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Thanksgiving Dinner Drama – When Traditions Must Change

HELP.  The dreaded holiday season is now upon us, and it’s only dreaded because of stupid family dynamics. I have a pretty big extended family who traditionally has Thanksgiving dinner together at my Mom’s house. We’ve gotten pretty big now that more of us have gotten married, there are more kids, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. We’re talking close to 40-45 people.

In addition, my husband’s family has Thanksgiving lunch, as they’ve always done, so he and I usually hit both families (lots of driving, hustling around, no fun for us). His family doesn’t feel comfortable with mine and has yet to accept the invitation to jump on our Thanksgiving and drop their own (and, why should they?).

So, this year, my husband and I have taken over hosting Thanksgiving for a few reasons, including, my Mom is tired of doing it, and we don’t really want to drag our then 8 month old baby through all of that. We want to ENJOY the holiday.

From my side, we invited my parents, my brother, his wife and their two kids, my SIL’s Mom and her husband. From my husband’s side, we invited his parents and his sister and her husband (chain ends there). Well, my aunt and uncle (mom’s brother) are just up in arms that we’ve divided the family and that we have the audacity to suggest we get together at a restaurant on Friday to still celebrate after Black Friday shopping. They are threatening to never speak with any of us again (they’ve all already been fighting since a family gone wrong Greece vacation in June 2014).

What am I supposed to do?? Host 50-55 people in our home for Thanksgiving? I can’t just invite my extended family, we would have to invite my husband’s too, and where would all these people go? And, how is that fun for anyone? Even if we do a potluck, I can’t imagine hosting that! At what point do you draw the line and stop inviting all of these arms of people???

I’m now being blamed for breaking up the family, when all I want is for my son to be able to enjoy the holiday with both sets of grandparents and his FIRST cousins without dragging him 150 miles in the car that day. 1103-15

The inevitable conclusion of creating a family holiday tradition is that eventually it cannot be sustained for a variety of reasons. My husband’s mother’s side of the family hosted an annual holiday get together which had become monstrously huge due to the fact that my MIL was one of 11 siblings!   Every cousin was there so you can imagine how large this gathering was.   But eventually the sisters who hosted this extravaganza grew too old to continue the tradition and it faded into oblivion because none of the subsequent generations was willing to keep it going.

Your mother, as the longtime hostess of the family gathering, should be the one who informs her brother that the tradition she had begun and maintained is in need of a change of plans.  I suspect that your mother was the one who did the bulk of the food preparations while her brother contributed little in comparison.  The people who protest the change in family traditions that are typically associated with eating food are usually the ones who have not invested the most time in hosting, cooking and cleaning.   I can’t recall receiving stories from longtime host/hostesses of big family events bitterly complaining about the change in those traditions since it is they who are weary from often decades of serving the family.

Your aunt and uncle could have volunteered to take over hosting duties for Thanksgiving but appear, instead, to prefer to whine and guilt manipulate to sustain a tradition that serves their needs rather than the needs of your mother to have a break or her desire to pass on the hosting to someone else.  So, the fundamental question to be asked in this situation is,  “Who is being served?”, when assessing people’s attitudes and behaviors.    Your choice to host a smaller family event serves your mother, your husband’s family and your own family.   Your aunt and uncle’s behavior serves themselves with no consideration for the guilt they inflict on your mother for having the audacity to be tired of years of holiday hospitality and family drama they generate because you choose to host a smaller celebration.   It’s all about them.   And when people choose to serve themselves selfishly with no apparent regard for how that affects people they allege to love, I believe you must stiffen the polite spine, ignore the tantrums and continue to extend a cheerful welcome for them to join you and the family for dinner on the Friday after Thanksgiving at a restaurant (making sure you communicate to them that they are paying for themselves unless otherwise arranged).



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Amy November 12, 2015, 7:41 am

    I just wanted to chime in with I agree with the original poster and with the advice from the moderator. Some traditions become to impractical to keep up. I think the idea of meeting up in a restaurant the next day is wonderful.

  • Matt November 12, 2015, 8:09 am

    When you have kids, you start creating new traditions. People who are reasonable get that. And you will drive yourself crazy trying to accommodate unreasonable people. Meeting for dinner at a restaurant on Black Friday with your entire extended family sounds lovely.

  • Andrea L. November 12, 2015, 8:11 am

    My mother is one of 13. There is no way, even when I was a child (before the cousins got married and had children of their own), that anyone could host the entire family for either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. For Thanksgiving, people just seem to figure it out. If someone wants to host, they do. They invite people, and whoever can come, does! If you want something very low-key, you go to a restaurant. For Christmas when I was little, my mother or one of her siblings hosted an open house with a seemingly endless assortment of appetizers and then a buffet in the evening. People dropped by, visited, and then left to do the Christmas rounds. A few nights later, another sibling would host the “adult” party for the adult gift exchange. (They pick names out of a hat in July and then buy only for that person and exchange them at the “adult” or “sibling” party.) For Christmas nowadays, we have multiple parties with different people hosting, but there is no longer one big party; it’s too much now that the cousins are married and have children.

    Your aunt and uncle are going to have to accept the change. Families change. People get married and have babies. Instead of complaining, aunt and uncle could start their own traditions. If they say anything to you, just politely say that they are welcome to join you on Friday. (I seriously doubt your aunt and uncle have given much, if any, thought to how exhausting and expensive it can be to host people, especially once the crowd gets over 40!)

    • Dee November 12, 2015, 1:54 pm

      Andrea L – That is an excellent idea that your parents had for Christmas. I wonder if that would work for OP’s family? A potluck appetizer event around Thanksgiving time, where everybody is invited, and then a formal Thanksgiving dinner for immediate family on another day. I think it’s a shame to end the gathering of extended family but in large families it can quite difficult to iron out logistics. My Mom’s family resorted to having holiday celebrations at a hall. 150 people would attend and that’s not everyone, since so many are scattered around the country. That was 30 years ago and I doubt it’s still being done, which is a shame. But expecting a single family to host a formal event for all those people? Crazy.

      • Michelle C Young November 13, 2015, 1:27 am

        I’m all for family reunions, and hosting it at a hall seems like a grand idea! If I were organizing it, though, I’d schedule it during the spring or summer, when there’s not so much of a scheduling crush with all the holiday stuff, there aren’t so many traffic issues, and you don’t have to worry so much about the weather making driving dangerous. Why not have a cozy, immediate-family-only holiday, and get the whole shootin’ match together for the reunion, and let the focus then be specifically on keeping up familial relationships, rather than on a holiday that not every member of the family may actually celebrate or believe in?

        For example, Grandparents may be Christian, but what if some of the cousins are agnostic, atheists, or perhaps converted to Judaism or Islam? Having the family celebration centered on Christmas could very well lead to arguments about religion. Some people actually find Thanksgiving problematic, as well, due to history and the treatment of the Native Americans, and so in a large crowd, you have a higher chance of something triggering a tussle. But a gathering where there is absolutely nothing else to consider but just getting everyone in the family there (a challenge, in itself), and the theme is “Our Family,” you’re more likely to avoid such issues. Especially if the organizers declare rules about certain subjects being off the table. I remember once hearing that a rather diverse family had a rule that neither politics nor religion were to be discussed indoors. I thought it was great!

        • Dee November 13, 2015, 12:27 pm

          The get-together wasn’t meant to be a family reunion, just Christmas dinner. I think there has only been one family reunion because the opportunity to gather was always there at Christmas. Nevertheless, all dinners open with a prayer so I don’t think your hope to keep things non-religious would work. This is a religious family so I couldn’t imagine insulting the elders by ignoring the cornerstone of their daily life from an event meant to celebrate them. Christian holidays are not politically incorrect and I’ve never heard of a Native complaining about Thanksgiving – it’s just a celebration of the harvest so everyone, regardless of culture or religion, can find meaning in it. Religion and politics are great topics for conversation unless people can’t behave themselves. I doubt any celebration would be pleasant with people like that.

          • Tracy W November 14, 2015, 4:00 pm

            And if you are attending an event and there’s a prayer or other brief religious observance that you don’t believe in, the polite thing is to participate as much as you can without saying or doing anything that contradicts your own beliefs and otherwise stay quiet, eg at a prayer bow your hed but don’t say amen, at a church service stand up and sit down with the congregation and make a small offering if you can afford it but don’t take Communion.

        • Tracy W November 14, 2015, 3:46 pm

          My whole family is atheist/agnostic and we all happily celebrate Christmas. More generally, I think it’s a lovely gesture to invite someone to a celebration that’s personally important to you, I’ve been invited to a diwali feast by some Indian friends and felt honoured.

          Obviously it’s harder for Jews and Muslims because of their dietary restrictions, but that would be an issue for any invitation at any time of year. And of course an invite is not a summons. But generally I think the world goes better if we all take an inclusive approach to festivals and celebrations, and we are both inclined to extend invitations to those from other traditions, and also to regard such invitations as marks of generosity and honour.

          (Also: being problematic is vastly different to actually being wrong. People don’t say theft or arson or racism are problematic, they say they’re wrong.)

        • Goldie November 16, 2015, 10:01 am

          My immediate family had that rule (instituted by yours truly after my dad nearly ruined a number of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthday dinners by going off on a political tangent.) It works great.

          I think a Christmastime family reunion could work well, because there are so many different holidays happening at that time, both religious and non-religious. Thanksgiving can be dicey in a large crowd, because really, while it’s true that most people will only be thinking about turkey and the next-day football game, you never know how everyone in a huge crowd will react. To Dee’s comment below, I’ve never heard of a Native complaining about Thanksgiving either – because I haven’t really talked to any Native Americans about this holiday – I did however have someone of Native American heritage tell me that they do not feel that the 4th of July is their holiday, “it’s a white man’s holiday”. IMO this just goes to show that you never know how people really feel inside, even if they’re being polite and not saying a thing to your face. Either way, the holiday hassle, crowds, and ticket prices would probably be crazy! I know someone who’s headed for a Thanksgiving family reunion next week; I’d be curious to hear how that goes. All I know now is that the tickets cost an arm and a leg…

  • sam November 12, 2015, 8:17 am

    I swear, this is like the 6th advice/etiquette question I’ve seen this year that essentially boils down to to the fact that a bunch of “free riders” are taking great offense at the idea that their lazy asses might have to make their own plans for the holidays.

