Navigating Holiday Traditions with Divorced Parents
Growing up, I celebrated most major holidays twice - once with my dad and once with my mom. Typically, it would be mornings in one place and nights in the other. It was fun, and I miss it now that I only celebrate with my mom. Most children believed that having divorced parents was great, as you have the chance to get more presents, but for me, I valued the family time.
My parents separated when I was about 4 years old. I don’t remember celebrating holidays while they were still together or even a few years after that. I remember being 10 years old and annoyed that holidays had to be strategically planned just for my sister and I. We were the only family members who, on either side, had divorced parents or who had another family to celebrate with. Thankfully, my parents were on good terms with each other and didn’t have problems with such special arrangements.
Thanksgiving was a tough holiday. My sister and I saw our dad in the afternoon and then our mom around dinner time. We were all stuffed up by the end of the day. It was an interesting holiday, even though our families were so different. With my dad, things were loud and fun, as there were many of us throughout the house. We had aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, second cousins, third cousins, and even those whose relationships weren’t clear to me. There were babies, kids, teens, adults, and elders.
However, with my mom things were more traditional and conversationally based. A small number of us would sit around the table and talk over turkey, corn, and other typical Thanksgiving foods. The table would include my grandparents, great grandparents, and sometimes my uncle, aunt, and cousins. After dinner, the adults would converse in the sitting room while us kids ran after the house looking for various ways to break something.
On Christmas Eve, my sister and I would visit my dad’s side of the family. We saw family members who we only see for special holidays, danced to music, ate rice and beans (always too much), and had a great time. The celebration took place over the entire house and you could hear the Spanish music from down the street. Leaving would be tough, because we knew that the next holiday would be so far away.
The following day, we would wake up at our house with our mom and freak out over the presents under the tree. We had to call Grandma and Poppop, who were waiting for our class, and they would come over to watch us open our presents (by the time they arrived we’d always have one already opened). They would then leave to prepare their house for our family as we got ready to celebrate Christmas again. We all ate together at the table until we were allowed to open presents before dessert. We all took turns so everyone could see and be thanked. My grandma used to play holiday music softly in the background.
Easter was similar to Thanksgiving, though not as rushed. In the morning we would see my dad, eat, and partake in an Easter egg hunt. In the late afternoon, we would go back with my mom where we also ate and would partake in another Easter egg hunt. This holiday was always enjoyable, because we were able to be outside and it was more fun to a child.
While this was the standard growing up, things did change here and there. Sometimes things wouldn’t work out, a location was different, or my parents weren’t on good terms and therefore not able to work out a good plan. I wish divorce didn’t mean a separation of family. Now that I no longer have a relationship with my father, I don’t see his family for the holidays and I feel like a part of my childhood is gone. I am grateful to have had the family time, especially during the years I needed it most.
Celebrating holidays twice was never a burden, but rather a reminder that I had two families that I loved. I didn’t care about the presents as much as the holiday and the overwhelming feeling of love. Holidays are about spending time with your family and I wish we all could keep that in mind this season. You never know how valuable the time is until your holidays start to change.