The Expected Usual Disaster Christmas


I hate ranting but I am just so sick and tired of my family hating each other and every Christmas being ruined. My parents are divorced so any holliday is a problem but Christmas always brings out the worst in all of us including myself. Each year I hope it will be different but it always ends in disaster and people being depressed or angry. We have a very disfunctional family and I am not going into any other details. All of you with wonderful Catholic familes are very blessed. I had the opportunity to experience that once when I was invited to someone’s family for Christmas while studying abroad. It made me so sad that I never had a Christmas like that in mine. However, I’ve seen a few good practicing Catholic familes and if I ever have a family of my own I want it to be like that which is why I want to be a good practicing Catholic. Well I am done with my ranting.


I so sorry you had to experience this. I hope someday you will have your own family and will be able to have the Christmas of your dreams. One of my best friends comes from a family with a lot of problems (parents divorced, both remarried to people who were divorced and had children from their first marriages). This year all the children - siblings, half-siblings, step-siblings - went to Kenya together and emailed me saying they had the best Christmas in years.


Rant all you want, my friend. The Lord has blessed you with seeing the possibilities of what a good, faithful Catholic family can be. Continue to pray for your family that peace can come to them and continue to rely on the Lord for help.

I’ll be praying for you and for other troubled families this Christmas season. God Bless!


Plan on not going next year. Instead, help out at church with whatever they might need (Do you sing? Choirs always need voices! All you need to be able to do is carry a tune!). There is no rule that you must go to other people’s houses on Christmas.

We started staying home a few years back, when it got too difficult to schlep three young children out in the cold and family dynamics were troubling (to say the least). We had some complaining the first year (like it was the worst thing anyone ever did), then it stopped.

Now that the kids are older, we could go. But this year is the first year I am involved in the choir and playing harp for Mass. So I was too busy to be travelling around. So we just stayed home during the day, and went to Christmas Eve Vigil Mass. Christmas Day, we opened gifts in the morning, and then I sang for the 11:30 Mass. My sisters stopped by later (we’re all on good terms now), but I could have simply said we were going to have family time and not visit that day.

So just don’t go. Find something else to do. If you are worried about being alone, there are nursing homes filled with people who are in need of company, or homeless shelters in need of volunteers. Or as I said above, get involved at your parish with Christmas preparation (for example, our choir director has to completely alter the choir loft for each Mass - at one the children are singing and ringing bells, the the adult choir sings at another Mass, so the bells and tables need to be moved, as well as the keyboard. A non-singer could easily help with that sort of thing.)

In truth, you don’t have to do anything at all. But volunteering at church or elsewhere has two benefits: you are truly living the spirit of Christmas by helping out your fellow man, which will make you feel great instead of depressed, and you will also have a very good reason for not attending a family gathering that is dysfunctional.

Be prepared for fireworks! We got them when we stopped the gatherings. Tears, anger, nasty letters, you name it. But it all passed once we stood firm. Our family realized we were on our own, adults, and capable of making the best decisions for our family.

I wish you the best for next year, and hope you find an alternative.


I’m sorry for your family’s misery. I am glad though that you know what you want, and the best way to get there is to be a good Catholic yourself.

This is my family’s first Christmas after my husband and I separating. While there were some really good things, particularly during Advent, the separation issues (particularly with my husband overindulging the kids and putting me down to them) led to a lot of conflicted feelings. My son got more stuff than any kid should have (PSP & 12 games for it, Guitar Player I & II, 2 air soft guns, a spring assisted Buck knife – all from his dad) but still felt let down and cheated because I didn’t get him as much as his dad did. His angry self-centered outbursts made everyone feel bad. I am hoping we can work our way through this divorce sanely, but it doesn’t look promising.

Anyhow, just letting you know, I know where you are coming from and I hate where I am at right now. I do know with certainty though that I would not be HERE if I had followed Church teachings both before and during our marriage. Good luck on your journey of being a good practicing Catholic.


