My In-Laws always argue. I am worried this will ruin Christmas. How do I head an argument off at the pass?
We’ve met before, haven’t we? Oh maybe not in person, but I know you.
You’re that Polly-Anna whose family never argues at Christmas, where everyone comes together joyfully to break bread and occasionally, just occasionally, one of your many siblings who has always been the jester, might stand up to make a toast and PULL AN ACTUAL PIECE OF TOAST OUT OF HIS POCKET, MAKING EVERYONE ROLL ABOUT THE FLOOR WITH LAUGHTER FOR HOURS ON END AND THEN TALK ABOUT IT ALL YEAR AS BEING THE BEST DAY OF THE ENTIRE TRIP AROUND THE SUN.
Well, I’ve gotta say, in bringing this “problem” to Festive Treason, you’re probably in the wrong place. But you’ve felt that before, haven’t you? Whenever you have Christmas at your spouse’s family home, you’re surprised that it isn’t unmitigated joy from one minute to the next for everyone else.
Well, sit down, because I’m going to tell you what they’ve been wanting to tell you for years.
You are the freak here.
And you are selfish.
Apart from not arguing with your own family at Christmas, you actually want to take away the cleansing effect that a really good barney on Christmas Day can have. It’s like a filial fire – a controlled burn every year will allow a few issues to be cleared away in a protected environment, and then every 7 or so years is a cataclysmic explosion that leaves everyone reeling but resets the process and allows for the complete renewal which all families – except yours – needs.
So rather than trying to stop them from undergoing this therapeutic process, why not stop being so goddamned selfish and try to help them?
Since you’re a beginner in the process and your instinct is to try to get everyone to turn their frowns upside down, we’ll start small this year.
So you’re going to volunteer to set up a Secret Santa for the family (don’t worry, no one will want to do this or – better yet – someone will desperately want to do it, but will feel that as an adult, they can’t really claim to “own it” so you’ll be able to stage a bloodless coup). Under the guise of making sure that no one draws their own name, you allocate who buys for whom.
The biggest Secret of this Secret Santa is that you’ll be buying for half the guests.
While you’re shopping, remember the D’s – Deodorants, Depilatory, Diet Shakes and Dishwashing. Each of these cheap and cheerful offerings delivers a sub-text that’s bound to strike the wrong chord and set up some
lively entertainment valuable honest conversations.*
Worried, I know you’re Worried – that’s your way. But set aside your guilt trying to impose your family’s saccharine traditions on another, perfectly-normal, family by using this Christmas to show your in-laws that you truly accept them for who they are.
*The Advanced version of this is to “accidentally” leave the Master List lying around where it can be found – obviously it doesn’t say you bought all the gifts, that would defeat the purpose. Look, forget it. If you need me to spell this out for you, you’re not ready. Just go with the beginner’s version, apply alcohol liberally and sit back.