The Holiday Venue

By Bonnie Baker Cowan

With the holiday season upon us, families gather to celebrate. The question is where? Do you host the festivities or has the venue moved to the home of your grown children?

With many of us downsizing to condos, townhouses and apartments, we don’t have the same room to entertain. It makes practical sense for grown children who have more space to host the get-togethers. Added to the space factor is the desire to keep children in their own homes where they can wake up to the excitement of the holiday and not have to be packed into a car to go to grandma’s house.

Celeste and Tom of Winnipeg have always had Christmas in their three-bedroom bungalow where they raised their two children. But now, their daughter has a toddler and an infant—and a big house. So the festivities have moved there. “I still spend most of the day in the kitchen, though,” Celeste says wryly. “That responsibility hasn’t changed. I just have to pack the car with food and transport it there.”

Geraldine, who lives in a condo in Aurora, Ontario says “When I had a house, Christmas was always mine. It went on for three days and included ex husbands, ex wives, boyfriends’ parents and assorted strays with no place to go. But my current flat isn’t big enough, so the holidays have moved to my daughter’s house, where the celebration revolves around my grandchildren, as it should. It’s a wonderful day, but it does not go on for three days. With two unmarried, childless grown children, I spread my presence around so that no one is alone on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Ahh, I long for those days when I was in charge and it all revolved around me!”

Sometimes, the most difficult challenge in dealing with adult children with families of their own is to accept their perspective of a lifestyle. It’s often a stretch to give up being their authoritative parent, in charge of their lives and allow them to develop their own traditions and customs. And the next step is to conform, ourselves, to those different customs. My daughter, son-in-law and my grandchildren have opted to spend a portion of the Christmas season for the past three years in Florida. So we have our big family celebration early and on Christmas Day, I share the gifts and turkey with my childless grown children. While it’s a nice change to have an adult celebration, without the frenzy of grandchildren, I feel slightly bereft that all my family isn’t sharing the day. It takes a stretch of my memory but I do accept the fact that when I was a young mom, my first priority was my children and their holiday happiness, not that of my parents. They weren’t left out necessarily, but they were not my first priority. Besides, I had two siblings in other parts of the province and my parents always had somewhere to go. So I understand my daughter’s focus. I was there once too.

And to further enhance my sense of good will, I consider the predicament of Donna of Orillia, Ontario who only sees both her daughters and their families once every five years. Not only is Donna divorced, but her daughters have both married men of divorced parents, so to be fair, they spend a holiday season with each of their estranged families. Hence, Donna’s turn comes up every five years. “But I cherish my turn,” Donna says “and I’ve accepted the fact that I won’t see my daughters and grandkids every year. It makes that fifth year that much more special.”

Hmmm, want to join me in Mexico this holiday season, Donna?