    As an essentially free rider myself at the holidays (I’m an unmarried adult with a ridiculously tiny apartment, so i still go to my parents), I at least try to recognize that I’m at the mercy of my hosts. The entire family wants to switch locations to my aunt and uncle this year (because we no longer have to plan around my 94-year old step-grandmother’s location near my parents weekend place?), fine – I will book an Amtrak ticket that costs 6x as much as my normal travel cost and take an extra day off of work for travel. And I’ll be happy to do it.

    Adapt or…well, not so much die, but live without turkey.

    • abby November 12, 2015, 9:05 am

      Total holiday moocher here too…and I actually have kids! We did host one year, but usually we go to a family members’ celebration. We bring a pie though.

      Anyways, I love this comment. Uncle wants his free meal/drinks with no cleanup and is disguising his mooching as just a desire to spend family time together. OP should suggest Uncle host the next Thanksgiving then he can invite whoever he wants.

      • Amanda H. November 12, 2015, 2:52 pm

        I was thinking the same thing. “Oh, you’re volunteering to host this year, [Uncle]? Great!” If he hosts, great (and follow through with your plans if you want). If not, definitely stick to your plans.

      • sam November 12, 2015, 3:31 pm

        Oh, I’m always happy to bring (wine) or bake (pie) something, but it gets harder with train travel. If I’m going to my parents a day early, I can pitch in and actually help prepare the meal (I’m an excellent sous chef!), and I’m always the “run to the store for last minute stuff” person. But I know my place! I’m the freeloader.

        • Michelle C Young November 13, 2015, 1:37 am

          I’ve been in the position of being the person who volunteers to bring the paper plates/cups/napkins/flatware, and other such non-cooking items, because I wasn’t in a position to cook, or because I could cook, but I couldn’t deliver cooked food, or what-have-you.

          Then there was the memorable time when I was part of a pot-luck and NO ONE had brought any of those items, so I went to the store to buy them, while everyone eagerly waited to have something on which to actually place the food and eat it. Some people actually started to scoop hot meat into plastic cups that someone had found in a closet, and just sort of try to chug it down, because they were so hungry.

          After that, whenever I was in charge of organizing a pot-luck, I would make a sign-up sheet, listing spots for entrees, side dishes, deserts AND for flatware, dishes, cups, napkins, beverages, chips, and other assorted things that people without cooking facilities could provide. And I made it clear that anyone who provided any of those things, even just a bag of pretzels, was by no means a free-loader. In fact, after the pot-luck catastrophe, I considered dining tools to be the most important! Sure, we could do without entrees, and just graze on side-dishes, and fill ourselves up in a tasty way, but without plates, cups, and flatware, it was just completely untenable.

          If you’re going to a pot-luck in a formal setting with real dishes and silverware and crystal glasses, and the like, you could always volunteer to help with the washing-up. Another VITAL part of party planning.

          Sam, with your attitude, I wouldn’t classify you as a free-loader. Maybe an alternate-loader, but not a free one.

        • JeanLouiseFinch November 14, 2015, 2:40 pm

          Sam – If like dogs and you don’t mind sleeping on a couch in the basement, you are welcome to come to our house for Thanksgiving! I would love having someone to help.

  • just4kicks November 12, 2015, 8:18 am

    We had some drama last year on Christmas day, and I’m praying it won’t repeat itself THIS year.
    My folks, for more years than I can count now, have come to our house on Christmas morning and stay thru most of the afternoon. We go to their house on thanksgiving every year.
    Last Christmas Eve, we had dinner at my son’s (then) girlfriend’s house.
    We had a lovely time, except our daughter (10 at the time) got sick right after dinner, and was up most of the night with “tummy troubles”.
    Come Christmas morning, my mom calls at the crack of dawn saying my father (who has MS) woke up “not feeling great” and we should pack up and come over there.
    I told them their granddaughter was up all night sick, still is, and I’m not putting her through the freezing cold weather and half hour drive with her vomiting and having diarrhea.
    “What’s wrong with dad?!?” I asked.
    “Oh….nothing much, he just doesn’t feel like leaving the house!”
    Umm, what?!?
    Okay, then….let’s plan on a Christmas “do over” tomorrow morning, IF my daughter is feeling better.
    Well….holy hell! Talk about opening the flood gates!
    My folks were PISSED we refused to pack up a sick kid and drive half an hour to come spend the day at their house.
    My husband was angry, I was hurt, and my girl continued to be sick as a dog the remainder of the day.
    My dad, of course, has had some REALLY bad days due to his illness, and its not his fault, but this particular day my daughter’s flu bug trumped “we don’t FEEL LIKE leaving our house today!”

    • just4kicks November 12, 2015, 9:06 am

      ….And, so sorry OP….I went off on my own little tangent.
      My story, pertaining to your original post, echoes some of the other comments that, when it just you (and a spouse/partner) the “flexibility” of the holidays is much easier to navigate…..even if it’s not always “fair”.
      Throw in a couple of kids….Well, that tends to shift the dynamic where you do what YOU feel it right for your family.
      Sadly….the older I get, the holidays are more of a pain in the you know what trying not to offend anyone, than joyous celebrations.
      Good Luck to you!!!

    • Goldie November 12, 2015, 9:42 am

      Wow! I don’t understand – did they want your family to come over an give them what your daughter had? Where’s the logic??

    • PJ November 12, 2015, 10:06 am

      A sick kid should not have to go to a celebration to maintain tradition. Someone with MS having one of those bad days shouldn’t either (those days can be very draining). You were ready to make the right choice: have a do-over when everyone is up to it. I’m sorry that your mother couldn’t see beyond the issues in her own household to realize what a selfish thing she was demanding of her granddaughter.

    • Elisabunny November 12, 2015, 12:16 pm

      So, on top of everything else, your parents would rather take a chance on getting sick than have a do-over later? Does.not.compute…

      • just4kicks November 13, 2015, 7:00 am

        @Everyone who commented:
        Thank you for the “back up”!
        I must admit, I thought I was going to get slammed for not siding with my dad and mom.

        You are all correct in saying a flu bug is about the LAST thing my dad (or mom) needs.
        My dad felt well enough to call me back and scream at me Christmas morning because I wouldn’t give in.
        They have missed my oldest son’s grad picnic (my mom made/bought lots of stuff for that, so with about 100 people expected in the next hour or so at our house, I had to jump in the car for an hour round trip to pick up all the food/cake/plates they got), missed my daughter’s first dance recital, missing both because of the same reason, “we don’t feel like it today”.
        But….a concert in another city which meant a two hour drive each way, the day AFTER my dad fell backwards down their inside stairs, was not to be missed because “oh I don’t care if I have to DRAG your father there…..we are going!!!” …..And they did.

        My folks are wonderful parents/grandparents and would take the proverbial bullet for any one of us.
        Things they have been looking forward aren’t missed for ANY reason.
        It’s starting to really “grind my gears” as my kids would say…..And no, I’m not a shining example of a perfect mom/daughter….but my kids are old enough to be upset when they blow off important events in their lives because my folks don’t “feel like it”.

        • NostalgicGal November 13, 2015, 12:42 pm

          We had mom’s sister and family over and I think it was Thanksgiving. Everyone got Hong Kong Fever (the about as bad second round of Asian Flu) and spent the night sleeping on the kitchen floor and taking turns at the single bathroom, and plenty of pails and trashcans. I was pretty small and they were trying to keep me away from it. Impossible with one bathroom. They hadn’t felt too bad until sometime later that evening, and my parents and I had eaten the same food and hadn’t gotten sick…. they got home the next day with a few ditch side stops.

          Four days later we all got it. I was a very miserably sick kid and I do remember that much. Not quite such a line but I spent about a week in bed and was carried down to the bathroom several times because I couldn’t walk it (fell down the stairs once).

          I remember having an okay Christmas then New Years that year and the pickled beet stain on the door framing, makes me think it was Thanksgiving. They maybe should of stayed home, but they didn’t truly get bad off until after they arrived and ate. Now if they’d had that AT HOME and we were supposed to go over, that would be enough excuse to call it off.

          Just4Kicks, you were perfectly justified. If they couldn’t bother to leave the house or do a do-over because of ill…..

          We were in college, we were supposed to go to the family get together, and do gift exchange (I did get the gifts for the two we drew) my folks even set us bus ticket money; and spouse and I got the flu so bad…. he couldn’t keep anything down for close to a week, and all I could keep down was a LITTLE commodity powdered milk. (six days for him, eight for me). I had to call my parents and tell them we were literally too sick to get out of bed.

          On the 29th, at home, we finally were well enough I made ‘stupendous chicken stew’ (fry some chicken parts in electric fry pan, pour in one can of mixed veggies, two of cream of chicken soup, make some simple soft drop dumplings to seal the top and simmer 20 more minutes) and we ate some of the dumplings. That was Christmas. I sent the box with the exchange gifts to my mom and she sent ours about March when it was obvious (DH got pleurisy then and we had exams) we weren’t making it.

          THESE are excuses you’re not leaving the house for the holidays. J4K, you were justified in not dragging daughter.

    • Michelle C Young November 13, 2015, 1:42 am

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t MS make the immune system a bit weak, which would mean he’s more likely to catch whatever bug daughter might bring? Especially if he’s already having a “blah” day? Isn’t that a sign that he needs to take care?

      And who wants to hang out with a cranky/sick/overtired child, anyway? Especially when you’re already feeling bad, yourself? Why would the guy WANT to subject himself to that? Even without it being really cruel to put the poor kid through that, why would anyone want to have to DEAL with the kid who’s being put through that? It would be a miserable time for everyone! It makes no sense!

      So sorry you had to deal with that.

    • PM November 13, 2015, 9:30 am

      My in-laws, also do not understand germ mechanics. A few years ago, my husband, son and daughter all got a horrific case of full-blown, test-positive influenza, starting on Dec. 21. Daughter fell ill first, followed by her dad and brother. I was the last woman standing. I barely remember that week as it is a blur of the usual last-minute holiday errands for our nuclear family’s holiday traditions, plus trips to the drug store, doctor, grocery, etc, foraging for sick supplies. I was exhausted, frazzled and covered in a fine mist of hand sanitizer and kleenex lint. Even my husband, the eternal optimist, looked at me as our son spent Christmas Eve in the throes of a high fever and said, “This is really the worst holiday we’ve ever had.”

