of the internet gods shows its hand…

    • RC December 15, 2014, 8:06 pm

      I agree Jane – however I read the E-Hell post in the morning, and the siege unfolded after that, so it was an unfortunate co-incidence of timing.

      I do not however believe it is appropriate, considering the events of the last 24 hours and the sad deaths that have occurred, to be feeding this anti-Muslim Australian Troll. As most of the readers of this page are not Australian, I don’t imagine they have made the connection. It is really unfortunate timing. Really.

      • Belly December 16, 2014, 6:15 am

        I’m Australian, and I do not consider this to be an anti-Muslim Australian troll. Not in the slightest, although the timing may be construed as unfortunate it is a coincidence. I do consider it to have been submitted by an anti-bigot, however. From what I can gather from the story, for over a decade the hand of friendship and family was extended during a Christian holiday, to be rudely rebuffed and disparaged and demands made that eventually sucked the joy from a family occasion. Jill’s husband is the bigot; he is the one who could not see beyond OP’s nationality, and insisted on his beliefs trumping and being entitled to ruin long-hold family traditions. It escapes me entirely why he even attended, when events were so offensive to him. Why not sit this one out and invite the family at another time, one which has less potential for religious conflict?

    • admin December 15, 2014, 11:32 pm

      The story was submitted April 10, 2013 and scheduled by me to appear on December 15th months ago. It was simply coincidence that the topic of 12/15 post coincided with a tragic incident in Australia.

  • Lisa Marie December 15, 2014, 3:15 pm

    Who says they have to celebrate on Christmas day itself. Why not invite the grandparents and brother in law with partner over to celebrate their own holiday without the unbelievers? I for one, would not have put up with that guy and if husband insisted he could have gone without me.

  • The Elf December 15, 2014, 4:08 pm

    I have to say…… If any one of my family members went so far as to *praise* 9/11, that would be it. We can agree to disagree on a lot of things, including the response to 9/11 and the events that lead up to that, but not that. I’m all for keeping my mouth shut occasionally for family peace, but this is too much to ask.

    This had so many opportunities for titanium spines before this, but it was all Christmas-At-All-Costs type of thinking. This is one reason why I am so glad I bowed out of family Christmases years ago. We get together before or after the holiday when the pressure is off.

    • JWH December 15, 2014, 6:25 pm

      I have to say…… If any one of my family members went so far as to *praise* 9/11, that would be it. We can agree to disagree on a lot of things, including the response to 9/11 and the events that lead up to that, but not that. I’m all for keeping my mouth shut occasionally for family peace, but this is too much to ask.

      I think I’d be quietly seething. Or not so quietly, depending on how much Mo mashed this particular button.

    • Library Diva December 16, 2014, 11:52 am

      I agree. Celebrating the deaths of others is disgusting. It doesn’t matter who the ‘others’ are. The celebrations about the deaths of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were also disgusting. Both men were sorry excuses for human beings who wasted their charisma and leadership skills in spewing hatred, causing lots of suffering, death and war, and (in the case of Hussein) glorifying and enriching himself and his family at the expense of those he was supposed to be helping. But they were still human beings.

  • Daphne December 15, 2014, 4:17 pm

    There are two parts to this story that ring very true to me because I have experienced them first hand. First, that spineless MIL might as well have been my late mother. She willingly and obsequiously enjoyed allowing my brother’s wives (he is twice divorced) complete control over our family gatherings for years. They determined, when and how we celebrated birthdays, holidays, vacations, etc. The party didn’t start until they arrived and it ended when they left. They determined the schedule, even arriving hours AFTER my brother! So as crazy as it probably sounds to most people, THAT I totally believe about the OP’s MIL. And I also understand from the OP’s husband’s point of view how easy it is to get caught up in that type of dysfunction when it has been a normal part of your life since childhood.

    And I totally believe that Muhammod is as the OP describes him. I’ve known a few muslims that relished making anti-American, anti-Christian/Jewish statements like that in public, they clearly enjoyed seeing how far they could push people.

