Perry Como—the writer of the hit holiday song (There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays, is a filthy liar! Okay, maybe that’s harsh; he’s either a filthy liar, or he’s never spent Christmas with that cousin, or that aunt, or that in-law. You know the family members who always have something to say or someone to argue with—the family members who make you wonder if you can vote them out of the family just like the best episode of Survivor ever. This December is a bit different, especially based on where you live and who you live with. Because of restrictions with Covid-19, most of us are having our Holiday dinners over video chat. Some of us who have the ability to self-isolate two weeks ahead are seeing our families in person. Regardless of where you spend the holidays, the family can make you want to ditch the eggnog entirely and just drink straight vodka instead.
Family being difficult during the holidays is no revolutionary observation. In fact, several of the most popular Christmas movies are centred around that premise: Christmas Vacation (1989), Four Christmases (2008), A Christmas Story (1983), and Home Alone (1990) all (in some way or another) showcase how spending the holidays with family (particularly extended family) can make the one time of year that is supposed to be magical very much not. The difference between those movies and my article (other than the fact that my article isn’t a 100 million dollar blockbuster) is that I’m not going to tell you that family is annoying and you just have to deal with them. No! I’m going to give you the ultimate feminist guide to the holiday season!
Consider it my gift to you. The Ultimate Feminist Guide to the Holiday Season. You’re welcome.
1. Spend the Holidays with People who Deserve you, and who Make you Feel Loved.
This is one of the more serious tips I’m going to give you, but it needs to be said aloud: Spend the Holidays with people who make you happy. I don’t know where the concept of hanging out with people who make you feel bad came from, but as an adult, nobody is entitled to your time and energy. If your family has been abusive, unkind, or toxic in the past, you do not owe them your time in the holiday season. If spending time with your partner, your friends, your roommates, or even your dog makes you happy, do it.
2. Ask the kid what they want, don’t gender toys!
The ultimate feminist guide to the holiday season touches on the deep points like heteronormativity and how it tends to bare its ugly head around times where gift-giving and children are involved. Christmas, Hanukah, birthdays, basically the holiday season, all send adults into toy stores to uncomfortably picking out a reasonably priced gadget for the little one in their lives. A rookie mistake that far too many adults make is to blindly go into the pink aisles for girls and the blue aisles for boys, possibly wasting money on a doll for a kid who really just wants a monster-truck. Every child is unique, and every child plays differently. Ask the child what they would like to play with and not limit them to what the world thinks they should!
P.S. Don’t rely on adults’ word about what the kids in your life want; go straight to the source!
3. Don’t Make Anybody Hug You, You Creep!
This tip is centred on the kids in the family, but it’s also a good life tip. We need to be especially sensitive about who we hug during our socially distant holidays, but for families who are together, can we stop making kids hug people they don’t want to? Everyone deserves autonomy over their own bodies regardless of how young; if a child does not want to hug their uncle, who they see twice a year, then lay off! Teaching kids they don’t owe anyone hugs or kisses, you’re teaching them simple consent and the power over their autonomy. You wouldn’t force an adult to hug you, so what makes kids different?
How to Deal with Your Family:
My Holiday wish for you is for everything to go smoothly, for there to be no “friendly” debates, and no one to get so drunk they start crying. To some people reading this, this wish may seem very attainable! Congratulations! But for the rest of us, this is how to deal with some of the key players in the Christmas drama as a part of the ultimate feminist guide to the holiday season!
Name: Bill, Frank, Elmer, etc.
The patriarch of the family is probably in his sixties or eighties. He sits at the head of the table and chews really loudly, and tells stories from his youth. Most of the time he’s okay because he can’t always hear what’s going on (again, because of his chewing), so just talk to him about the holidays and not politics.
Pros: He loves his family fiercely, probably give some decent cash for presents, gets really excited about the holidays, will most likely be asleep by 7 PM on the couch.
Cons: Potentially old school racist, might’ve voted for Trump, probably doesn’t think he’s racist (which is the worst kind of racist).
Most likely to say: “Back in my day,” “I don’t see colours,” something about your generation being weak.
I would probably ignore him, but if you’re a better person than me, you might want to ask him to stop; go ahead! Approach it calmly, get to the point, compliment him, and tell him he could really help his community combat racism because of how smart and clever he is. If that doesn’t work, wait until he eventually retires to the couch for a long nap.
Family Score: 5/10
2. Mom Who Just Wants Everything to go Fine for Once
Name: Cheryl, Grace, Vivian, etc.
All she wants is one Christmas without a fight. Is that honestly too much to ask from her? She spends the whole month trying to make things perfect, but someone always ruins it. She makes a bomb dinner but probably will be in tears by the end of the night.
