Feeling like the Grinch during Christmas
Q: I know you get letters about Christmas every year; well, my problem is a little bit different. My problem is not about relatives not wanting to come to our house for Christmas but just the opposite. Everyone wants to come to our house because they have such a good time here.
When “Janice” (my partner) and I first started inviting the family only five or six usually came, but each year more and more family members have started setting aside the day to be with us. We are now up to having about 31 people – of all ages – here for Christmas. They are family members – from both of our families – that either live near here or are flying in for Christmas. Do you know how much work and money it takes to feed that many people?
I spend the whole month of December shopping, cleaning, cooking and decorating. We like to give everyone a little gift, but now since we are up to 31 people it costs use about $500-$600 to buy everyone small gifts – plus the amount of time it takes to go out and find the “perfect gift” for each person. I usually take two days off from work before Christmas to get all the intense preparation done. I start shopping and cleaning three days before Christmas and work non-stop until the dinner is served. On Christmas Day, I am usually slaving over the stove while everyone is having fun in the other room. I try to be gracious about it but it is hard.
Then after dinner Janice and I do all the clean up. We usually have dinner at about three in the afternoon; people stay until about 7 p.m. and Janice and I clean up until 10 or 11 p.m. I fall in bed exhausted, which lasts for days. Janice helps out with all the Christmas stuff as much as she can, but she has a much more demanding job that causes her to work more hours than I do. In fact, she brings work home so much of the time and is frankly just too busy to help as much as I need. This year I am finding that I resent the whole thing more and more.
I’ve talked to Janice about ending the whole thing, but she sees it as a wonderful Christmas tradition that she isn’t willing to give up. I feel like the Grinch Who Stole Christmas whenever I say I don’t want to do it any more.
How do I either give up the “wonderful tradition” or change it so it doesn’t feel like I am a servant during Christmas season, I don’t want to hurt Janice or all of our wonderful relatives.
A: Wow, you do have a house full of people for Christmas, with you and Janice taking on all the work and expense yourselves. I can see several ways you and Janice could keep the tradition going, if this is what you want to do. My partner Elaine and I have a lot of our friends and family over for Christmas as well, and it is a lot of work. However, everyone helps by bringing a dish or two so we don’t do all the cooking ourselves. We also have people that help clean up after the party, so it isn’t all on us.
I would mention to everyone at Christmas dinner that the dinner has gotten so big and expensive that you need help. I bet many of the folks would be willing to bring food or help with preparation, if asked. Or, what about having the food part catered, with everyone chipping in financially? Then you could sit back and enjoy Christmas and family instead of slaving over the stove.
Would it be financially feasible to hire someone to help with the cleaning before the party, so you don’t have to do it all? Or ask a family member to help. Also maybe you should get rid of the tradition of giving everyone a gift. How about doing a drawing of names, so everyone has just one gift to buy? Maybe someone else would be willing to take turns having the party so it’s not always at your house?
People won’t be part of solving this problem if they don’t understand what’s going on with you. So speak up! My guess is that it is an important time for everyone and they will be willing to help.
Have a problem? Send your letters to: “Dear Jody,” C/O Between the Lines, 11920 Farmington Road, Farmington, MI 48150. Or, e-mail: [email protected] (Letters may be edited.)