Why We Don't Visit Family During The Holidays

couple cooking the thanksgiving turkey

When we first married, we had between us four parents, four grandparents, three siblings (plus their spouses) and two nieces. Not to mention eight sets of aunts and uncles and two special great-aunts. The holidays were madness. December was a blur of family parties. There were also family gatherings throughout the year for every major (and non-major holiday). We ran around like lunatics trying to get to two or three or even four events on the major holidays, so that no one was left out.

After we had children, it became even harder to navigate the constant merry-go-round of events, which interfered with naptimes and disrupted our hard-won family routines.

The year I was pregnant with our first baby, I caught a terrible stomach virus at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner (yes, there were even pre-Thanksgiving dinners) from people who thoughtlessly came sick, which left me too sick to go to the real Thanksgiving dinner. So we stayed home. Alone. Too sick to cook or eat much, we nibbled on store-bought dinner rolls and basked in the silence. We didn't have to dress up, drive anywhere, make conversation or eat other people's bad food. It was heaven.

A few years later, when the whirlwind of children complicated the scene, we fondly looked back on that quiet Thanksgiving. "I want just one holiday to ourselves," my husband announced. We mulled it over and decided to take back Thanksgiving. We explained to everyone that we wouldn't be coming to the family dinners, but they would all see us in just a few short weeks once the December schedule of events began. I bought a small turkey and made all the favorites we craved, which no one ever served us. No more oyster stuffing, fennel soup or blueberry pie on Thanksgiving for us. We went back to the basics and reveled in turkey, plain stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. It was a wonderful, quiet day at home for the two of us to enjoy each other's company (and that of our young daughter). We felt relaxed, recharged and ready to face the coming holiday madness. Why You Should Create Your Own Holiday Traditions

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A quiet, at-home Thanksgiving has continued to be our tradition for the past 16 years. An afternoon walk in the woods while the turkey cooks builds our appetite and gives us time to enjoy the silence together, or to chat comfortably. We hang around the house in sweats and watch the parade and the dog show together, with the kids coming in and out. I'm in charge of the food, and my husband handles the carving. Now that our kids are older, we use good china to make it even more special. 5 Innovative Ways To Bond As A Family

Thanksgiving has become the kick-off to a couple's weekend for us. The rest of the weekend, we put all the Christmas decorations up (always a challenge to marital harmony). The kids are in and out, heading out with friends and helping occasionally. It's the one weekend a year when we focus just on us, and on our immediate nuclear family. I always feel so close to my husband by the end of the weekend.

Although surviving the stress of putting up the decorations is one explanation for our renewed bond, I think it has more to do with the fact that we've claimed a holiday as our own.

How do you handle holiday stress? Take our holiday survey and let us know how you cope.