      BUT my inlaws, who get together every Christmas Eve for a big traditional dinner/gift exchange, just DID NOT get it.

      Couldn’t I come by myself to represent my family?
      No, because that means my husband, who is still feverish and shaky, will be supervising two children, one of whom is running a high fever and needs more help than DH can provide.

      Couldn’t DD, whose fever has broken, come to enjoy time with her cousins?
      No, because she’s still symptomatic and there are several medically fragile seniors who will be attending.

      Couldn’t I bring DH, DS and DD for just a few minutes so the inlaws could watch them open their presents?
      No, because there’s a good chance DS will throw up on those presents.

      Despite their pleas to come to dinner anyway, that we could just stay across the room and not hug anybody, we stayed home and watched Christmas movies while eating soup. Christmas morning, the kids woke up when they felt like it, opened presents and then went back to sleep. We didn’t go anywhere. We didn’t accept visitors, no matter how many times they called.

      The following year (WE ALL GOT FLU SHOTS), we were well, but an aunt got hospitalized with a strain of flu that was not included in the flu vaccine that year. She was hospitalized on Dec. 23. The doctor at the hospital told her husband, Phil, and his children to stay home and watch for symptoms in themselves, because they were still in the window for exposure and could fall ill as well. That’s what Phil assured us he was going to do. Instead, Phil loaded all of the kids in the car and brought them to the holiday gathering at the last minute because it was too quiet at home and it “just wasn’t the same” not spending the evening with family. And I was considered a jerk for wanting to load my family back in the car and go home. I was told I was being insensitive and hurting Phil’s feelings, not wanting my kids around his.

      I have all of the sympathy in the world for children who are scared and lonely on a holiday, but that doesn’t mean I want DH’s elderly relatives exposed to a dangerous virus you could be carrying. Or my children. Because flu shots aren’t magic bullets.

      Phil’s assurances that he and the kids would stay away from everybody, that they would wash their hands, made me want to scream “That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!” For one thing, you can tell your kids to stay at your side, but they’re going to want to play with my kids. They’re going to want to hug and cuddle with grandma and grandma. And it’s hard to supervise kids in the holiday hubbub when you’re parenting by yourself. Also, if you sneeze or cough, your germs circulate around the room. Everything you touch, including serving forks for the holiday buffet, could now carry your germs. Keeping a space bubble around you does not equate to a magic forcefield.

      We left very early in the evening. Everybody in my family got a very thorough shower and a dose of vitamin C before bedtime. While the hospitalized aunt’s family ended up developing the flu, as did one elderly uncle – who was at the holiday dinner – we did not. I’m still mad at myself for staying. I should have insisted on leaving. Because of plans we have for New Year’s, I’ve drawn a pretty strong boundary with DH this year, that if ONE person is contagious we leave. It’s just not worth the stress and potentially canceling our plans due to illness.

      I love my inlaws, but they don’t seem to understand that sometimes, traditions have to take a backseat to illness, death, work schedules, etc. Putting yourself through a gauntlet of not feeling well while driving hither and yon, is not going to add up to a nice relaxing holiday. Closeness at all costs is not healthy in any way.

      • just4kicks November 14, 2015, 8:19 am

        @all later comments:
        Thanks, again to all. 🙂
        ….And, yes, my folks catching my daughter’s illness was also a consideration.
        My daughter bounced back enough for a get together a few days later, when she was up and around, and when I thought she wasn’t contagious any more.
        Of course, that didn’t stop the back handed comments from my parents!
        “OH, DEAR!!! I certainly hope the ham and Turkey aren’t TOO DRY!!! They were perfect CHRISTMAS DAY!!!”
        Yeah….we GET IT, Mom……sheesh.
        My daughter certainly did not enjoy her Christmas, with most of it spent in the bathroom.
        Not to “over share”, but on good days, my Dad has a hard enough time making the short trip down the hall to the bathroom….throw in vomiting and diarrhea….you get the idea.
        Pack your bags, kids!!! We are going on a “guilt trip”!!!!!

        • stacey November 15, 2015, 12:15 pm

          “Pack your bags, kids! We are going on a guilt trip”! Love this one liner… going to steal it in case of need…

          • just4kicks November 17, 2015, 12:19 am

            @Stacey: Steal away!!! 🙂
            That’s an oldie but a goodie around here….

          • Michelle C Young November 17, 2015, 11:52 pm

            I want the T-shirt.

            Also, wouldn’t “Guilt-land” be a wonderful name for a theme park?

      • Goldie November 16, 2015, 10:21 am

        Wow, Phil is quite a… (cannot think of an Ehell-appropriate term). Phil reminded me of an ex I had, who once gave me a horrendous cold because, even thought he was sick as a dog with high fever and chills, he wanted me to come over to his place, spend a day, sit on a couch and have him “lie down with his head in my lap for a few hours”. He knew I had the kids still living with me, and my elderly parents coming over. He knew that my mom’s immune system was shot and that my dad was in the last stages of cancer… but he really needed to put his head in my lap for an hour or three. It’s still a family legend in my family. But even this ex of mine, wouldn’t have dreamed of going to a party, with a lot of people, including elderly folks and kids, to give his germs to everyone. You were hurting his feelings? Good. Maybe if more people (including the hosts) had hurt his feelings a bit more by telling him how asinine he was being, he would’ve seen the error of his ways. As it is, he probably still has no idea he’d done something wrong!

      • Michelle C Young November 17, 2015, 11:51 pm

        This boggles my mind. Didn’t any of these people take Health class in high school?

    • Kate November 14, 2015, 4:31 am

      I swear some people don’t fully understand the concept of illness – at least, not when it affects their plans. On a tangent here-
      I came down with a bad case of viral gastro this year. I’ve had gastro and food poisoning before – of the “two days on the toilet then back to work” variety. This was something completely different. For two and a half weeks I could not keep food in my body, I was sweating and shaking constantly, even water made me sick. I ended up in hospital twice with dehydration. By the end of week 2 I was actually asking my fiance to smother me in my sleep because I wasn’t sure how much more I could endure.

      I get back to work, still weak but no longer contagious, to hear that someone had been trying to contact me and had called my boss saying they were “extremely disappointed” that I had not been in touch and that “she did not believe illness was an excuse”. My boss apparently told her “She’s in the hospital – back off”.

      • NostalgicGal November 15, 2015, 1:43 am

        I had an emergency appendectomy the 19th of Dec. I had gotten off shift, had shower, scrambled a few eggs, and gone to bed about 3:30 am. I woke up at 8:30 with symptoms of “I snitched a 2” cube of cinnamon roll’ at work (that meant barf twice and go back to bed). Everybody left. I started tossing it with a vengeance and got out the pepto bismol and left it sit there. After 3 solid hours of I could barely draw a breath without chucking and filling a glass from the tub faucet (closer to reach) to try to swallow something before another dry heave, I got one twinge way down there. Inside the right hipbone. I have never been this nauseous before or since. I try calling school (DH was finishing degree) and left messages everywhere. I tried calling his in town sister. Nope. I tried calling work as it was now about 1 pm and I was supposed to be there at 5, after 37 rings someone picked up and said CANYOUHOLD and put the phone down and left it. I tried calling everyone I knew. I tried calling the school again, I tried calling sis in law again. Someone finally had hung up at work so I call again and after 43 rings they pick up and start that CANYOUHOLD And I screamed, NO I have acute appendicitis and I am on my way to the ER and I am supposed to be on shift at 5. They ask my name and hang up. I call the cab company as that’s all I have left (no insurance) and they say half an hour. I am trying to barf if I stand up, and I pack up a few things for hospital and go to sit on the apartment building steps to wait for my cab. Manager of apt building is leaving and wondering why I’m clutching a small suitcase in winter coat sitting on steps. I tell him I am trying to get to the ER and my cab is now late. He freaks mildly and drives me to the hospital that has my records, and their ER ambulance dock is next to loading dock and has a semi trying to back up. I say pick a door any door, just let me in there. He does. I find out later I’m the farthest end from the ER and I follow the little red arrows. (manager got back to apt building to find my cab had just arrived a good hour after I called). I finally find the promised land, the ER desk. I say I think I have acute appendicitis (I can’t stand up straight). They put me in a room, get in this gown and give me a clipboard with about six double sided pages of fine print. I put my name, address, account # (I know it) and toss the clipboard on the floor. Nurse hears this, comes in and says You Have To Fill This All Out.
        I roll over, barf clear fluid on the floor and say I gave you my chart # nothing has changed. They found my chart, I almost passed out cold when they tried to get an Xray and I sign papers for the emergency surgery. They put me on a gurney and take me to OR floor, and there is a wall phone, and I am hanging onto it for dear life and finally find his sister at 3:40 pm. I said go find him, I’m about to go under the knife for appendectomy, I’m right outside the OR, trying not to tear the phone off the wall. Two nurses remove me from phone and put me on gurney and wheel me in. I remember being moved from gurney to bed and they said I looked at the walls then passed out again. There are no pictures on the wall in ICU and I seen a picture so things went well. DH was there sometime that afternoon with sis in law, she had to get to work…… Next day boss tells DH he wants me to call him. So I do that afternoon. Can I work my usual Tuesday-Sat (that evening to Christmas eve night)? Um no. IT IS CHRISTMAS WEEK AND NOBODY IS GETTING IT OFF. I’m in my hospital bed, I don’t think I get to even go home this week. Then Why Did I Call HIM????? You told my husband to call you so I did. 24 hours ago they cut me open, I’m not going to be carrying anything this week (like a tray). Just because I had had the old style (cut your side open) appendectomy I was supposed to go back to work the next day? He didn’t like it when I did show up the Monday after for the employee meeting, being escorted by spouse as it was winter and I was not allowed any chance to slip, with doc slip giving me a full month off and he had to hold my job; and the phone call bit got everyone reamed a new one. (there was one host famous for that, and he didn’t work there after that, if we were busy to answer the incoming and just set it down so it wouldn’t ring for awhile)
        Kate your last paragraph brought that one up. After I did go to work I couldn’t lift a bus tub (full of dishes) or carry a tray with more than two dinners, mandatory I had to use a tray jack for three months. They didn’t like that either but it was signed by my surgeon….