    I also understand how some of us can get caught up in this type of severe dysfunction because we want to keep the peace. Because the situation is SO convoluted and implausible, you might even have a hard time believing it yourself–even though it’s happening to you. And then when you do get the opportunity to tell someone and they don’t believe you— you tend to doubt yourself even more. So for that reason I give OP the benefit of the doubt.

    • koolchicken December 16, 2014, 2:05 am

      I’m giving the OP the benefit of the doubt as well. Simply because my Mum is a similar to the mother in this story as well. She’s not trying to be bad, quite the opposite. She just wants all of her children to get along, no matter what. And actually let my father trash pretty much every Christmas we ever spent with him because Christmas is a family day. Even though his idea of a good Christmas was ruining it. So yeah, there are people who will tolerate anything just to get everyone in the same room together.

      I even believe the anti-vaxx stuff. In my family we have one kid who really truly did stop talking and suddenly “develop” autism. But that mother decided she’d rather have all autistic kids than dead ones so she kept vaccinating. However, I’ve know a few others (non-relatives) who decided to stop because they blamed the vaccines alone for the diagnosis.

      So it’s like you said, all we can really do is support the OP in the event this is real. And even more so since there are innocent children involved. And it’s overwhelming for the adults as well.

  • Cat December 15, 2014, 4:42 pm

    I have a couple of thoughts here. I once knew a man whose paternal side of the family were Black Muslim and the maternal side of the family were what are known in the South as “hard shell Baptists”. Both sides insisted on being together during Thanksgiving. (We’re family!)
    The Muslims tried to convert the Baptists into worshiping the “one, true God, Allah,” while the Baptists tried to convert the Muslims into a faith in Jesus Christ so they could be “saved”. He said Thanksgiving was not a happy time for him.
    I also know of two people who are convinced that every religion on the face of the earth is wrong and each of these folks worships alone in his/her own home. Of course, each of them considers the other to be in error. “I, and I alone, know the will of God and the worship required of me!” Interesting.
    Troll or not, it is quite a story. The bottom line is this-is there an obligation to celebrate a holiday with people who are there to be rude to you because you share a family tie with them?
    I have had to celebrate past holidays with people I could not stand because my parents insisted upon it. As an adult, I feel little kinship with these people and have no contact with them. Jill and Mohammed could do as they please, but I would be a stranger to them.

  • Gabriele December 15, 2014, 5:37 pm

    Behind all the ‘he said’/’she said’s, the one constant is Jill, the daughter, Jill the wife.
    Diversity seems to be acceptable in the LW’s in-laws. OK, that’s good.
    But Jill has a problem because her husband has a problem. That’s not good.
    I think of all these people as threads woven in and out of the family dynamic, and the one thread that stands out the most is Jill.
    She is the one that is indulged by her mother, allowed to set requirements (‘for her husband’–or for Jill?), allowed to be rude to her brother, betray her brother, cause pain to her mother…do you see what I’m getting at?
    Yes, I think Mohammed (as portrayed by the LW) is a real piece of work but behind every piece of work is a woman, either allowing him to run rough-shod over other peoples’ lives and controlling everything without concern for her children– OR — a woman who, for whatever reason, uses her husband to control the family dynamic so it always ends up revolving around her.
    SHE has to get the presents, the children can’t. She doesn’t have to cover her head but the children do. She’s decided they don’t get vaccinations, she doesn’t care about other children in the family.
    And the way her mother indulges her, accepts all the demands, takes her side, turns the other cheek….accepts her son-in-law when most mothers would draw a line as to what happens in her house…not his house, her house.
    For whatever reason, Jill has been given carte blanche to control much of what goes on around her.
    The LW only mentions her FIL once. He seems to be in the background while the MIL runs things.
    So I see Jill doing something like that…she manipulates people and I just wonder how much she’s manipulated her husband. Not that he couldn’t have become a real pain all by himself but her behavior about other things makes me think she’s the one who pokes and prods and creates situations.
    So everything comes to being all about Jill: Not about Christmas or anything else, Jill. She probably tells the MIL what she needs, how much she sacrifices for her marriage and her children and then tells another story to the husband, and so on. Jill might be jealous of the attention shown to the LW when she married into the family and could well have told her husband things to make him think the LW is a horrible, anti-muslim American who supports-well, who knows what. But enough so Jill can encourage him to spout the rhetoric that he does (‘to stand up to that American woman and her lies’).
    And if Jill was really concerned about him taking the children to Egypt:
    The children would all have to have their own passports to fly. And this is the law:
    “Before a passport may be issued to a child the written consent of all persons with parental responsibility for the child is needed.” https://www.passports.gov.au/web/newppt/applyingu18.aspx