Pros: Really, really cares if you’re having a good time. She has a great holiday playlist, gives thoughtful gifts, and Christmas wouldn’t happen without her.
Cons: Very, very tense, tries to smooth over the racist thing your aunt just said, peacemaker to a fault, a pot waiting to boil over with tears.
Most Likely to Say: “Can we have a nice dinner?” “No politics tonight!” “Just be nice to your [racist] cousin!”
Give this poor woman a break! She’s trying her best, even though she can be a pushover. Don’t get in the weeds with your racist aunt for her sake; just state your point and move on.
Family Score: 8/10
3. Little Niece/Nephew/Cousin
Name: Maggie, Katie, Max, etc.
Description: This kid really reminds you of what the holidays are all about. Her love for Santa and gifts. The magical sparkle in her eyes and the fact that she doesn’t know how annoying your family really is, refreshing. She’s genuinely pretty great, even if she asks to play games on your phone a lot.
Pros: The embodiment of Holiday Cheer, probably wearing a Santa hat or reindeer antlers (super festive), you get to watch her freak out over the $30 toy you bought her, will most likely be asleep with Grandpa on the couch by 8 PM, thinks you’re really cool.
Cons: Wants to play games on your phone, plays on her iPad (full volume) at the table, doesn’t have a filter, so she might inadvertently insult you.
Most Likely to Say: “You got games on your phone?” “Merry Christmas!” “Why does your nose look like that?”
What to do: This kid rocks. Let her teach you how to enjoy your holiday! Being around a kid during the holidays is a blessing because they remind you how great things really are. (Also, when you’re playing with toys together later, tell her that women are equal to men and she can be whatever she wants to be.)
Family Score: 12/10
4. Cool Cousin who’s Younger than you but Somehow Way More Socially Aware.
Name: Ally, Kris, Something cool like that
Description: Way more socially aware than you were at her age, still more socially conscious than you are now, knows the difference between systemic and systematic, probably a vegetarian, really cool, probably kind of rude though.
Pros: Will back you up against racist aunt, makes your argument stronger, finally someone to help pull the weight, super funny, and doesn’t take shit from anyone.
Cons: Pretty rude, not afraid to get in the dirt with your racist aunt, upsets your mom who just wants everything to go smoothly, gets petty, and might say something out of pocket, or even spill some family tea.
Most Likely to Say: “Dude, shut up” (to your grandfather), “Black Lives Matter!” “Trans rights are human rights!” “At least I’m not divorced, Aunt Kathy.”
What to do: Listen to this kid and learn from her, she knows a lot, and she’s ready to fight. You finally have a partner in this, rejoice! Talk crap about your family with her later.
Family Score: 9/10
5. Your Emotionally Un-invested/Hung-Over Dad
Name: John, Rob, Mark, etc.
Description: Drank too many cups of eggnog last night; it took him forever to get out of bed, not great at being festive. He loves you so much, but man does not want to see his in-laws right now. Might join Grandpa and your little cousin for the 7PM couch nap.
Pros: Dry sense of humor, pretty smart, doesn’t say much.
Cons: Grouchy, not in the festive spirit, a polar opposite to your little cousin, doesn’t say much.
Most Likely to Say: “eh,” “It’s been a long day.” “I’m just resting my eyes.”
What to do: As far as family members go, he’s very unproblematic and will most likely leave everyone alone. Let him rest while you fight your aunt.
Family Score: 6/10
6. Your Terrible Aunt
Name: Kathy, Brenda, Karen, etc.
Description: This is it! She’s the big one! She’s the ultimate pot-stirrer. She definitely voted Trump, or still somehow has Trump merch if she’s Canadian. She can’t wait to start an argument with people half her age, she’s got a chip on her shoulder, and she blames everything on people who don’t look like her.
Cons: Racist, homophobic, misogynistic, big mouth, basically the Rosanne Barr of your family, can’t wait to fight you, makes every holiday about herself.
Pros: It makes you appreciate the other 364 days without her even more.
Most Likely to Say: “Those people,” “When men were men and women were women,” “He did win, just wait for the recount!”, “Masks are to control you!”
What to do: Gloves come off for this woman; say what you have to say, and say it loud. Potentially have a fist fight with her out in the snow.
Family Score: -3/10
Holidays are not easy for any of us. We want it to go perfectly; there’s always drama or mistakes being made, the family can be wild and unpredictable. I hope this silly guide makes you feel like you’re not alone; every family is weird no matter where you go. Take care of yourself this holiday season, stay safe, and stay indoors. And, save the ultimate feminist guide to the holiday season, so you don’t forget.
One upside to the video chat Christmas is that you can mute that family member or hang up on everyone if you want to!