        My Christmas that year was to sit in a (relative borrowed and added toppered) foldabed crammed in next to the bathroom, convince our cat that I didn’t reek like ‘evil veternarian’ and a few friends stopped by for a few to at least say hi. They didn’t try to sit on the bed, so kind of them…. the gift that year, we spent our ‘gift to each other money’ on a block heater for the pickup so if I had to go back to the hospital we were sure things would start at -30.

        [I had one more there where I had to have oral surgery about a year later, stitches in my mouth and he thought I could work. I was barely legible, someone else was in office and making us laugh and the way I instantly bent over and grabbed the side of my face in mortal pain any time this person made me start laughing convinced him that 10 days off had to be honored too. Better yet he had to see his dentist in two hours… (job I wasn’t sad to quit)

        • just4kicks November 15, 2015, 8:38 am

          Ah, yes “Christmas Week” at a retail job….been there, done that….it stinks!

          Any cold I get usually turns into bronchitis, and one year, I was hospitalized for three days because that turned into pneumonia.
          I was working at Target then, and my husband had to set an alarm for four am to call my manager to let him know.
          I worked the 4:00am to noon shift, and a call to say you weren’t coming in had to made THAT morning, you couldn’t call the night before.
          My manager had the nerve to be pissy about it, mumbled something about “we are short handed, I guess I’ll have to pull someone from another department, blah blah”.
          My husband, not thrilled about having to get up at four am to make a phone call, (like I was having a party in the hospital!), said to my boss “well….you should probably get an extra person for the next three or four days, maybe even a week”.
          “WHAT?!? She WON’T BE IN TOMORROW?!? Why the HELL NOT?!? JESUS CHRIST!!!”
          “She is in the HOSPITAL!!!”
          “Fine!” …..slammed the phone down in my husband’s ear…..
          No “tell her to feel better” or “oh my gosh, I hope she’s okay!!!”

          • NostalgicGal November 15, 2015, 9:16 pm

            Yeppers. Though the appendectomy was waitressing…

            A few years before in highschool, accidentally tried and halfways succeeded in trying to cut my right first finger off at the base/web. Just happened that we had the clinic once a week and the doc came over once a month and was there. It took awhile for me to come of shock after staring in there, and sign the papers to let them treat me (I had turned 18 just a few days before, so I had to sign). They got the glass that was still in there out, stitched it up; my father had finally been figured out by clinic and called to come get me. I still had to stop by the school and pick up my text books and I was NICE ENOUGH TO HOSE MY BLOOD OUT OF THE SINK and pick up the chunks. I was regular sitter for the superintendent, who walks into the room with my dad standing there holding my books and me finishing being polite with my right hand all gauzed on top my head…. (he knew full well I’d gone to clinic, they had to tell him when a student was hurt doing school activities) and he thought I was going to sit his three daughters that night…cook them supper and all with a 1.5 hour notice. Uh no. I spent Tues night through Sunday at home with half the couch cushions in the full sized guest room bed ‘dealing’ (comfy enough to pass out to go to sleep was an adventure). And trying to do/catch up with homework.

  • abby November 12, 2015, 8:22 am

    Admin is so spot on about uncle and his wife. The real question is, how does Mom feel about this? Is she looking forward to a year where she can be a guest? Is she pressuring you to include everyone who would have come to her house? I would just stand firm that you are starting a new tradition, and the guest list is complete. If Uncle wants to disown you because he has to make his own holiday plans this year, let him. He’s the one coming off as selfish and unreasonable.

    And admin is also right that family traditions are fun, but get really complicated trying to maintain as families grow bigger. And trying to guilt everyone into continuing a tradition that is impractical for everyone is just wrong.

  • Shoegal November 12, 2015, 8:32 am

    The holidays are there to celebrate as you see fit. If your Aunt and Uncle have a problem with doing away with the huge family gathering – then suggest they host it. Much easier to complain about it and make it ugly than take all the work upon themselves. They’ll get over it. You have an obligation to your own family unit to make it enjoyable and doable for you. Big huge family gatherings like that have their time but eventually have to end because the workload and cost is tremendous and the people who took on all the work just can’t do it anymore.

  • Coralreef November 12, 2015, 8:37 am

    OP, tell you uncle that you’re sorry he is disappointed and keep to your plan. If he wants to have a big thing, he can arrange it himself. There are tons of caterers in the phone book. Because 50 people is a LOT of work and your mother has every right to put an end to it.

    Things change, families grow / move away / add new spouses, and with a baby in the mix, I certainly understand why it would be exhausting for you to go to two places in one day. If Turkey day brings you misery, it’s time to change or let go.

    We used to have a Christmas dinner after midnight mass, so the night of the 24 to 25, followed by opening presents. I did that one year with my 5 month old. Never, ever again. The following year, I hosted and we had a reasonable time frame: dinner around 19h00, opening presents between dinner and desserts, games, then everybody went home. This new tradition has kept me sane for the last 27 years and strangely enough, the world didn’t end.

  • Margaret November 12, 2015, 8:38 am

    So, things weren’t supposed to change until the mom dies of exhaustion? That’s a really good plan. It sounds like no other sibling of the mom was eager to step up and host 50 people.

    I like the Ehell saying I learned here for this situation: they’ll either get over it or die mad.

  • MelEtiquette November 12, 2015, 9:04 am

    We are going through something similar in my family. We are that family that ends up hopping around from place to place to make sure we see everyone. I’d prefer if we could have a small dinner with just immediate family and meet up with others for dessert later in the day. The year we had our first child, that is exactly what we did, and it was glorious.

    It is not reasonable to expect one person to host 40+ people for the type of meal that is expected on Thanksgiving. You never mentioned whether everyone pitches in by bringing a dish, although later in your letter you allude to making it a potluck, which suggests to me that your mom has been providing all the food for 40+ people for several years. That’s incredibly generous of her, but absolutely ridiculous that she should have to carry that burden.

    I like your solution to have everyone meet later in the weekend (the idea of going anywhere on Black Friday is frightening to me) to enjoy a nice dinner out as a group. It sounds like you’ve given everyone ample notice that they can make other plans so that no one is alone on the holiday itself. Aunt and uncle are welcome to take over hosting duties for those family that have not been invited to your house. Or each family unit can choose to cook a smaller dinner at their own homes and meet up at aunt and uncle’s house (or somewhere else) for dessert and drinks later in the day.

    Traditions have to evolve eventually. Everyone who used to gather at your mom’s now has the opportunity to form new traditions. This isn’t always a bad thing.

  • Dippy November 12, 2015, 9:08 am

    I feel your pain. My husband and I hosted Christmas for my side of the family for about 10 years. We crammed about 25 people into our teeny house.

    Everyone enjoyed themselves, but we had some financial difficulties, so we discontinued it. And frankly I was tired of killing myself cleaning and cooking.

    My family moaned and wailed, but moved on. Do you think even one of my cousins could invite us to their new formed traditions? Not one.

    No good deed goes unpunished.

  • cassandra lowe November 12, 2015, 9:22 am

    Oh my gosh this is my life! I HATE the Holidays because of family get togethers! I finally compromised with Christmas. I always had Christmas day just for my husband and kids but due to having to go to my mom’s and his grandma’s Christmas Eve and feeling rushed and my kids having no fun, I gave in and we do Christmas Eve with his family and Christmas afternoon with mine. But Thanksgiving…ggrrrr. No one wants to compromise. And to make it worse his family can never give us an exact time that we will eat, so we end up going to my mom’s first every year only to get phone call after phone call asking where we are the minute we sit down to eat with my mom….even when we tell them what time we will be at my mom’s! Then we have to hear complaints that the kids aren’t hungry anymore! It’s just so much drama! But every time I mention hosting anything it creates even more drama! Definitely makes me dread the Holidays and creates a lot of tension between my husband and I. So OP, be happy you are at least getting out of the “running around” holidays! 🙂

    • Amanda H. November 12, 2015, 3:15 pm

      Situations like this are EXACTLY why my sisters and I tend to switch years between family and in-laws, rather than try to squeeze everyone in on the same day. For some of us, it was a necessity due to the fact that parents and in-laws lived in two separate states, but even for the sisters (two of them) who have both sides in the same general area, they still alternate. And it isn’t even a guarantee that each year is spent with one side of the family or the other, now that some of us have multiple children. It’s just too expensive to fly a family of five cross-country for holidays every year.

    • Cat2 November 12, 2015, 3:45 pm

      This year, I suggest telling them a time exactly *one hour* after you are at your mom’s. If it works right, you’ll get that phone call when you’re just about done eating…

      • Miriam November 13, 2015, 7:07 am

        I second this, and then make sure you turn off the ringer on your phone until you have finished eating…

    • JenAnn November 12, 2015, 4:56 pm

      Simple, alternate which family you spend Thanksgiving with every other year. This year your side, next year his. What you are doing now is just crazy.

      • Goldie November 13, 2015, 4:56 pm

        Seriously, two Thanksgiving dinners in a row? That’s cruel and unusual punishment! I remember reading a story as a kid, about a homeless man who got fed two huge dinners in a row on Thanksgiving and passed out unconscious as a result.

        Just found it; it’s called “Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen” by O Henry, and is available to read online.

    • Amara November 12, 2015, 11:57 pm

      You know, the older I get the less any guilt trips get to me. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that I am pretty well coated in Teflon now. I simply don’t accept, don’t worry about, don’t think about others’ whining about holiday plans.

      Cassandra, have you considered just deciding exactly how you and your immediate family want to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas and then just doing it? Don’t choose to dread the holidays; they are too much fun. Instead, you and your husband sit down and lay out your individual ideas, unpolluted by those of other family members, and share them. What would your ideal holiday look like. Then make it that. Invite or don’t invite others. Go where you want when you want–or go nowhere at all. And then when all that guilt arrives just shrug it off. The first year may be hard but believe me it will get easier and easier until at some point you just don’t care about the guilt trips.

      • Michelle C Young November 13, 2015, 1:58 am

        Hear! Hear! Guilt is for when you’ve actually done some sinning!

        Trying to make an actual do-able plan for a holiday is NOT a sin, so don’t feel guilty. And if they are throwing guilt at you, hoping that it will stick, just imagine that sludge leaving a sticky remnant on their own hands, as you duck and dodge.

