How to survive home for the holidays

November 17, 2015

how-to-survive-the-holidaysAh, the romance of home for the holidays.


For some the holidays are full of sweet family togetherness, joy and love.   Not for you? Me neither. Never was. I could have used a “how to survive the holidays” manual. Maybe you could use one, too.

Do any of these scenarios seem familiar?

The family member that drinks too much and gets belligerent. Or teary. Kids melting down. Somebody’s always sick with the flu or a bad cold. Or arguing. Maybe the turkey isn’t ready on time or the family’s filled up on appetizers and aren’t interested in the multi-course gourmet holiday dinner you’ve prepared. Maybe kids don’t like what Aunt Helen prepared.

When it comes to the holidays, many of us are happy just to survive them.

So here are a few simple holiday survival strategies.

Make it easy on yourself.

Save your fancy gourmet creations for a dinner party. Make the meal easy to fix, share the preparation and do as much make-ahead food as possible so you, too, can enjoy the day. It’s your holiday, too.  If some of your company isn’t cooking anything, ask them to help clean up.

Avoid picky-eater arguments.

If your kids or grandkids are picky eaters, this is not the time to coax them to try giblet stuffing. Do have something they like to eat, even it if it’s just mac ‘n cheese. And if you aren’t their mom, have their mom fix it.

Include high-protein appetizers.

We metabolize alcohol better with some protein in our tummies. If you’re serving drinks, have high-protein appetizers available.

Make family visits AFTER the meal.

If possible, make the rounds of family after you eat. That avoids having family members who are half-potted at the table.

Be patient.

Shiz happens on holidays. Keep the peace on this one day.

Don’t overdo.

Many Christian families celebrate both Christmas Eve and Christmas together. I think that’s a bad idea. If you have a multi-day holiday, too, here’s a tip: Pick one holiday for a family dinner. Do what you want the other day, even if it’s just going to a movie and having wine and cheese.


Plan a post-holiday debrief: a get together out somewhere with your favorite female friends when the whole thing is over. A safe place to express your frustration, laugh at what happened and to just have the good time you hoped you’d have on the holiday.

Because that group of friends? They’ll get you. They probably have their own crazy holiday stories to relate.
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28 comments on “How to survive home for the holidays
  1. GiGi Eats says:

    How do I survive the holidays? By not going home this year – ha ha ha ha! Although… As the holidays approach, I am a TINY BIT sad that I decided not to!

  2. I love it when other people have similar Christmas stories to relate. Trying to get all my family members in the same place at the same time has caused me more stress than I ever want to have again. Now I fit in around their plans – if it’s somewhere around Christmas Day then I’m happy – it’s just not worth the pain of trying to have a “Very Brady Christmas” in this day and age!

  3. Paola says:

    Totally agree!!!
    The holidays may be such a difficult time and it shouldn’t be, so yes to every single item you listed!!!

  4. Just last night, after two disastrous practice runs at making pies, I decided to buy them from an amazing bakery instead. Who needs that kind of angst?

  5. Great suggestions! The holidays can be so hard and really shouldn’t be. They should be a time to enjoy the season and the company. Going in prepared will definitely help!

  6. I, too, dread holidays, but for a different reason. I am a single, childless woman of a certain age. None of my relatives speak to me anymore. But, hey, that’s a GOOD thing! So when Thanksgiving comes along, I post my availability on Facebook and wait for the invitations to come rolling in. When an old friend breaks down and invites me to their in-laws holiday meal, I am torn. While I am grateful to be included, I know the reality. No ones holiday gathering is a festive gourmet event in which all goes well, other than Martha Stewart re-runs. There will be loud-mouthed alcoholics, weepy children, cold turkey and suspect pies. And that’s what we are all really celebrating. The joy of being okay with all that can and will go wrong!

  7. Roz Warren says:

    Great advice. My favorite? “Pick one holiday for family dinner.” How sane is that? For me, it will be Thanksgiving, which I’ll be spending in California with my wonderful son and DIL. (Their house, their cooking, their planning. I’ll help clean up.) I can’t wait.

  8. I am very fortunate that I love going home for the holidays and thoroughly enjoy all of the family time. But I have quite a few friends who are not in the same situation and these are some great tips!