    The MIL is probably so used to Jill she doesn’t see her as controlling things ro that it’s her modus operandi….she might sometimes say ‘oh Jill has always been like that’…
    The LW mentions that Jill is older so she’s probably used to being the dominant sibling.
    I think it’s too late for Jill to be a contributing (in a positive way) member of the extended family but avoiding her is the best policy, definitely.

  • Tyler December 15, 2014, 6:05 pm

    Whether or not this person is a troll, I wanted to throw in my two cents about the “Christmas-At-All-Costs” mentality, as someone else described it. I don’t understand it at all. My mom and I have always lived far away from our extended family, so we never participated in these huge family holiday gatherings simply because of distance. I suppose because I grew up like this, this notion that the entire family *HAS* to be together on the holidays, even if some members are completely toxic and ruin everyone’s good cheer, is completely alien to me. I’ve always thought that holiday gatherings were centered on spending time with the people you love and enjoying their company rather than trying to placate some vicious, bothersome troll. If other people want to accommodate such nastiness, then they are free to do so, but not everyone else has to participate, and I would have no qualms about removing myself from the drama and spending the holidays as I please.

    • The Elf December 16, 2014, 9:55 am

      I don’t get it either. When I became serious with my boyfriend (now husband), I ran into this problem. His parents are divorced, and both insisted on having a Christmas celebration with him. My family also wanted him there, because he was now part of our family. I didn’t realize the extent of it at the time, but the whole thing basically ended up with him spending Dec 24-25 running around the whole state. When we married – first of the kids in my family to leave the nest – I became part of this shuffle too and that’s when it hit me how silly the whole thing was. He thought it was normal, because that’s the way Christmas has always been for him – just one big drive everywhere trying to please everyone with a smile pasted on your face and ignoring nasty comments while never getting to enjoy anything for yourself. My family was now a little upset because I didn’t spend the whole day with them so we couldn’t do ALL the little things we were used to doing together ALL day long. They weren’t nasty about it, and accepted it, but I could tell they were hurt.

      While we tried to figure out a solution that wouldn’t set the three families off, the problem resolved itself. His new job was shift work and as low man on the totem pole, he was scheduled to work Christmas. So he blew off everyone on the grounds of work and with much gnashing of teeth on all sides we “rescheduled” Christmas for different days around the end of the month. On Dec 25, we had a lovely brunch together, opened our gifts to each other, and then he left to work the evening shift. Bliss. After a few years of this, our different families got used to it. Now we actively plan it that way, even on years when he isn’t working Dec 25, and it has really succeeded in taking a lot of the pressure to have a PERFECT CHRISTMAS DAY off. And we don’t have to drive around the entire state.

    • Ai December 16, 2014, 12:06 pm

      POD. My extended family were always spread out, so while sometimes our small family (just me, mom, dad, and my brother) would visit family during the Holidays, it was too expensive to do it all the time, so most of the time we spent it with just ourselves, or with friends. Even now my nuclear family is all spread out and we don’t even try the whole ‘get together’ for Christmas that much cause we have our lives and family (parents are divorced and remarried, my brother has his wife, I’m married and have my elderly In-Laws to consider too).