        As for the “when are you going to be here?” calls, the answer is, “We will be there at the scheduled time, and not before. Calling us only delays us, and for every call we receive, we will be fifteen minutes later, as we have to drop what we’re doing to answer the phone, and then it takes time to get settled back into our previous activity.” No need to cite the activity. Then stick to it, and when people complain that you were late, just shrug your shoulders, and say, “I did warn you.” In fact, there’s time to start warning them now. “Remember what happened last year? Well, it’s going to go differently this year, and this the new rule.” You might just find yourself with a nice window of opportunity for a restful nap between visits.

      • Charlie November 13, 2015, 10:11 pm

        I needed to read this just now…perfect timing! I have a friend (just a friend…for now) who moved here from out of state, and he won’t get to travel to see his family for Thanksgiving this year. His plans included a microwave dinner in front of the television. I decided that the two of us, who both love to cook, should have our own Thanksgiving at my place. I just told my family today that I won’t be in for our (huge, 30-person, headache-inducing) Thanksgiving and they are laying on the guilt!

        I’m 31 years old, it’s time that I spend Thanksgiving the way that I wish!

    • lnelson1218 November 13, 2015, 9:41 am

      My childhood Christmas holiday memories are exactly what you are describing. As a result, I don’t have a ton of fun memories from childhood. What I remember most if rushing from one place to the other and that my stepmother’s family would always forget that I was coming (nothing is worse for a kid to see that no place for set for them on Christmas)

      Do what actually works for you, not everyone else, you aren’t creating happy memories with all the running around.

      Also I agree with other posters. Don’t bother answer your phone. Shut it off. Afterall you are doing all this running around for “family time” not answering your phone.

  • JO November 12, 2015, 9:30 am

    “The plans for Thanksgiving are ‘xxxxx.’ Oh, I am sorry you feel ‘xxxxx.’
    Repeat as necessary.

  • Michelle November 12, 2015, 9:35 am

    Nothing new to add, just want to say I agree with Admin & the rest of the comments. I can’t imagine hosting 50+ people year after year and then someone getting upset if I decide no more.

    I went through years of dragging my children from house to house to house to try to please my mom & stepdad, hubby’s mom & stepdad and hubby’s dad & stepmom. I finally invited them all to our house for a dinner and told them I was not willing to do that anymore and they would all have to get over it. I was willing to do 1/2 day at Thanksgiving with one and split Christmas Eve with the other two, but Christmas Day was going to be my family at our house. I told them to hash out how they wanted to and let them do so over coffee and dessert while I cleaned & did dishes.

    • Michelle C Young November 13, 2015, 2:00 am

      Oh, that’s a fantastic idea! You set your limits and boundaries, and then let *them* do all the arguing. I love it!

  • Goldie November 12, 2015, 9:39 am

    Agree with Admin 100%. I like your plan. You should go ahead with it, and if your uncle and aunt do not like it, oh well.

    My immediate family is very small (used to be my husband, my two kids and my parents, now it’s my kids and my mom), but my extended family on my dad’s side is freakishly large and we have all lived in the same metro area for the last close to 20 years. I lost count of the fallings-out my immediate family has had with the extended family; and not over holidays either, but over things like death in the family. I have learned to take it in stride. When some of my dad’s relatives (including a sibling) chose to chew my mom out in the week following his death, because they disagreed with the treatment he’d chosen for himself when he got sick, we just shrugged and moved on. Some of them, too, had gone for years without speaking to any of us. We took it as a much-needed break. OP, you sounds like you’re doing a great job taking care of your immediate family for the holidays, let uncle and auntie take care of theirs and leave yours alone. They don’t get to tell you and your mother how you should host Thanksgiving. Like Admin said, if they want to host their own and invite all of you, they’re free to do that. Don’t let their immature guilt-tripping get to you, you’re doing everything right here!

  • Shalamar November 12, 2015, 9:46 am

    I know that I’ve posted this before – my MIL always has the attitude that it’s simply not Christmas unless the entire family is there for dinner on Christmas Day. When my husband and I decided that we’d prefer to stay home on Christmas Day with our daughters, and see the family either before or after December 25, you would’ve thought that we’d announced an intention to convert to Satanism. My MIL called my husband one Christmas Day and tore him a new one, calling him a “bad son”. It’s a good thing for her that I wasn’t around at the time, otherwise I would’ve grabbed the phone and said some unforgivable things.

  • siamesecat2965 November 12, 2015, 9:56 am

    Dear Abby had a similar letter today, from a woman who’s hosted for many years, while the rest of her family did very little, yet took home all the leftovers. She said she finally put her foot down, and told them no more, and her SIL said its tradition you host, you HAVE to.

    Your aunt needs to get over it. I think your suggestion to get together the day after is a great one!

    • sam November 12, 2015, 6:00 pm

      That was totally one of the letters that I read!

    • Reboot November 14, 2015, 8:00 pm

      Getting together the day after is what my family does. It makes the most sense for us, even though it’s a small gathering; my oldest sister has to drive up from another city to the one where the rest of us lives, and she stays with my mother and brother, and they all like to go to Christmas mass on Christmas day itself, so that leaves my other sister and her husband free to go to his family’s Christmas thing, and my and my boyfriend free to go to his family’s Christmas thing, with no hard feelings on anyone’s part when we all meet up on Boxing Day. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the getting together part that’s important, not whether it’s on the 25th or the 26th.

  • Wild Irish Rose November 12, 2015, 10:01 am

    My suggestion: Enjoy Thanksgiving with your husband and your son. Any adult with good sense knows that as time goes by, things change. If that means you get together with NO relatives and have a quiet dinner with Hubby and Baby Boy, then so be it. Don’t let your uncle, your cousins, your mother, or anyone else bully you into doing something that is inconvenient and/or stressful for you and your family. Your mother has not been hosting these dinners forever; she may have been doing it for several years, but someone did it before she did, and if Uncle is adamant that the family all be together for the holiday, then let HIM host it.

    My daughter and her SO, who moved in together a few months ago, announced recently that they plan to stay home for Thanksgiving and celebrate together. Yes, it’s disappointing, but we reared her to be an independent adult and guess what? We succeeded. They will come see us the Friday after Thanksgiving, at which time we will do our Christmas decorating, but I’m not going to lose sleep over the fact that they won’t be at our place ON Thanksgiving. I really don’t get why the specific day or date is so important to some people.

    Happy holidays!

    • starstruck November 12, 2015, 3:02 pm

      You have a healthy , positive attitude! And I agree with everything u said. We should all be happy we have family and not worry about the exact date of things.

      • Wild Irish Rose November 13, 2015, 12:51 pm

        Exactly. I don’t see my daughter nearly as often as I would like to, although we text each other all the time. So when I do see her, I’m thankful regardless of what day or time it is.

        I used to be in the other camp until I left home to go to college and couldn’t be home for every holiday, much less every weekend. It was after I spent a couple of holidays with college friends’ families that I learned that a date isn’t the important thing–the important thing is spending time with those you love and who love you.

        Plus, traveling is stressful when it ISN’T holiday time.

  • Shannan November 12, 2015, 10:17 am

    Yes OP. I’m sorry you’re having this headache before the holidays have even begun. Admin is spot- on in her advice. For the sanity of your immediate family, the time to begin your own tradition is now.

  • Devin November 12, 2015, 10:28 am

    Another single, city dwelling (read very small apartment) adult here. I was always the invited one since I lived either a plane ride away, or only had a bistro table with 2 bar stools for dinning. When plans changed, I either worked with it, or on a few occasions had to skip that holiday. There was always a ‘friendsgiving’ I could bring a bottle of wine and crash, or find a fellow ‘orphan’ and hit up one of the fancy thanksgivings that the high end restaurants do. It wasn’t till the first year I was hosting that I realized how expensive it is to prepare the standard Thanksgiving feast, and I only had 7 guests. This year I am hosting the group ‘friendsgiving’ and I’ll end up out of pocket more than if I were to go to one of the fancy restaurants, but it is worth it to me to have all my friends together (plus they all are very generous with bringing the wine).
    As people grow up, traditions change. Sounds like Aunty & Uncle don’t want to do the work, or cough up the dough to take over hosting. Hope it all works out and your small family gathering is a wonderful new tradition!

  • Becca November 12, 2015, 11:10 am

    OP, you are being manipulated and abused by your extended family. You do not owe them a huge banquet. Your mom did it because that’s her close family and I’m sure she loved it until she got burnt out.

    Now it’s your ship to sail and invite who you can handle in your home and still enjoy your holiday. You owe only your husband and child at this stage in life. You are not the others wife, mother, daughter or even sister. Don’t let them being jerks hurt you, they are in control of their lives and can adjust their traditions. You didn’t ruin anything or damage a family, if they stop talking to you, they are immature and as harsh as this sounds, they dont love or respect you, you don’t need that. Drama is not okay.

    My grandparents hosted Thanksgiving when I was a kid. After they passed, we all just went separate ways. As a kid I was confused but nobody wanted to take on the hosting job so everyone scattered. I loved smaller dinners anyways.

    Think about your kiddo and do what makes you and hubby happy. The end. No drama, just good times to remember years to come. Your mom deserves the peace as well after years of being the awesome hostess all those crazy years. Some people are cut out for throwing big parties, most are not

  • Mags November 12, 2015, 11:16 am

    I think you’ve made a lovely new tradition. As for the aunt and uncle, I can’t help but think, “no great loss”.

  • Cora November 12, 2015, 11:21 am

    I agree with Abby and whomever else has basically said to call their bluff. Really, Aunt and Uncle? You’re never going to speak the rest of the family again? Well, okay then.

    Believe me, it won’t last. My mom manipulated me like this for years before I finally stopped caving. She threw an enormous tantrum and didn’t talk to me for two years. Most restful two years of my life. She’s back now, and generally behaves herself. Just be sure to keep the door open to Aunt and Uncle by not stooping to the slash-and-burn level.

    Also, proof of Admin’s point? They said to come to a restaurant on Black Friday. Not, “well, why don’t we make some pies and everyone can come to our place for afternoon pie and coffee?” or some such. Nope. They want to be waited on.

    • Amanda H. November 12, 2015, 3:27 pm

      Well, looking at the submission, it looks like OP is the one who suggested meeting at the restaurant. Aunt and Uncle are just pitching a fit that OP is “splitting the family” this year.

