For nearly two decades, I have spent holidays with other people's families. I was 22 the first year that both my parents were dead and one of my dear friends invited me to spend Christmas with her at her uncle's house. That year, she gave me the only gift I received for Christmas. Since then, I've usually spent holidays with families of husband one and two, or with boyfriend's families while in between marriages, but the worst Christmas day I can remember was in 2005. I was alone at home on Christmas day trying hard to enjoy my beef tenderloin steak and chatting with my two orange cat friends. I couldn't wait for the day to be over so I could go back to work. Happily, I started dating Steve a month later and life became much better.
What got me through all the years of spending holidays with "other" families was the hope that someday I would have my own family to share the holidays with. I dreamed about shopping for my children's gifts and imagined their delight as they unwrapped presents from under the tree. I thought about the meaningful family traditions we would create that would be all ours. Dropping by other people's homes on Christmas wouldn't be such a chore because I would have already had my "special" family time.
I've tried different strategies to help the holidays be more joyful. I've decked out our home with creative holiday decorations, threw a festive holiday party, adopted a needy family... But the disappointment was still there. So, I've decided this year I'm only going to participate at the level I am comfortable with. It's doubtful that I will be going to other people's homes to witness their nuclear families being together - a reminder of what I lost almost 20 years ago and what I have not been able to recreate in my own life.
I haven't decided what good replacement activities would be on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Serve dinner at a homeless shelter? Sounds depressing. Take a trip? Just stay home and make an awesome dinner? Pretend like it's just another day, except my husband happens to be off work?
Creative suggestions are welcome.