      My husband did have the whole ‘big family Christmas’ most of the time growing up, but even he and my In-Laws would balk at the idea of having ONE or TWO people controlling the mood of the event. That just wouldn’t fly and if they tolerated a toxic person, my husband and I would have no issues leaving as soon as a mess started. The call of ‘FAAAAAAAMILY’ seems to do more harm than good O.o

  • Yarnspinner December 15, 2014, 7:35 pm

    Well, I don’t know how much of a troll job this is. But I can say the following:

    Where I work, we allow the general public to book our large rooms and there is a group of patrons who come in, use this room for their meetings and they happen to be Islamic. They are all very nice and polite to us, but it’s hard to return the compliment as we have heard their meetings (which are hard to miss as they are LOUD) in which they condemn “the white devils” to death. In addition, I have another acquaintance who changes his allegiance to religion with the switch of a bow-tie. If he’s meeting with white people, it’s a regular tie; if he’s meeting with African Americans, then he switches to a bow tie and talks about the greatness of Louis Farrakhan. I’ve been insulted and ignored by the (self-proclaimed) Islamic man who STILL demands that I fix the computer he deliberately messed up. One of my coworkers divorced her husband after he suddenly decided they were going to be fundamentalists and that SHE would be wearing a burka and hijab and that their daughters, both under three years of age, would be betrothed to friends of his. I can believe Mohammad’s behavior is every bit as bad as described.

    That said, I have dealt with and worked with absolutely delightful people of the Islamic faith and never imagined for a moment that they were being two faced toward me.

    As for the presents bit…well, I have been acquainted with plenty of Witnesses who had absolutely no trouble not letting their children have Christmas presents while cheerfully receiving any gifts offered them. And I have known others who are very consistent in their faith.

    The part that amazes me here, besides the whole “I don’t want to be rude, so I will attend with my pregnancy a place where I know rubella will be present” is the fact that Mohammad aims all his hate and ire at the American sister-in-law, but doesn’t seem to mind his other brother-in-law’s same-s3x partner. Anyone I’ve ever met who claims to be a fundamentalist of any religion refuses to have anything to do with g@y people. Now I may have missed a line where it says he didn’t touch or speak to them, but I thought I was pretty thorough.

    My take away is that this is a fairly true story with some additions to hide the identities of the characters even more. A lot of us have done it in our own posts (changing genders, religions and even jobs or objects) to protect us from the ire of people who might happen by and read our stuff here. I don’t doubt that this is much different, just maybe a bad choice of embellishment to hide the identities.

    That said, I agree that if someone doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas, then they don’t get to dictate my holiday for me. Stay home. Stay far away from my home and keep your holiday in your own way. Please. OP I congratulate you on your spine. Have a lovely Christmas with your family.

    • Tracy W December 16, 2014, 1:52 am

      It’s possible that the same-sex partner is someone very very good at sending out “don’t mess with me” signals. A schoolteacher maybe.

    • Slartibartfast December 23, 2014, 11:26 pm

      I read this as a mostly-true story, embellished and cleaned up by someone who has some pretty strongly-rooted beliefs that they’re the hero of their own narrative. I can totally buy the family dynamics, the anti-vaxxing SIL, the “Christmas at all costs” push, and the decision to not let kids have Christmas presents. I can even buy that the BIL is an #@*$ and uses his religion as a battering ram to make others uncomfortable. The OP’s actions don’t ring true, however, and I think the BIL’s offensiveness is probably exaggerated in line with what the OP thinks about extremist Muslims (i.e. whatever he says/does, the OP may be interpreting it in a particularly negative light).

      Either way, it’s still an interesting story.

  • burgerking December 15, 2014, 9:07 pm

    Could be a troll BUT…. I have known each of these situations — but not all in the same family :). As the mother of a daughter serving in the military, I loathed the 9/11 conspiracy theories (note that I did not say “theorists”). I have also known family members who bend over backwards in the name of “tolerance” who offend everyone else in order to not be “intolerant”. I will not separate my family, however from other family members because of our differences — I will try to handle these differences but won’t insist on doing it during a time of traditions and memories such as xmas. There’s no way I’m going to change the mind of my conspiracy theorist niece , or the 3 days of Night cousins, or the whoever, so I don’t even try. But I will try to get along with everyone but won’t try to do it during holidays.

