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A different Christmas


The carols are playing, the decorations are up and strings of lights are strung over houses with care. It all seems rather normal, but for repartnered families having a first (or tenth!) Christmas together, it can feel pretty surreal.

We share Christmas with my stepson’s mother. One year he spends Christmas Eve and early Christmas morning with us and heads to his mother’s for the majority of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Vice versa the following year.

After 12 years and two other children, I still can’t decide which is more difficult. Having the joy of Christmas Eve with all of the spine-tingling Santa expectation and early morning waking to presents only to be followed by the letdown of him leaving for the rest of the day. His absence a niggling presence in all that we do the rest of the day. Or the alternative of waking up to Christmas morning without him and having the long (feels-like-forever) wait until he gets home to let our family’s ‘real’ celebrations begin.

The reality is that all of us – me, my husband, our little ones, the ex and her other little one – bar my stepson would choose not to share Christmas if we didn’t have to. My stepson being the optimist and Libran that he is however is quite happy to share the day. It’s double the celebration and fun in his rose-coloured glasses view of the world. Plus, although he doesn’t actually articulate it, there is no missing it is so very important to him to spend the day with all of his siblings, his parents and his traditions – even if they don’t all happen at the same time or in the same place.

No matter what your age or role, if you find yourself having a stepfamily Christmas this year, here are a few things you can do:

• Embrace the fact that having a different Christmas doesn’t mean it is any better or worse than the ones before – or anyone else’s for that matter. It’s just different and really when you think about it – different is good!

• Celebrate the traditions that are important to you. You don’t have to give up your special childhood traditions just because you are dating or married to someone with kids, you repartnered or your parent has repartnered. The others in your family – whether your new partner, your stepchildren, your parent or your parent’s new partner – can decide whether they join in. If not, respect their decision but don’t let it stop you.

• Start some new traditions with your stepfamily. Something none of you have done previously. We go to a Christmas tree farm and let the kids pick and cut down a fresh tree each year. This was something we started the first Christmas my husband, stepson and I spent together and is now a must-do each year for all of us.

• Grieve a little. It’s sad when my stepson goes to his other house or isn’t there when we wake up on Christmas morning. And, it’s okay to say that in our home. A few extra cuddles, the kids putting a special toy or treat aside to play with him when he returns and taking a quiet moment can all help. Of course, if all else fails a bit of egg nog can never go astray!

We’d love to hear about how you’ll be celebrating your different – not better or worse just different – Christmas in the comments below.

We like to share. How about you?

7 comments on “A different Christmas”

  1. Rachel G Reply

    Oh, I know that must bring about heartache when he’s not together with you! I’ve dealt with many a separated family Christmas, though in completely different ways–I haven’t spent Christmas with my parents or sisters since I was 17, since I moved to the USA to attend college–and then my husband worked as a nurse for the past 5 years, which means working either Christmas or Christmas Eve, so while I’ve always spent Christmas with someone–sometimes aunts and uncles, or friends–I definitely understand the feeling of missing a big piece of your heart during the holiday!

    • R & T Reply

      Hi, Rachel – thanks for your comment! Love the reminder that there are lots of ways to experience a different Christmas. Your tip about spending Christmas with those close to you when you can’t be with your immediate family is a great one. We’ll add it to our list! And, hats-off to your husband – nurses are truly, amazing people!

  2. Leslie Reply

    I love these ideas. I love being with my family on Christmas, it’s so much fun to see their aces and to catch up. We are all so busy. I’m stopping by from SITS & I hope your having a great day!

    • R & T Reply

      Thanks so much for your comment & connecting with us, Leslie. Christmas is definitely our favourite time of the year! This was the first time we joined the SITS party. Will definitely do it again!

  3. adrian Reply

    I remember those days. My stepson is in his 30’s now, but we had many of those holidays. We made the best of it, but it was always hard, especially when he was our only kid because when he left, Christmas left with him. It’s a shame that our holidays have to be so specific. It would be much more beneficial to have something like Hannukah. Then you could have full days to do your celebration and it would feel much less disjointed. But that’s just not quite how we do it, so you just try to make it work. #SITSSharefest

    • R & T Reply

      Appreciate you sharing, Adrian. We think there may be a lesson in there for step- & co-parenting families to be innovative about when they celebrate the holiday. It is a pretty special feeling to watch your kids at Christmas – such joy!

  4. Shawn Simon Reply

    This is a much-needed article. The holidays can be so difficult for blended families. In my upcoming book of stories from stepmoms, I have a chapter titled (a bit sarcastically) “The Joy of Holidays.” 🙂 But I like your thinking about re-framing the holidays. They don’t have to be so hard if we don’t allow them to be. I brought a family tradition with me to my new family. Growing up, we always opened one present on Christmas Eve. Now we do that every year. The new tradition we started as a family revolves around decorating the tree. We make it a fun event by making hot cocoa, playing Christmas music, and all being together. This year was sad because my step-daughter now has a boyfriend and she bailed on us to be with him on the night we planned our tree decorating party. 🙁 It’s hard when they grow up and suddenly you’re no longer the most important people in their lives. She’s, of course, doing what she should be doing— growing up and growing away from us. But It’s still sad. 🙁 She made it up to us by coming over Christmas Eve and morning. In fact, Christmas morning, she came up with the idea to go to IHOP in our PJs. Perhaps that will become a new family tradition! 🙂

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