When I was growing up we had some good Christmas times and some bad ones. My family is fractured and not everyone practices the Faith anymore; however, my spiritual director reminded me that it is a fallacy to believe that good character is something that is practiced when no one is looking - good character, he says, is something that is practiced all the time, even when those around me don’t notice how dog-gone wonderful and saintly I am…:rolleyes: …so, hang in there, and remember these are sick and lonely and sad people that need your prayers and your love.

You have ours!


Thanks for your replies. In answer to a few of your comments. If It were up to me I would have not been here this year since it is wishful thinking to hope that there isn’t going to be fighting and disaster as usual. I always have plenty of options on where to go and like to only come home after the hollidays. However, my dad asked me to come home since he is going to be out of town the next few days and needs me to watch the house. Then there is the fact that my mom, who has left the church, threatens suicide and all kinds of bad things if some of us don’t go to see her. She is never happy though and even if most of us go see her, she is depressed over the one person that didn’t and then takes it out on us. Even though there is still fighting and problems when we are with my dad and step mom on Christmas, it still usually has to deal with us being upset over our mom and taking it out on one another. Next year I will be going to law school on the other side of the country and I highly doubt I will be coming back. In fact, I think we will all be in different states and my dad is selling the house anyways this year so this might be the last disaster. Of course my mom will try to find a way to ruin it for someone due to her own lonliness and problems and put guilt trips on all of us but she can’t be in all places at once.


I’m so sorry you had a miserable holiday. No one deserves that.

All is not lost because you were born into less-than-ideal family. Keep in mind the old saying that “friends are the family we choose for ourselves.” If your family has a habit of disappointing you, carefully chosen friends who share your interests, bring joy, fun, laughter, support and love are some of the most wonderful gifts you can give yourself.


So sorry to hear that your Christmas was not filled with the grace and love of the day. Our priest suggested at Christmas Mass that we spend some extra time on Christmas Day with our Lord in Adoration. Next year, devote the full day to our Lord. He works in ways that we do not know or undeerstand.


As a member of a broken family I can relate.

I did the “split-family Christmas at one house this year, that house next year” yadda yadda thing for nearly 15 years. I actually got into a fist-fight with one of my step-brothers one year!

About 10 years into the 15 I’d been married 5 years (I hope that makes sense). My wife & I finally had enough of the travel, aggravation, etc., and when the phone calls started about “When are you planning to come down” we answered:

“Last time we looked, the Interstate goes both directions. We are having Christmas at OUR house this year. You’re welcome to come, but BOTH halves of the family are invited. You’ll have to behave yourselves, get along, or not come”. And left it at that.

Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of my mom & dad (20+ years divorced) being in the same room and not being butt-heads. Six of those years were with their 2nd wives/husbands!

It can work, but you have to negotiate/demand terms.


I have relatives who do that kind of thing, too - I just don’t visit them anymore. Who needs it? We spent Christmas at home with our cats, and had a wonderful time. :slight_smile:


Our chance to heal ourselves of these sorts of hurts and dysfunctions is when we grown up, and through raising our own children. We can then create new traditions that are healthy ones.

I’m afraid that sometimes we need to let go of our expectations and attachments to our families of origin in order to do this. If this melodrama keeps replaying itself each year and poisoning your celebration of the birth of our Lord, perhaps it’s time for you to let go of it in order to allow this healing.


People can give you tickets to go on their guilt-trips, but you don’t have to board. But you know all that. It is pretty hard to be the one that walks out when Mom complains that having you there, but not your brother, is not reason enough to give thanks. It sounds as if walking out is exactly what you’re ready to do. Good for you.

When your mom threatens suicide, somebody needs to call professional help in immediately. That is nothing to mess around about. If she does it just to jerk other people around, one trip to the mental ward may let her know not to say such a thing in order to manipulate her family. If she really means it, it may be the trip that saves her life.

You can institute a policy that says you’ve heard enough complaints from her to last you a lifetime. One complaint, one snipe, and you’re out of there, at least until she’s been “clean” about it for some period of time. Consistently refusing to give her what she wants, even if she acts worse for awhile to see if you really mean it, is the only way you can hope to end the behavior that she uses to get what she wants. Otherwise…hey, she’s selling and you’re buying. Why ever would she close up shop?