    • Shoegal December 16, 2014, 4:56 pm

      I have also know the “tolerance” displayed in families – as I see it in my own mother who refuses to let the truth be spoken in the name of keeping the peace. I well believe this part of the story. My sisters and I stood by and said absolutely nothing while our sister-in-law made ridiculous rules and demands. It came to head though and now, I absolutely refuse. I will speak my mind and tell it like it is because my SIL certainly didn’t worry if she was offending me. I’m amazed Mohammad would even want to “celebrate” Christmas if he was so against it and Jill is as selfish and manipulative and just plain mean to allow her husband to ruin it for everyone else.

  • RJ December 15, 2014, 9:40 pm

    I don’t care if it’s made up; that was a great story.

    • Ames December 16, 2014, 12:24 am

      They should tell it every Christmas before the showing of the Charlie Brown special.

      • Yarnspinner December 16, 2014, 12:25 pm

        okay–almost spit juice on the screen…

  • MM December 15, 2014, 10:33 pm

    The truth is often stranger than fiction. But I want to say this is fake because it’s a really sad (but fascinating) story.

    I can’t imagine that Mohammed is silent on the homosexual couple in the family. Or maybe he’s said something and OP forgot to put it in.

  • Marozia December 16, 2014, 1:12 am

    I’m fairly easy-going when it comes to different faiths of people. But when someone has a go at MY beliefs, that’s when I get pretty cheesed-off!
    If they don’t want to celebrate Christmas, Easter, Ramadan, etc., then DON’T. But don’t deny anybody else their celebrations.

  • ClockworkBanana December 16, 2014, 3:42 am

    admin December 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm
    “The story was submitted April 10, 2013 and scheduled by me to appear on December 15th months ago. It was simply coincidence that the topic of 12/15 post coincided with a tragic incident in Australia”

    Admin I have often wondered: Assuming the questions or stories come in by email, do you notify the submitter when their contribution is about to be published? For this forum and advice columns such as Dear Prudie where there are always a fair number of commenters, I always appreciate when the OP comes back to clarify points, profess their non-trollifery etc. But if there is a nine-month delay, such as in this instance, perhaps they may not even realize that their ‘number is up’ until it is too late to join the discussion?

    • admin December 16, 2014, 5:23 am

      I cannot notify everyone of the status of their submission because there are quite a few that will never get published. At this moment there are about 1500 emails in the “in box” dating back to 2009. Submissions that focus around a December holiday are scheduled for the month of December so that there is a theme of “Holiday Hell” throughout the month. On occasion I do notify the submitter that the story will appear months later. In the case of this story, I waffled right up to a week ago as to whether I wanted to keep this story scheduled for publication or not given its content.

      • Anonymous December 16, 2014, 7:31 am

        That’s interesting (for real, not in an “interesting assumption” way). Over the summer, I submitted the story about the mother who left her two children under five on a public bus while she ran back into the convenience store that they’d just left, and forced the driver to stop the bus, and watch the kids. You posted it on here about a week later, but it was a total (good) surprise for me. Jeanne, do you only notify people who submit holiday stories, so that they’ll know that their story about Halloween/Christmas/whatever, will be featured the next time that story comes around?

        • admin December 18, 2014, 5:57 am

          I am not consistent about notifying submitters of Holiday Hell stories but yes, I do typically limit notifications to stories regarding specific calendar events.

      • Daphne December 16, 2014, 11:50 pm

        I’m glad you published it. And also, would like to thank you for this site. You have such good judgement and I learn something every time I read here. Thanks for doing this!

  • Tanz December 16, 2014, 4:08 am

    I think it’s fake. And I say that for a couple of reasons:

    1) the talk of 9/11. Although the OP is American the rest of the family aren’t. And while it was a tragedy it wouldn’t loom as large for Aussies as it does for Americans. There are plenty of other targets the BIL could have used to anger and rile the family.

    2) the vaccinations and SILs attitude to them. I was surprised to find Australia actually *does* have the chickenpox vaccine on their schedule (I didn’t expect them to) but it seems to be given between 10 and 15 years of age. The OP says the autistic child had CP and wasn’t vaccinated against it because of SILs attitudes to vaccination. But the OPs story also puts his age at about 5 or so at the time of the CP outbreak – too young to receive the Australian CP vaccine as per the normal schedule.

    Of course there are always exceptions and we all know strange things can happen within family circles. But taken as a whole I think this is a well-crafted fake.