      That said, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about not slashing and burning the relationship. Definitely don’t be the one to burn bridges.

  • PrincessButtercup November 12, 2015, 12:18 pm

    I’d be honest with Uncle. “Well, Mom has been hosting ‘number’ of people for thanksgiving for ‘x’ years. That results is days of prep and cooking and days in cleaning up. Seeing as she is now a grandma she isn’t feeling up to shouldering that burden alone anymore. And since I am a new mom I am eager to start figuring out how my family is going to do their holidays. First on the list is to give my mom a break from all her hard work in order to thank her for being so amazing. It is late enough in the game now that our plans for this year will not be changing. And honestly I would not want to change my plans away from thanking my mom for all her years of labor for _all_ of us. However, if you would like to host the entire family next year I encourage you to. And this gives you a year to prep!”

  • Ashley November 12, 2015, 12:44 pm

    Is it bad that I read 45-50 people and didn’t bat an eye?

    Honestly that’s normal for my family, but we have it down to a science, so the host never feels overwhelmed. It rotates through the family so no one ever has to host Thanksgiving twice in a row, or even two holidays in a row. The host provides the main dish and main side, and everyone else contributes something. Three of the siblings are assigned appetizers, the other six somehow contribute to the main meal. Whoever feels like bringing a dessert brings one and we’ve never run out of anything. Everyone gets their dish ready and on the stove when it needs to be, or in the oven or whatever, and there’s even a system for dishes at the end of the night.

    However, I can see how other families would be overwhelmed just THINKING about cooking for that many people and want to give it up after a while.

    I feel like the mom in this situation, the one who used to host til OP took over, should explain to her brother that she’s just done cooking for everyone and is happy that someone else took over.

    • Dee November 12, 2015, 2:06 pm

      Ashley – It sounds as if you have a great family. How did you all get to be so accommodating and thoughtful when so many families are not? What a great example!

    • AnaMaria November 12, 2015, 4:02 pm

      As someone who has lived in multiple countries and worked with people who represent various cultures, it always amazes me how much the definition of “family” can vary. I currently work with students from an Asian minority group that was resettled in the US, and to many of them, it is unthinkable to do something for your sister that you wouldn’t do for your cousin, or for you mom that you wouldn’t do for your aunt or grandmother. There have been clashes with landlords over how many people are jam packed into apartments or houses because they can’t imagine living separate from Grandma anymore than a happily married couple can imagine living separate from each other. However, in other cultures, celebrations or dinners are expected to be intimate- they can’t understand a wedding or funeral with more than immediate family in attendance!

    • Weaver November 13, 2015, 10:46 am

      I agree with Dee. It sounds like you have a lovely family, Ashley 🙂 I love my extended family, and with a couple of exceptions, we get on very nicely together and treat each other well. However, I can’t imagine any of us being so organised that we’d manage a family gathering as large as yours with such impeccable behaviour!

  • stacey November 12, 2015, 12:44 pm

    When a change in longstanding family tradition needs to be made, it’s helpful to get the word out ahead of time. So, last year at the conclusion of the holiday season would have been the time to notify your extended family that there were major changes coming. It isn’t, strictly speaking, something you owe them- but it does help to allow people time to plan differently about how they wish to celebrate this year. Letting the event go “kaput” is absolutely within your rights, and your mother’s. As you can hear from the usual suspects who attend, however, shock has occasioned some distress and also some rudeness.

    As for this year- you’ve already announced that you are doing things differently. The only thing to be done from here forward is to maintain your invitation to those you’ve invited, tut sympathetically (or noncommittally, whichever you can reasonably muster) to the objectors and agree that “yes, it is unfortunate that things are different” and “those were wonderful times we had”. Agreeing with them while proceeding with your own plans may make it more difficult to argue with you. In any case, don’t get trapped into trying to manage their expectations. It’s a losing battle and you and your mom sound as if you have reason to be weary of the conversation already.

    Good luck, OP! You will hopefully have a more peaceful and family-centered Thanksgiving this year…

  • Shoebox November 12, 2015, 12:57 pm

    I’m guessing there’s an extremely simple way to shut Uncle and Auntie up: explain with excruciatingly perfect innocence that youjust can’t deal with the traditional huge gathering, but if *they* want to host it, why, what a lovely idea! How nice of them to honour family and their traditions like that! Please, let us know if you want me to bring the salad!

    … Then try very hard to keep a straight face at all the spluttering that’s almost certain to follow.

    • Mrs.G November 12, 2015, 4:56 pm

      That’s brilliant! They can either put up or shut up, as my sister says. Maybe thinking about how much trouble it would be to host everyone would help them realize what boors they are being.

  • JD November 12, 2015, 1:06 pm

    We had some holiday issues when families got too far flung and children and grandchildren appeared on the scene. We just had to put our foot down, and go see the extended family sometime around the holiday, not on the actual day itself. At my house, my kids are grown and out, and not only do they want to see their dad and me ON the holiday, they want to see their in-laws ON the holiday. They can’t hardly visit with the close family and still pack up and go see the extended family who lives hours away from them all on one day, and I’m not willing to miss seeing my own kids and grandkids on Christmas or Thanksgiving because I have to drive across the state to see a niece or nephew, much as I might love said niece or nephew. Just not going to happen. I’ll see them sometime close to the holiday instead. I also have given both of my kids full permission to stay home on a holiday and ask their parents and in-laws to come to their house, since my kids have young kids of their own now. Result: my husband and I now celebrate Thanksgiving at the house of one daughter and Easter at the house of the other. I still host Christmas lunch– so far.
    OP, it’s unpleasant when relatives do this, but stick with what admin says and carry on. The nay-sayers will get over it or not, but you just plan on having a wonderful day with those you love!

  • BH November 12, 2015, 1:07 pm

    Since leaving the home we grew up in, my brothers and I try to find a tradition to stick to each year, we’ve had many changes over the 15 years since we’ve all moved out.
    We spend Easter morning with each other, and Easter evening with our in-laws, Thanksgiving with our in-laws… Christmas now is being celebrated on another day with our family as we all have children starting this year, but we rotate houses and times of day depending on our schedules. It used to upset me that there are 3 of us and we can no longer spend Christmas Day at some point in the day together (we each have in-laws coming to our respective houses though)
    Sometimes you just have to suck it up though, which is what your extended family has to do. Time changes and we have to move along with it.
    I think offering the restaurant the day after is sweet, sometimes my brothers don’t even do that and I am the one to push that I want to see them and their families and have to suggest it myself.
    Good Luck and stick to your plan, don’t let him bully you!

  • Christina November 12, 2015, 1:25 pm

    I really, truly lucked out in this department. When my now-husband and I started dating and the holidays approached, we realized it would all work out fairly well. Our parents only live 10 minutes away from each other. His family does thanksgiving in the evening, my mom hosts in the afternoon. So other than overeating, we don’t mind going to both houses in a day. My mom has a large Christmas Eve party every year (which also happens to be my birthday so it’s extra important for me to be with my family) and his family has Christmas dinner. My aunt usually has Christmas Dinner, also, and this is the only thing that had to change (which I was happy to do, because we see them at the Christmas Eve party the night before.) Then it worked out even better when my aunt remarried and moved quite close to me. So now we have dinner with his family, and stop by her house for dessert.

    The only holiday type issue we have had to work on is for the smaller ones, like 4th of July and Memorial Day, etc. My parents or their neighbors (where I grew up) always have barbecues, which we love to attend. But my husband has it in his head that if we visit MY family, then we HAVE to visit his, too, otherwise he he thinks it’s unfair. This is despite the fact that there was an actual event we were invited to versus his parents doing nothing at all (i.e. Don’t even watch the fireworks on the 4th) or extending an invitation.

    As far as the OP, stand firm. You invited your immediate family, and uncle and aunt are welcome to host their own gathering for everyone else, or whomever they choose. Change is hard, but necessary sometimes.

  • PJ November 12, 2015, 1:47 pm

    I agree with all the others– don’t let aunt and uncle bully you, and (when they find out you aren’t bothered by their cries) make sure they don’t bully your mom.

    You can remind them that they are free to carry on the tradition of the huge-family gathering, but you will not be there, and it was time for your mother to get a much-needed break and to pass on the hosting role to someone else.

  • Dee November 12, 2015, 2:11 pm

    I’m a bit confused by all the emphasis on having celebrations on a certain day ONLY. Christmas is a season, Thanksgiving is a weekend (for us) and so is Easter. I grew up with several dinners at Christmas time to accommodate various family extensions and they all felt like the real deal. Don’t most families have some members who work holidays? Aren’t those celebrations juggled to accommodate those people? Seriously, holidays can be celebrated a week or two before or after THE DAY and it’s still just as meaningful. Excluding family members and/or having tantrums because not everything is happening on THAT DAY is not meaningful, at least not in a way that is positive.

    • InTheEther November 12, 2015, 8:21 pm

      That’s where my family is. A few years ago my aunt and uncle decided they wanted to celebrate actual Christmas day at home with my much younger cousins to do Santa’s gifts, and celebrate with the extended family separately. My mother works at the hospital and generally covers for those who have young children/grandchildren, I just got back from going to grad-school out of state, and my brother gets triple pay for working holidays. Frankly it’s easier for everyone to get time off either a week early or late rather than trying to celebrate everything the day of.

  • Mustard November 12, 2015, 2:29 pm

    It’s time for your mum to be a guest, rather than the host. You stepped in; there was nothing to stop your aunt and uncle from providing the hospitality! Enjoy the first of your new style Thanksgiving.

    • Weaver November 13, 2015, 10:54 am

      Mustard, in three sentences you have managed to address all the salient points from the OP. I wish I was as articulate as you! 🙂

  • kgoklahoma November 12, 2015, 2:36 pm

    Reading all of these posts make me very glad that I will most likely be spending Thanksgiving by myself, with a big pot of white beans and ham with fried potatoes and cornbread for dinner! 🙂

  • Shalamar November 12, 2015, 2:40 pm

    This comment from Admin really resonated with me: “The people who protest the change in family traditions that are typically associated with eating food are usually the ones who have not invested the most time in hosting, cooking and cleaning.”

