The Chat: Home(s) for the holidays

JEN: With Thanksgiving behind us, and Christmas ahead of us, it's fair to say we're officially in the season of peace, love, and … turf wars. Where and with whom a person spends the holidays can be a big deal — and has the potential to upset a lot of in-laws. How do you handle family holidays?

JOY: I expect to be the center of every holiday gathering.

JEN: Yes, I would've thought that about you.

JOY: I am kidding. Really.

TRACY: Each year I hope that a time machine has been invented so that our family can be in three places at once, but it still hasn't happened.


JEN: I hear you, Tracy! All I want for Christmas is a teleporter.

JOY: It really can be a time of difficult choices.

TRACY: Our son was born in mid-November nine years ago, and I was so tired that we decided to introduce an 'our house' into the rotation and just stay home for the holidays.

JEN: Was everyone OK with that?

TRACY: How can I put this? NO! But I was tired, he was tiny, and there were lots of relatives in our future, so I just said "no." Now, we have a three-year rotation: My mom's house, his mom's house, and then OURS.

JOY: Good for you. Nice use of boundaries, Tracy.

JEN: It's hard to make everyone happy. Jay's mom is 280 miles away, my parents are 400 miles away, and their two towns are 250 miles apart. We did it all one year and we said NEVER AGAIN. It was insanity.

JOY: Oh man, yes, insanity. We never had that kind of an issue. I feel bad for families that never get to establish their own Christmas traditions because they are always hauling off to Grandma's house. Christmas Eve has been my major family holiday historically, but last year all of our kids had other options for Christmas. So Pete and I had our own Christmas Eve by ourselves and it was wonderful.


TRACY: I have a 60-plus-year-old friend who, although he is a grandpa, STILL has his mother and MIL engage in a turf war over Christmas Eve and Day.

JOY: Wow. Sounds like he needs to get a backbone and set some boundaries. I know of two women in similar circumstances. One is a friend my age who never, ever had a Christmas at home with just her family because her mother demanded that Christmas always be at her house several states away. Now my friend's kids are grown and gone and they never had the chance to develop their own traditions.

JEN: That sounds crazy, but I can see how it happens.

JOY: I'd be sad and upset if we'd never been able to establish our own Christmas traditions at our own house with our own kids.

TRACY: After I heard my friend's tale, I decided two things: One, that our family was going to start our own 'stay home' tradition every year or so. And two, that you have to suck it up, give your mom or MIL what they want, and go home every once in a while!

JOY: My parents were very generous in giving up the longstanding Christmas Eve celebration so that we could establish our own celebrations with our own kids when they were little. I will always be thankful to them for that; it was gracious.

TRACY: I imagine that if I'm around when my kids are grown with their own families, I would like them to come home every few years for Christmas, but I absolutely won't demand it.

JEN: I have to say, my parents have been great about holidays. When I told them we were going to Green Bay to spend Thanksgiving with friends this year, my mom said, "Oh, that's nice. They are like family to you, too." That is a gift.


JOY: Indeed, the best gift ever!

JEN: Still, I dream about teleporters. Because in my ideal world, we would get to spend some time with everyone we love over Christmas.

JOY: Well, not all of the celebrating needs to be ON the holiday.

JEN: Right! You can stretch it out. But I will say this: When everyone IS at my parents' house for the holidays? It's lunacy — a cacophony of kids and chaos. I'm never too sad to head home…

TRACY: Hear, hear! Thirty people on Christmas Eve and even more on Christmas Day. I'm always ready to go home! Which is another reason, if you've never done it, staying at home will be the best gift you'll ever give yourself!

Jen Koski is a Post-Bulletin columnist and associate editor at Rochester Magazine. She and her husband, Jay, live in Rochester with their 10- and 13-year-old sons.

Joy Larson is a nurse, wife, mother and mother-in-law of three, and grandmother of seven. She is also a freelance writer, foodie and perpetual learner.

Tracy McCray is a longtime Rochester resident, but she's a South Dakota farm girl at heart. She can be heard on Mayo Clinic Medical Edge Radio and on 1340 KROC-AM. Her podcast and columns are found at

What To Read Next
Get Local