    (Also, like another poster, I assumed the OP had been inspired to write it by the tragedy in Sydney. Good to see this wasn’t the case.)

    • Belly December 16, 2014, 6:36 am

      I wonder why you thought Australians wouldn’t vaccinate against Chicken Pox?

      Actually, children who receive their scheduled immunisations receive that particular one at 18 months, then again at four years old. We even have our share of rabid anti-vaxxers too.

    • Mary December 16, 2014, 7:14 am

      10-15 years? Isn’t that rather late? Wouldn’t most children have already come down with the chicken pox by that point making the vaccine pointless?

      I thought the OP was a troll for many reasons but one of those reasons was because the age they mentioned to receive the chicken pox vaccine sounded like it was too late on the schedule. I’m in the United States. My children (now 10 and 14) received their chicken pox vaccines at 12 months with a booster shot five years later at their six year checkup.

      To me receiving it at 10-15 years would be way too late. I came down with it at age 11 and my sister at 8 (she even had to be hospitalized because of the chicken pox). Plus at 11 I was one of the last of my friends to come down with chicken pox. My parents thought I was immune to it because it came so late.

    • Shannan December 16, 2014, 10:47 am

      The OP seemed to imply that “Mohammed’s” praises for OBL were directed at hersince she is American..

    • Jessica December 17, 2014, 9:19 am

      Why on earth would you think we dont vaccinate against chicken pox?

    • Ivy November 16, 2015, 1:50 am

      The chicken pox vaccine is given at 4 years of age, and previously was given at 5. I have no idea where you’re getting your information about 10-15 years. That’s when the rubella vaccine is given to girls however, so perhaps you’ve misread?

      The 9/11 events actually are quite a big deal in Australia. Nearly 3000 people dead is no small thing, and the long term repercussions of that event have impacted everyone in the world. Our military has been heavily involved in the conflicts arising from it at the very least, and our politics/security measures changed too. We have a largish Muslim population, so Middle eastern affairs play a large part in our cultural dialogue. A fair portion of the refugees we take in are fleeing from volatile Muslim countries and cultures, and refugees are a VERY hot button political issue.

  • Lex December 16, 2014, 5:10 am

    I’m not sure that this IS a troll to be honest. You have to remember that in recounting stories of this type, the teller will inevitably indulge in hyperbole to justify their own grievances. Sadly I, too, have witnessed families tolerating the bigoted or distasteful opinions of one member whilst alienating others – my own family has been a victim of this more than a few times and it was only when my grandmother passed away and the fraud and embezzlement couldn’t be hidden any more that the truth came out and the parties in question were finally excommunicated from the family.

    It is quite possible that the events of recent years have led to a moderate Muslim man becoming more radicalised – we see it a lot in the UK and the events of the Arab Spring have led a number of formerly moderate people to ‘take sides’ as it were and emotions run high. Perhaps this man has been directly affected in ways the submitter doesn’t know about? Family or friends or the persecution of a strongly held moral value? You’d be surprised at the things people are secretly passionate about and the compromises they are prepared to make in their lives – perhaps this man has just reached the point where he’s no longer prepared to compromise?

    As for ‘praising Osama Bin Laden’ the OP doesn’t actually give OBL-specific examples. This is not a popular opinion but to highlight the controversy that may exist I would like to use an example we all know: Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler. The atrocities committed in the name of the 3rd Reich were so appalling that words cannot do it justice, however there are SOME things that the Nazi regime directly implemented that have had a positive effect on society going forwards – many of our modern surgical techniques have developed from work done by Nazi scientists. The original work was barbaric but the advances in understanding as a result cannot be ignored. There were a number of scientific projects that came out of the 3rd Reich that have had a profound and lasting effect on the development and progress of ‘western’ science. Even the fact that the terrible atrocities forced eminent scientists like Albert Einstein to leave his native land have a ripple effect. So without knowing exactly what part of the Taliban regime this man was ‘praising’ we have no context on which to judge what is meant by ‘praising OBL’.