I have been depressed. Letting someone in that state use those little games does them no favors. Not letting her will at least give her a reason to choose other behavior. In the end, though, the choice is hers. If she won’t treat you as a human being, the consequences will be on her head. She’ll probably never change if they aren’t.


Well I also want to say that the one I really feel bad for is my dad. Although my mom left the church my dad made sure we still went to church and practiced the faith. Only my brother has since left the church so two out of three isn’t bad. My dad got the marriage annulled and remarried and although my step mom probably was a better mother than my real mom, my mom threatened us with suicide and how she would hate us if we ever were nice to the step mom so for years we treated my step mom very badly. That doesn’t happen anymore but of course Christmas brings the worst out in all of us as I said. Oh, but it is also not just my mom. Generally, no one in my family gets along or likes to be together very long.

However, my main concern is that people are going to unjustly judge me based on my family. Then I will end up with someone who is not a good Catholic since all the good ones would judge me based on my family and then I am doomed to have a repeat of my family situation if I ever have a family.


You are not doomed. The really good thing is that you can see that the way that your family treats each other is not good and doesn’t work. You don’t want to be like that. While you can’t change your family, you can change yourself. Women need to know that they shouldn’t marry a man expecting to change him, but if they are lucky enough to find someone who is able to look at himself, acknowledge his shortcomings, and want to improve, that is something else all together. Hopefully you will find a nice girl who also is able to do the same herself. Ideally, marriage will inspire both partners to be better people. In fact, I was just talking about this with my mom today. She says that my stepfather told her that a couple of years ago – that she helps him to be a better person.

I think the other key is to have that desire yourself, to work to be better, and not just to impress a girl or get what you want. Be the you that God made you to be, that’s all.


If you end up with some one who judged you on your family, you married the wrong one. A man and woman should base their love, their comment on each other. Does not the bible state that they become one and depart from their families.


At our Christmas gathering everybody just wanted to get it “done” so that they could go home. Those who were in such a rush left the huge mess to me and my oldest sister and sister-in-law. Those who left, left behind Christmas plates, crockpots etc…they were in such a rush.

After “they” were all gone, my oldest sister and I discussed just chucking the whole family gathering and taking our families to Colorado for a ski trip during Christmas. I’m looking up the prices today so that I can begin saving!

It’s very sad that we inconvenienced our siblings and families by trying to get everybody together for Christmas. Do I sound “bitter” - you bet! I thought that Christmas and the holidays were for families to get together, in my family it is all about eating, opening your presents up and heading for the door!

I can’t wait until their jaws drop next year. And me, being what they describe as “opinionated” will make sure that they know exactly why we are going! I would rather spend time with my family than any ski trip, but I will not be treated as an “inconvenience” to anyone.

Thanks for allowing me to rant :smiley:


You do have another option that would not require an explanation. Spend next Christmas at their house and leave the mess with them and as soon as you can. Then send a Thank You card saying how much you enjoyed eating, making a mess, and not having to clean up this year. Add that you are looking forward to spending every Christmas with them. :whistle:


Every Christmas, my sisters and their children would show up for the Roast Beef with all the fixings that my mom would make. Their kids would tear through the presents (I picked up the wrappings), break a pinata (I cleaned up), and step on the gingerbread house that I spent two weeks making.
My dad would retreat about half way throught to watch football in a bedroom, my mom got enough booze into her to pass out, then my sisters would pick up the kiddies and go home.
Thus began two hours of work for me to clean up. They didn’t even have the grace to take plates to the sink. I remember thinking, “Geez I wish I could skip this”

Now, my mom and dad are gone (God Rest their souls) and I live in a different city. My sisters don’t speak with some of their children. My older sister is now a lesbian with a “friend”, my other sister is more into her second husband’s family than us.

I would give my right arm to have two hours of clean up again.


Actually Christmas is always at my oldest sisters house - she is the only one with enough room. I would not even think of leaving the mess behind and bolt for the door.

I would give my right arm to have Christmas where everybody is happy to be there and be together. I get the distinct impression that everybody is there out of an obligation. And I for one, don’t want to be anybodies obligation.

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