A few years ago, a movie came out around the holidays titled, Four Christmases. The premise of it is how one couple survives the day traipsing between four different family gatherings.
As soon as I saw the first preview, I knew I had to see it. My Christmas agenda is strikingly similar. In fact, it's crazier.
In a period of two days -- Christmas Eve gets booked, too -- I celebrate Christmas more times than I can count on one hand, shuffling my little family around to at least six different houses.
The reason for all of my go, go, going is so much better than in the aforementioned movie, though. Broken family dynamics cause the hectic strife there. Tight bonds and strong marriages cause mine.
Between my husband and I, we have three giant branches of family stretching as far as great aunts and third, maybe even, fourth cousins. Within each one, there are immediate and extended family groups each with their own way of celebrating the holidays.
Unlike other young families that may choose to alternate where to spend each Christmas, we experience them all. Of course, it helps that they everyone lives within a 30-minute drive of each other. But, it still means hours in the car, tons of food to eat and stressful decisions regarding how long to stay at one place before chugging along to the next one.
It's hard to make sure everyone sees us (and, by us, I mean our sweet, chubby-cheeked girls) that wants to and that time is evenly distributed among the in-law/out-law family trees.
Don't get me wrong. I know we are blessed to be surrounded by close-knit families. However, during the season when things should be merriest, I have been known to become my grouchiest.
With so many places to go, it takes a lot of work deciding what recipe to make for which party, what time to show up where and what outfits to put on so one side of the family doesn't see our daughters twice in the same Rudolph shirt with the sparkling nose.
I am ashamed to admit there have been many times during the decade my husband and I have orchestrated this crazy Christmas schedule, when I have complained about our whirlwind holiday, both out loud and to myself.
It usually goes something like this. (Cue annoying, whiny voice)
"Why can't we stay at home and have a relaxed day that we plan ourselves?" I ask.
I have gone so far to hint at stealing an idea from the couple in this resonating holiday movie and just skip Christmas altogether, instead running away on some adventure for a few days.
I would never do that. It's incredibly selfish and the grandmothers would excommunicate me if I took their babies away.
Besides, I realize how fortunate I am to come from a strong family and to have married in to the same. Some people never get one.
Introducing my daughters to the traditions we all share is a big deal, especially during the holidays.
So, in a period of two days will say, "Merry Christmas," to almost 100 family members, gain about 10 pounds from all the food they lovingly prepare and experience at least six times over what Christmas is all about.
And, each year by the time stores start stocking shelves with tinsel and twinkling lights, I'm ready to do it all over again.
Challenge family and friends at your holiday party.
We've got festive free games for you to download and play!
Ask the kids to do this skit for the family.