    That being said, it is very sad that the opinions of one person can spoil family relations. As a final thought, have you possibly considered that the grandparents are concerned about the welfare of their daughter and granddaughters and use the obligatory Christmas get together as an opportunity to ‘keep an eye’ on them or as a legitimate reason to ‘get them on their own’ in case they want or need an opportunity to ask for help in escaping a potentially dangerous home situation?

    Just because a person didn’t start off as a controlling or abusive spouse doesn’t mean that they can’t change – people change for all sorts of reasons and perhaps the grandparents in this story are willing to alienate other family members because they know they’re okay and are more worried about Daughter and Granddaughters?

    • hakayama December 20, 2014, 2:46 pm

      @Lex: I wonder if you could direct me to sources of information re surgical techniques developed during the Third Reich as well as some other scientific achievements by other than Oppenheimer.

      All I know is just one side: that the surgical experiments (mostly conducted on concentration camp guests) have shown that gynecological interventions have a very high rate of failure. Apparently the failures were mostly caused by the patients who died from shock since no anesthetics were used. How inconsiderate of those women not to live and allow for analysis of the results…
      Then, I understand, there were the practical experiments in nutrition, with the conclusion that bread made mostly of saw dust probably did not have a sufficient caloric content to sustain life…
      However, the end maybe does justify the means, eh?

      • Lex December 22, 2014, 4:26 am

        I don’t have specific examples, and I’d be reluctant to say that modern techniques were ‘developed’ by concentration camp ‘doctors’ (read: Butchers), but many of the techniques our doctors use today have been contributed to by these horrific people. Organ and limb transplantation for example. I won’t even presume to give those butchers any of the proper credit for ‘developing’ these techniques, but in many cases the things they found and the things they did if nothing else informed the scientific community at large. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/holocaust/experiside.html

        My point wasn’t about ‘praising’ these people, but that the OP in the story above mentions that ‘Mohammed’ ‘praised’ OBL but didn’t give any specific examples. I was using my example to point out that context is everything. He might have ‘praised’ how dedicated a parent OBL was (as a fictitious example) but without knowing the context, we are unable to fairly and accurately ‘judge’ the scale of what he apparently said. That was the point I was trying to make, NOT that the Nazi’s were in any way ‘good’ or ‘useful’. Just that from a certain perspective, the terrible, horrible suffering they caused wasn’t entirely wasted and that modern society can take important lessons from their barbaric work.

  • Angel December 16, 2014, 4:18 pm

    I believe the story, all except for the part about the children not receiving presents–but the parents still can?? I call BS there. If it was my sibling there is no way in hell their kids wouldn’t get presents for Christmas but they still would?? I would get presents for nobody!

    Honestly I think the family tiptoed around Mohammed for so long it got to be a habit and plus, it was self preservation. If he had radical ideas like that who knows what he could be capable of?? As for Jill she was probably terrified he would take the kids to Egypt and she would never see them again. Has anyone seen “Not Without My Daughter”? It is based on a true story!

    True or not it was an entertaining story. Of course we all know what the OP should do and she appears to have done it. Just have a nice Christmas for yourselves and visit the in-laws at another time. Everyone puts so much pressure on during the Christmas season. Why can’t we visit our relatives all year long??

  • Cosma December 16, 2014, 4:44 pm

    This is so aggressive, flamey and baity that it’s painfully obvious it’s a troll.
    It’s nothing but hot-button issue pushing and “subtle” agenda preaching. :/

    It’s very disappointing that it was decided that this was appropriate to post, under the image of it being an honest story when it so obviously is not – on an etiquette site no less.

  • Hannah December 16, 2014, 7:11 pm

    As completely incredulous as it sounds… I believe this is not a troll. A VERY similar thing happened in my mother’s family when she was growing up. The Jill character in her story though ended up being isolated from the rest of the family for many years–until she decided her own pride was not worth her children never being allowed to see their family. I think OP is maybe a little dramatic, but I buy the basic story.

  • delislice December 17, 2014, 8:46 am

    By this point, I’m leaning a bit toward troll, mainly because in other stories in which the truth of the OP was questioned, the OP usually comes back around and self-identifies. That hasn’t happened here.