    A-freakin’-men. When my husband and I got married and had our first child, his family made it clear that we were expected to host Christmas dinner. Roughly 20 people in our little house, with a brand new baby to boot. Yee-hah. When I protested to my husband, he waved away my concerns, saying “We used to do that all the time when my Granny hosted, and it was fine! Sure, it was a little crowded, but we didn’t mind.” I said “Uh-huh. How old were you when Granny hosted?” Turned out that he was a kid and therefore didn’t have to do anything but show up, eat, and play with his cousins. No wonder he had happy rose-coloured memories of those occasions – he didn’t have to do any of the work!

    • NostalgicGal November 13, 2015, 12:59 pm

      My DH never tried to pull anything like that. Had he tried, the month before I would have presented him with a 20# frozen hard as diamonds turkey and directions on how to properly thaw, clean, stuff and roast the bird. Tell him he has two week to present that fully prepared to the table THEN you two will talk about hosting at our place.
      (First turkey I ever did, three whole chickens gave their all for me to practice on on how to do it right in the month before the main event)

  • Amanda H. November 12, 2015, 3:53 pm

    Stick to your guns, OP. You’ve got the right idea. And don’t let your mom cave to Uncle and try to pressure you into inviting other people.

    My grandmother always hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners when I was growing up. My mother was the oldest of seven surviving children, and only one of them didn’t live close enough for the get-togethers. So Grandma would make the main course, a couple of sides, and pies, and each of Mom’s siblings would be sure to bring more sides and desserts so that there was enough for all without Grandma being in charge of everything. It worked out well. Somewhere along the line, someone suggested the Christmas get-together move from Christmas Eve itself to a different weekend in the month, as more of Mom’s siblings had kids and in-laws they wanted to spend individual time with. Worked out for everyone in the end. Now that more siblings have moved away and more of the grandkids are grown with families of their own (and a good third are no longer anywhere near in-town), the get-together has transformed into “whoever can come,” and has had a notable upheaval this year to my grandparents’ house burning (though occasionally my oldest aunt, who lives in town, takes over hosting duties since her home can handle it and the group has gotten somewhat smaller anyway). Both holidays were rarely, if ever, spent with my paternal grandparents as my parents just did not have the money to fly us to Dad’s home state very often.

    As for my immediate family, starting college actually helped change traditions for us somewhat. As the oldest, I started college first, and since it was halfway across the country from my parents I couldn’t be home for Thanksgiving (too expensive to fly home for just three days), so I went to my paternal grandparents’ house in the state where I was attending school. Christmas was still with my parents, at least until I married Hubby. His family lived several states away from both my family and our university, so we immediately latched onto the idea of alternating holidays. Thanksgiving was with either family if we could manage it, and Christmas that year was with the other family for “fairness.” My younger siblings each adopted similar tactics, as did Hubby’s, as they married. Even the ones where the in-laws and the parents live in the same town or near enough. Now that we have kids, some years we just say, “Sorry, we can’t make it, let’s Skype it instead.” And you know what? Skype works out great for getting family socializing in so we don’t feel like we’re missing out just because we aren’t hitting up both sets of parents every single holiday.

  • Cat2 November 12, 2015, 3:53 pm

    Who is blaming you for breaking up the family? One aunt and uncle? Shrug and move on. If your mother and others have an issue with this, then you’d have something to sit down and re-think (including the idea of having just your own family, no parents or siblings). But one aunt and uncle? They’re entitled to their opinion. And you and the rest of your family are entitled to your own.

  • NostalgicGal November 12, 2015, 4:30 pm

    Years ago, mom, one of her sisters, that one’s oldest daughter, and sometime later years youngest daughter, took turns on various holidays (I was several years younger than youngest daughter but actually started cooking most of the Thanksgiving meal before she joined the holiday cycle (doing Easter).

    We usually had thanksgiving, and made most of the food on our turn, a few sides brought. When we went to others’ we brought a few sides. The year mom found out I could actually make a delicious delicate flaky piecrust (she made shoeleather) was the year I became our family cook. I practiced on stuffing a few chickens and roasting them; and made most of the meal that year (mom was nice, I had prepped the bird and got it in the fridge, set up the oven, and she got up at 3:30 to put it in for me). We would have about 30; and I had a few superbrat younger cousins I’d rather go eat outside in a snowbank than sit at the Kid’s Table…. well that year I’d cooked most of the food, and I sat down at the adult table. Aunt of mine and grandmother of the worst of the superbrats started to pick up my placesetting to move me to the kitchen. I put a hand in the middle of my plate and informed her “I cooked this meal, I’ll sit where I please.” she looks at my mom who is nodding her head. A 7th grader had spent three days (pies day #1) on making most of what was on that table. Expression was priceless and she sat at the kid table and had a miserable meal with her grandson who was furious he couldn’t it in there. (every other holiday meal I got relegated to the kid table which was fine, but if I cooked, I sat where I felt like.)

    Years later, I left home, the cycling holidays fell apart about 5 years later, then came the melding of families. My DH is of 7, and for a rare occasion were all going to gather at a location central to most of them and do this wonderful hotel buffet. We went to see my parents for a few days before and I explained until I turned purple that we had already agreed to the first time in several years HIS side had gotten together. So early Thanksgiving morn we had to pack up, dress up nice, say goodbye and drive 2 hours to the get together. Food was good. We had one divorce post progress and nobody was talking to the gal the brother brought, (he was fully divorced by then) and sitting with his three sisters, three of us were in blue power suits, one was dressed nice, and after we all agreed we should have tossed in $25 and gotten his mom a nice new dress. I finally had enough of it and started talking to THE woman and got the methane out her earshot and replied THE DEED IS ALREADY DONE. HE STARTED SEEING HER AFTER THE BIG D so why aren’t you giving HIM both barrels instead of her. One sis still hates my guts and the other two put their big girl panties and manners on after that.

    I’d say for the OP’s story, mom should have stopped being hostess 12 years ago and either round robin it or go to meet for a nice buffet. For one day leave the family trash with the lid on, and go eat good food and be nice. The buffet that time, was absolutely great, yes we each paid our own and chipped in to pay for Mom&Dad, nobody had to cook (of us) or wash dishes (of us). We each stuffed the tip can on the way out, so we appreciated those that worked for us that day to eat out.

  • Susan November 12, 2015, 5:00 pm

    Ah, the joy of arbitrary family traditions and people who object to changing them. The community has already given a lot of excellent advice about maintaining a polite spine. We’ve gone even one step further, finding Thanksgiving is a fun time to take a foreign vacation (flying domestically may be hell, but flying nonstop to an overseas destination… not so much). Of course we don’t have a baby to lug around Paris.

  • bandit1970 November 12, 2015, 5:02 pm

    DH has to work until 6 PM on Thanksgiving. MIL has always hosted Thanksgiving, but she will be 83 in December and after last year, she’s done with hosting (can’t say I blame her). As my parents will be out of town visiting my sister and her family, we offered to host. DD (10) is excited to help in the kitchen and act as my co-host.

    DH has three older brothers. BIL # 1 is married but lives in another state. BIL # 2 is divorced but will out of town. BIL # 3 also divorced, will be joining us for dinner along with his three adult children, their SOs and granddaughter. When DH told BIL # 3 that I planned dinner for 5 PM, he flipped his gourd. Wanted DH to tell me to move it up two hours, he didn’t want to eat that late, yada, yada, yada. DH told him pointblank if you don’t like the time then don’t come. BIL # 3 hasn’t hosted anything since his divorce 15 years ago but never misses a family/holiday meal.

    Admin is spot on, those who complain the loudest are usually those who contribute the least.

  • Mrs.G November 12, 2015, 5:05 pm

    DH and I are pretty lucky in this aspect. Most of his family lives in GA, my family lives in southeastern AR, and we live in northwestern AR. DH and I split the major holidays between my family and his family since both of our families are HUGE and we live in a tiny apartment. Everyone’s happy with it for now, but I’m sure that will change once we have kids. My mother is commenting on how we can live as far away as we like until we have the grandchildren /eyeroll
    My mom has stories of living in Houston and how they would spend all day on Thanksgiving and Christmas driving around town to see all the relatives. There would always be someone that had their underwear in a bunch because my parents weren’t at their house at the “right” time or didn’t stuff themselves silly at their table. What do you expect from people that have many houses to visit? My parents finally escaped the drama by moving out of the city. I admit there are times that we lived closer to either set of families, but then I remember the stories and I become content again 😉

  • Pixi November 12, 2015, 9:54 pm

    When my husband and I first started living together we tried alternating holidays with his side versus my side.

    It lasted two years, then we compromised. Since my mother was born on December 24th my family will for as long as she is alive (she’ll be 72 this year) get us for Christmas. And since my family gets us for Christmas as long as my in laws wish to host they will always have us for thanksgiving.

    I suppose it helps that my dad was a RN (just retired at the age of 69) and could only count on having one of the three holidays off. Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day. Mom’s birthday was always the important date, so we got used to doing “thanksgiving” on different days. Nowadays my parents and brothers have something on the proper day, and another dinner when we can join them on the weekend.

  • JWH November 12, 2015, 10:24 pm

    I’ve memorized these catechisms:

    “We are hosting (XYZ) at our home this year. We have invited you to the event, and we would love to see you. If you can’t make it, then we will be sorry not to see you.”


    “Unfortunately, our home isn’t really large enough for the entire family, so we invited our immediate families for (XYZ). If you would like to host an event the next day, we would love to come and see the extended clan.”

    Repeat as needed.

  • Melanie November 13, 2015, 12:36 am

    We don’t have thanksgiving here in Australia so perhaps i have a different perspective. So lets consider that the OP’s family and her husbands family have previously been two separate family circles. Consider a ven diagram. The OP wants to bring in both sides together and overlap them slightly in a new circle at her her home. Now this is fair enough, I’m not judging. However, has anyone considered that this may leave out those on the edge of those circles? No one should be expected to maintain responsibility for hosting anything long term but perhaps it doesn’t need to be an on going tradition. Mix it up each year so that no one is perpetually left out.

    • Lerah99 November 13, 2015, 12:15 pm

      @Melanie, The OP and her husband’s overlapping circles AREN’T the only circles that exist.
      All those people you see as “perpetually left out” should have many different overlapping circles of their own.

      Why can’t this uncle and his wife start their own tradition?
      Why can’t they go celebrate with the uncle’s wife’s family?
      Why can’t they go celebrate with other family, friends, church members, bridge club members, mason lodge members. etc…?
      Are they misanthropes who have no valued relationships outside of his (the uncle’s) sister and niece?

