Creating the Best Holiday Traditions: Go to Grandma's, or Stay Home?

Mom Moment 10

Ever since my husband and I first got together, we've traveled for the holidays. If not at Thanksgiving, then definitely for Christmas. We've always lived miles from family -- if we wanted to spend the holidays with our loved ones, someone had to make that endless trip up and down I-5. It was usually us, because not only does most of our family live in the same general area of Oregon, but our house in Seattle wasn't particularly well-suited for having people visit.

Now that we live in Oregon -- and our living room is a little more accommodating -- we'll be hosting Christmas this year. But as we look forward to the (hopefully) many years to come, I wonder what sort of holiday tradition is best to establish, now that we actually have some options to consider.

Should we do it at our house? At the grandparents' house? My husband's brother lives here too, what about his house? How do you pick where to spend your holidays -- and is it possible to make the WRONG choice?

It sounds like sort of a dumb (or at least extremely privileged) question, I know. We have so many loved ones nearby, what should we do? Isn't this a TERRIBLE problem to have?

But I have an actual reason for wondering. See, when I was a kid, we went to my grandparents' house in Michigan for almost every Christmas. I have wonderful memories of those visits: snow everywhere, the giant tree they always had, the familiar ornaments and treats and all their lovely holiday traditions.

Years later, though, my mother told me she wished we'd done more Christmases at our own house. She said she'd wished we'd established some of those beloved traditions at home, instead of having it all associated with something that could not last. My grandparents moved, grew older, and eventually they both passed away. By then I was no longer a child who was easily charmed by Christmas magic, of course, but still ... it never felt the same.

So that's what makes me think about my own children and how to create the traditions they'll treasure. Does it make a difference in the long run where they have their Christmas morning each year? Is it important to establish a pattern: we always do X on this day, and Y on that day? Does any of it matter at all, as long as there is love and family togetherness?  

Some say that changing holiday traditions can be upsetting:

Anytime families deviate in any manner from a long-standing family tradition, they’re bound to generate emotional responses from some family members.

To me, though, it seems like the most important thing is creating those special holiday feelings, and the location shouldn't matter nearly as much as the sentiment. That said ... god, I'm thankful not to be driving seven hours on a freeway this holiday season.

What's your approach to family togetherness during the holidays? Do you insist on being at home, or do you travel, or do you switch things up each year?

Image via Linda Sharps

travel, christmas, holiday entertaining


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nonmember avatar Amiee

I absolutely insist on Christmas morning at home. We are lucky as well to have my family near by to get together for Christmas Eve and his family for Christmas day. But when the kids look back I want them to remember being home in pjs Christmas morning eating sugar.

early... earlybird11

We have many traditions family wide... The "patriach" always hosts christmas day- (In this case, its my dad, heis the oldest male of three sisters) -this includes cousins and their families...

It will become my brother's holiday unless he does not get married - in which case it will become mine as the oldest daughter of the  "patriarch"  --- Of course, these are just silly traditions that have lasted 3+ generations... our most important part is to be together...

Christmas morning my in laws (they do not celebrate christmas themselves, as they are jewish) and my parents will come to my home to watch our son open presents and have a LIGHT breakfast--- then after we will follow our normal traditions - It is not just christmas that we have traditions.. we do this for every holiday including memoral day (annual family trip with 15+ people) --- I enjoy my family so much.. i want to spend as much time with every single one of them... i hope i have many years to enjoy them and i will push myself to exhaustion if i had to drive through the night to get to them.. luckily, we decided long ago we will stay where our roots are and not leave until our family is gone, if ever!



britn... britneykaren

From my childhood, it was all over the place!! We had a Christmas party the weekend before and it switched between houses I loved it no matter where we were!!! No idea how our future holidays will be, my family is in Oregon and his is in south Carolina, noone can afford the travel

nonmember avatar Meaghan

I feel like our traditions are ones that can be taken anywhere. We live far from family, so sometimes it is here with guests, or here alone, or there with husband's parents, or with mine. But the important traditions and the meaning of Christmas are all there whereever we are!

nonmember avatar Brenna

The only tradition that I am unwilling to part with is Christmas fondue at my parents' house. It can be either Christmas Day or Eve, depending on which day we spend with them, but it's non-negotiable. But considering it, you're right: the location doesn't seem to matter as much as the ritual of it. Everybody gathered close by (because it's fondue, you have to be close!), just spending peaceful time together.

I'm sure someday not too far off my mom will get tired of doing all the work and it will transition over to my house, but that will be good, too.

Nancy... NancyJ422

We were in the same boat for awhile - husband's parents lived 5 hours away, we traveled there for Christmas.  BUT when our son was 4 I put my foot down and said, we'll visit the weekend before or whatever, but Christmas morning WILL be at home.  Because that was MY Christmas growing up.

The following year didn't matter because by then we were living in Connecticut!  So, since then it's been Christmas at home.  Then a family party with cousins, aunts, uncles that afternoon.  Then we all got older and the party is now usually the Sunday right before Christmas (as in 2 days).  

I say, enjoy the Christmas Eve/Christmas morning at home, and create whatever tradition - switching houses, having everyone at yours, whatever - for that afternoon.  Growing up we LOVED it when the party was at our house because we got to play and show off our toys!

Torra... TorranceMom

My husband & I have a strict rule, "Holidays at home." Family is always welcome to join us if they want.

Betwe... BetweenCourses

We have xmas day here at home, just us, then my folk come over in afternoon. No huge dinner, snacks, pizza, subs, shrimp,. Then sometime later.. The 26th or 30th or whatever works we meet with my sisters, their families, and our folks, and we also take 3 days to go visit his folks in Mi, or they come here. Christmas is not about the day, rather the family, laughter and fun, whether celebrated on the 25th or the 29th. (and still, no turkey et al.... We had that, it was called thanksgiving, we make snacks, appetizers, sub sands, cheese balls and cookies and bc not tg on 25th, a pizza place is open!)

Samfan97 Samfan97

We go to my in-laws for Christmas Eve each year. Sadly, they don't have any big traditions, though. We also duck out at some point and go to church. We have always gone to my parents' for Christmas Day but they live nearly 3 hours away. This year, I said no more. My son is still little but I don't want his Christmas tradition to include 5-6 hours in the car. We are planning on a big breakfast, nice dinner and presents and relaxation in between. I want it to be a laid-back day, just enjoying each other. We had Christmas with my family yesterday, too.

salle... salledelstein

As millions crowd at that. airports for Thanksgiving, tensions mount at the thought of long lines, crowds and delays. But once upon a time flying was a breeze. For the modern mid century family the notion of flying home for the holidays was a novelty and a grand experience. They could ditch their DeSoto which was as old and dated and old fashioned as traveling by sleigh

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