    And, secondarily, because it seems off-kilter to me that Mohammed would insist on his daughters wearing a hijab but not his wife. The Muslim families I know usually have it the other way round: the wife wears the head-covering, but the daughters don’t have to until they’re 12 or 13.

  • hakayama December 19, 2014, 11:43 pm

    I have no problem believing that OP’s narrative is a truthful rendering of a family more “blessed” than others when it comes to “interesting” individuals as well as their unusual beliefs and attitudes coupled with undesirable behavior.
    To start with the labeling: 😉 MIL, the wannabe matriarch, is an unpleasant caricature of a woman who just cannot “let go” of her adult children. Especially the “golden” one, Jill in this case. She just has to have them all present for important dates, not in the name of “family harmony”, but because children have to come home for the holidays. And, because Jill is the fave, the queen bee puts up with the fertilizer spewed by Mohammed.
    Now, idiot (NOT) Mohammed has already been well described. He is an unhinged bully, and everybody just is left speechless and paralyzed because they’re afraid of offending HIM. He does not even have his fundamental practices straight with the outfits of the females in his family.
    As for not allowing gifts for the children, but accepting them for himself, he does a bit of “selective and modified” religious prohibitions.* A bit like a woman I’ve come across, who was feeding her three young children a vegetarian diet, while she indulged copiously in flesh of animals. Just the opposite of what seed eating birds do: they feed their young bugs of all kinds. It’s the animal protein that builds the growing tissues of the body.
    I hope that those children, both Muhammad’s and Sandy’s (my acquaintance) remember well the type of treatment received from a parent that is supposed to look after their welfare. I wonder which one is going to have longer term effects: M’s emotional cruelty, or Sandy’s soy protein that frequently promotes early puberty in girls and breast growth in boys.

    * I’m still bent on getting a good translation of the Quran (preferably side by side). However, recently a Muslim woman told me that she’d be reluctant to recommend any as “axes may be ground” by different individuals regarding shifted and excised fragments. Sound familiar?
    Help, anybody?
    Jill for the next “window” as I’m afraid to lose too much text.

  • hakayama December 20, 2014, 12:17 am

    Jill, Golden Jill, is an interesting mix of ingredients. Obviously intelligent and somewhat swimming against the flow, she just cannot see herself resisting and rebelling against the authoritarian husband. If @Hannah’s above relative had done it, Jill can do it. Perhaps sooner rather than later. Stockholm Syndrome be darned. It just might take an “aha” moment for her to do so. Just as she came to stand up against the mainstream regarding vaccines…
    The Jill gal is onto something there. I’m lucky to have my “own” Janet Draves, but for the rest of you I strongly recommend reading some of the “maverick” physicians. The many different books by Drs. Bernie Siegel, Robert Mendelssohn*, Deepak Chopra (is the man gorgeous, or what?) might shed some light on why Jill does not “shoot” her children.
    I’m not sure about other “childhood diseases”, but definitely a bout with chicken pox provides lifetime immunity. The vaccine does not, so the there’s always a chance that it will show up in adulthood, and really do major damage of permanent nature. Yeah, read all about it. 😉
    Also, the HPV vaccines were banned in India. Makes one wonder why. Could it be because kids were getting sick and dying? And, if you do not want to read too much, seek out the “War on Health” video on Youtube. An eye opener if there ever was one…
    *Pediatrician, prof. of pediatrics, has to his credit “How to raise a healthy child in spite of your doctor” (my personal fave) and “Medical MalEpractice”…
    Be informed. Be well. Blessings.

  • Audra December 22, 2014, 3:08 am

    If this brother In law was so brazen as to praise osama then there is no way he would have tolerated the brother in law and his partner. I think this was a troll too

  • Ginger December 28, 2014, 4:56 pm

    Of course, everyone has to say this is a troll. There ARE people, Muslims included, that act like this!

    I do agree on one thing…why did it take all these years for this woman to walk away from a family like that? The moment that Mohamed said one nasty thing to me or a family member, he would have been asked to leave and never return.

    I’m glad this woman eventually grew a spine and had her husband’s and brother in law’s support.