      In my little circle, as a single person with no kids, I still have overlapping circles where I could spend Thanksgiving:
      – with my mom
      – with my dad and step mom
      – I could fly cross country and have it with my brother’s family
      – with my friend, Carolanne, who always throws a big “open house” pot luck style Thanksgiving where anyone is welcome.
      – I could cook my own Thanksgiving dinner and celebrate with my spoiled little dog while watching Netflix.
      – with my friend, Carla.
      – with my friend, Tiffany and her family.
      – with my ex-girlfriend and her current wife

      So simply because one celebration is no longer happening – that doesn’t mean that there are all these poor Thanksgiving orphans with no where to turn.
      They have friends and family.

      Or, shocking idea here, they could always make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup at home for a no muss, no fuss celebration. Heck, they could get take out Chinese food and then they don’t even have to dirty a pan.

      • Melanie November 15, 2015, 12:31 am

        Is it assumed that the OP and husband do not have siblings? Imagine husband has a sister who would like her parents to celebrate at her home one year. OP would would no doubt be invited to come along but the hosts would be under no obligation to include her parents or extended family.

        It’s not so much leaving anyone at a loose end, it’s more about hogging particular family members.

        • Lerah99 November 16, 2015, 12:03 pm

          @Melanie – I would assume the husband’s parents would do the same thing everyone else does.

          If both the OP and the OP’s sister-in-law start hosting Thanksgivings – then the parents would be able to alternate years.

          Just like everyone else does when choosing where to spend the holiday. If you have several people in your and your significant other’s families who host a big meal – you choose the one you want to attend each year.

          Simply because the OP is hosting a Thanksgiving and invites the husband’s parents every year – doesn’t mean those parents are obligated to attend every year – neglecting their poor daughter’s celebration.

  • Michelle C Young November 13, 2015, 1:19 am

    Holiday family traditions are great. Holiday family traditions that don’t involve trying to wrangle together oodles of people are even better.

    For example, a family tradition of creating a new commemorative decoration – a fun Thanksgiving activity, to spark off the holiday season. One new decoration per year is not too much, and you can display them wherever/whenever/IF you want to. Or maybe read a special poem on the day, or watch a particular video, or what-have-you. Traditions can involve anything, and be as simple or complex as you choose. The simple ones, though, are more easily carried on and passed on.

    There is absolutely no reason to insist on the old-standard Thanksgiving dinner, hosted at one person’s house, ON THE DAY (couldn’t possibly do it the weekend before, and avoid the traffic, huh?) and involving the same old menu, and the same people, regardless of anyone’s change in marital/family status. Simply no reason.

    So, yes, I agree with everything the admin says. Good luck with your spine, and I hope you and your spouse come up with a holiday tradition that will work for YOUR new family, which you can pass on without it becoming the serious burden your relatives are trying to dump onto you.

    On a personal note, I have requested that this year, we forego all the fancy Thanksgiving menu, and go straight for my favorite part – the left-over turkey sandwiches. We can cook the turkey the day before, remove ALL the meat in yummy chunks (typically, there’s never enough left-over after the big meal), and chill them in the fridge, and then on the day, we can have a cozy and casual get-together, where we slap together sandwiches, and maybe make some mashed potatoes and gravy to eat on the side. Or chips and dip. Hey, it’s potatoes.

    Fortunately, my family much prefer to be casual and stress-free, and simply enjoy hanging out together, and the holidays are just an excuse to have a party, without any particular expectations. I am SO BLESSED in my casual family. And I know that my younger relatives will not have to deal with a situation like the OP’s unless they marry into it. And if they do, well, they’ll only have to deal with the stress on one side of the family, because on our side, we’ll just say, “Let’s get together sometime during November.”

    Good luck, OP, and remember that blood may be thicker than water, but so is peanut butter, and viscosity is meaningless. You make the family you CHOOSE. All the relatives are just accidents of birth.

    • Weaver November 13, 2015, 10:17 am

      Michelle, your preference for turkey sandwiches rather than a full turkey with all the trimmings reminded me of a funny story about my sister and her family. For the first few years after my sister was married, she would roast a turkey on Christmas day for herself, her husband, and their two kids. One year they decided to get adventurous and roasted a goose instead. Alas, they must have undercooked it, and the upshot was that they gave themselves food poisoning.

      Obviously that particular Christmas wasn’t a pleasant one for them, but it did give rise to a nice tradition. For the next several years they shunned roast birds of any kind on Christmas day, and instead enjoyed a trouble-free lunch of tomato soup, bread, and a cheeseboard. This simple lunch proved to free up a lot of time on the day, time which they instead spent playing board games and watching movies. Thus, although it had a terrible beginning, a really nice family tradition was born!

    • NostalgicGal November 17, 2015, 1:51 am

      Some years after the diamond hitch, we were living well away from family (went to where the job was) and I would cook turkey and trimmings. I would always go to the chain stores that had specials like (have their discount card) and get one 20-24# bird for $5. It took a week to get that thing thawed properly but. Nobody ever ate certain parts so I would cut them off and put them in the stock pot (neck, tail, wings, gizzard and heart) and cook them up with herbs into wonderful stock. The main part of bird was prepped for oven and I never tied the legs because it took forever to cook. I had one old weird casserole that fit in the oven perfectly in THAT spot, and the stock went for making the dressing, always made outside the bird. When the rest was done things got lifted to the platter and the drippings and more stock made the gravy.

      Then, after eating like that, and maybe having a few friends over, the leftovers were made into freezer container later meals. We could stretch out killing all that over a month.

      One year my DH didn’t like how much cooking it took for me to make all that so he requested I make the ungodly delicious chunky spaghetti sauce. This all the ingredients had to be processed and cooked in certain groupings, they were added to the big casserole, and for this I bought a slice of prosciutto ham, specifying how thick I wanted it instead of by weight. After it was all assembled, it was then baked to meld everything. It takes seven solid hours of standing there until it goes into the oven for the 30-45 min bake meld. We had invited some friends, a few solos that hubby worked with (one had been a chef in an Italian restaurant, he occasionally made me my favorite from there) and one owned a restaurant up the street. Anyways, they’d pull up a fork any time I said I was making the chunky stuff. So we had spaghetti for thanksgiving (and it came out to 12 servings of healthy appetites, you could eat yourself into groan),

      I went after shoveling the kitchen and my DH apologized so seriously to me, he had never seen me make that dish before from start to end. He said how can I make it less work next year? I suggested a particular restaurant….. instead I just bought a turkey breast and a couple of turkey quarters (thigh and drumstick) and baked those up, I would get plenty of juice to steal to make the dressing and far easier for just the two of us….

      (yes those friends did reciprocate, maybe not for the holidays but we were invited and enjoyed their cooking more than once)

  • Mojo November 13, 2015, 1:29 am

    Hear, hear! Stand your ground. Family traditions may seem set in stone, but as we get older we realise they can change. After all, there had to be a first time for your huge family gathering, there can be a first time for the new arrangement.

  • Rebecca November 13, 2015, 1:42 am

    I can’t even imagine having to go to two Thanksgiving meals in one day. After the lunch was over, I sure wouldn’t be wanting a heavy dinner!! Stuff like this makes me dread Christmas and just love New Year’s when it’s MY decision how to spend it.

  • Weaver November 13, 2015, 4:35 am

    For several years, my parents had a tradition of hosting a wonderful family party in our old house, every Christmas Eve. It was usually my parents, me, my brother, my sister with her husband and children, two sets of Aunts and Uncles, a few cousins and their partners, topping out at around twenty people. We’d light the fire, the Christmas tree would be sparkling in the corner, and we’d eat, drink, tease each other, talk, laugh, and play a variety of noisy and hilarious games. In the heyday of this tradition, the party sometimes didn’t wind down until the early hours.

    While my dad, sister, brother and I all did our bit in preparing for the party and clearing up afterwards, there is no doubt that my mum did the lion’s share of the work. In particular, she’d prepare a lovely buffet with a large variety of delicious, largely homemade dishes, some of which she’d start making days in advance. (My mum is an absolutely beautiful cook).

    Eventually the tradition sort of petered out. Cousins moved abroad, it became more difficult for some of the older generation to travel to our city, and my mum began to find the amount of work involved detracted from her full enjoyment of Christmas (and who can blame her). And since those days, none of the family live in a house as large as the one we had back then. There were no hard feelings in any of this – it just happened naturally. Now we tend to celebrate Christmas in our immediate family groups.

    It really was the most wonderful tradition and I have very fond and happy memories of those times, but things can’t stay the same forever. As other posters have said, there comes a time when new traditions have to take over, however nostalgic we may be for the old ones.

    I think Admin’s comments are absolutely spot-on. I think you’re doing the right thing, OP, and I hope you can ignore and sail through the childish tantrums of your selfish aunt and uncle. Threatening to never speak to any of you again? Who DOES that? Calmly stick to your guns, and I hope your Thanksgiving celebration is very happy and successful.

  • acr November 13, 2015, 12:45 pm

    My only concern about your Black Friday restaurant idea is wondering if restaurants will be packed that day? If you are able to reserve a room, or several tables, no problem. But I know that I would be very irritated to have a pleasant family meal changed into waiting an hour or more to be able to seat a large party.

    Another issue I see is that November 3 is pretty late in the game to change long-standing traditions. IMO, it really should have been done months ago, to allow guests to make alternate plans. Many people have distant family they may like to fly to visit, but by Nov 3rd, ticket prices are pretty steep. Other people may choose to take a trip of some kind, and again, reservations 3 weeks before Thanksgiving may be hard to come by.

  • amy November 13, 2015, 12:59 pm

    And then try adding divorce into the mix and you have the only grandchildren on your ex’s side. I gave the kids the choice and they want to go to my family for Thanksgiving and Passover as my family is more spread out and we only get together twice a year. Tried the tactic of Thanksgiving is about family and food and not about Thursday, but since my family is so spread out it becomes about Thursday as well. His family is all local so can see whenever. But grandpa still wants to see his grandchildren on Thanksgiving. So we now do Thanksgiving Take 2 on Saturday with that side of the family. But it did take awhile till it was accepted by them and even now they still ask me every year if the kids and I will join them for Thursday Thanksgiving.