  9. I used to be the Pearl Mesta of holiday entertaining, and if you know who Pearl is you know I’ve been around a long time. We were the ones who took in the kids friends who weren’t able to be with family, it was always fun and I miss it. Then my sons married and my days were over. A son is a son til he takes a wife and then you are history. *bitter, party of one* over here.
    So we try to adapt and I will say, you have great tips here. Especially the venting party with friends after!

  10. Love this quick and easy tips 🙂 I’ve been telling our fans to book Yoga classes, too!

  11. Thankfully, we have very little drama at our holiday celebrations. I think the idea is to keep expectations low and just enjoy the time together for what it is!

  12. Alana says:

    My husband has an elderly mother coming home from over a month stay in rehab, after a hospitalization. We are definitely going to make Thanksgiving as easy on ourselves as possible. Christmas, we may have to tap dance around a family feud. We’ll just do the best we can.

  13. Kimberly says:

    Great plan ahead tips Carol. The perfect holiday fantasy isn’t reality for most, and a little practical strategy goes a long way.
    Kimberly XO

  14. Donna says:

    Great ideas, if folks would gird up their loins and do these things rather than what they think should be done everything would be easier. I hate to say this, but it’s true, let go of expectations and concentrate on enjoying people. Good job as usual Carol.

  15. Estelle says:

    You called it, the holidays are fraught with family turbulence. I plan to relax, enjoy and have a nice couple of glasses of Malbec.

  16. Margaret says:

    Great advice. I get along pretty well with my family, especially since I decided to refuse to discuss politics and religion. I’m also an introvert I’ve decided it’s OK if I need to disappear to read or take a nap.

  17. Now that the family is grown with families of their own, the holidays are just too complicated for me. My solution- it’s not an abundance of Bourbon, although… I just refuse to be bothered. I refuse, as though I had just got out of the hospital with a chronic cardiac condition and keeping calm means my life. I love your suggestions, I’ll add them to my arsenal.

  18. Chel says:

    Totally needed this when I was younger. Holidays can be a bit cramped and stressed up the butt. I really like the post holiday idea where you vent to the friend. That’s a really good touch. I enjoyed reading this. Thanks!

  19. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Ah yes, the post mortem with your girlfriends. That is the best part!

  20. Clare Speer says:

    This is so cute and I chucked a few spots – thanks for the truths! We have big family holidays…. but it has been difficult these past years since my parents both passed! I love your last tip about getting together and sharing with friends – so so cute – great idea!

  21. Here we go again! I know, I know it should be a wonderful time of year but I just dread some parts. Who knows WHAT will happen this year, huh. Thanks for your tips and the post-holiday debrief idea – that’s a good one!!

  22. Tanitha says:

    I love this so much, I think it applies to most people! My favourite is the debriefing afterwards, always a must!

  23. jennyb says:

    Great advice there. So many of us have these classic family problems!!

  24. Gill says:

    Love this post! Love it’s honesty. I’m still milking the next generations “doing Christmas” as long as they are able to – Mum’s, Mum-in-law and Aunties 🙂 I figure when my time comes to cater then I’ll have plenty of years to do that. Some really good tips here though – especially like the idea to de-brief with close girl friends after.I think we can often be our own worst enemies with stress around the holidays – just got to keep taking a step back and focussing on what is important and forget all the nonsense. Wishing you and yours a very happy holiday 🙂

  25. Yes, a great list here, Carol! I especially love the idea of “rehashing” with the girlfriends! Will start that tradition this year at a restaurant locale convenient to us all! That will be hilarious! Laughter is good medicine.

  26. Your post really does illuminate how much of our stress we tolerate out of habit. This occurs to me every year. Also, I love your tip of glamming down at holiday time and sticking to tried and true. Excellent suggestion.

    But my favorite line was the second one in: “NOT.”

    You’re the best.

  27. Linda says:

    Sound advice! Over the years, I’ve lowered my expectations and refrained from offering to cook. I will gladly show up with a bakery cake and cash gifts, having used my time and energy on things that are fun and useful to myself. I should plan the debrief soon!

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "How to survive home for the holidays"
  1. […] certainly worth a try. So come on over HERE and learn how to survive the holidays with your sanity […]

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