We're tweaking Christmas again this year.
Some things are completely worked out, and are now settling into a nice tradition.
Like, we know that Dad-and-Shelle's Christmas will be the week before or after the official day, on the weekend (or so), on a date mutually agreed by the majority of his kids - it maximizes the overlap of family. That one is a Pollyanna between the grandkids. The core of that one is that we get together, as many as possible.
We know also that we'll do first Christmas in the morning at our house (one gift from Santa, one from parents), second Christmas at Baba's (my mom's) for breakfast and stockings and gifts with that sibling set (of those local enough to attend, which includes some overlap). There, a heavy emphasis on gifts to leave at Baba's house for the kids to enjoy (since they spend so much time there).
And then there's third Christmas - in the afternoon at ep's parents' place, where there is again much family and a lot more of the gifts-to-take-home, though recently an emphasis on things that solve a real problem for someone, or feed into a craft or hobby. There's a lot of looking at sketches and waving hands and talking about materials, oohing over office supplies for the sib with his own business, and grandkids ranging from 4, to adult-and-home-from-Basic-Training being enormously silly with their cousins. Emphasis is on family helping out family, crossing energy from one to the other, interweaving ourselves more intentionally at this point.
So, that seems pretty much worked out. We've managed to work through the huge issues, like working out the whole swapping every year between who got Christmas eve and afternoon, and who got the (obviously more special) early morning. That was miserable - my mom does a formal breakfast, his family does dinner, every-other year we swapped the order, and therefore got neither breakfast nor dinner. I think we did that four times, all before we had kids. Not the most fun.
And we've got the message through about how to balance the gift-giving on all sides. Not so that my family balances with his, but that we all feel comfortable at each event with the amounts we and others give. This year it was quite clear that nobody wanted to overflow our house with more clutter (hint, having the grandparents come help with the house helps make clear how much the clutter damages our lives, rather than enhancing our lives). That makes the whole deal easier. The kids will get things they're interested in with minimum storage requirements - the emphasis on things like learning how to tie knots and make a fire with firewood and cook and build stuff is higher. We haven't had much issue with CPC (cheap-plastic-crap), ever, but even fabulous toys with parts end up drifting into heaps when there are too many of them (hence the toy library, which is unfortunately also now a heap, since I haven't been able to sort it out properly for months).
Actually, having kids made it easier to balance what we want to celebrate, and where. We wanted our own morning. Then it was 'mid-morning to early afternoon' vs 'afternoon to evening'. That was easier to work out, since one wasn't weighted to specialness and sleepy kids and all the joy of discovery.
But we still have some stuff to work out, tweak and tweak again to make it fit comfortably. It's only been 11 years of tweaking.
Now, I know we're extraordinarily lucky that we have all our parents nearby. Maximum distance is about 45 minutes, and my mom is a mile away. It does make it hard to figure out where to spend the time, and when, and there's more expectation that we will spend it. Bonus, we enjoy our various local relatives, even if there are frictions at times. We work it out.
So, it looks like one more of the minor issues is settling into a standard pattern. Our tree goes up Christmas eve eve (second day before Christmas). This is mainly because with all the family around, we're putting up my mom's tree, and my IL's tree, and the kids are decorating those, and then the time goes away to do it sooner. Since we (still) do live trees, we can't put it up at Thanksgiving and have it make it, so it ends up after everyone else's. We keep it up until at least Epiphany (edited, thanks GB) (Jan 6), and often the week after. So, that one is settling in. It's not my ideal, but it is an accommodation that works for the kids, the grandparents, and us, well enough to be fine. And it is what the kids are growing up with, so it feels normal to them.
But there's still the pesky Christmas Eve thing.
For a long time we alternated between the Quaker side (evening sing at the Friends Meeting) and my side ... that was initially going to the high Episcopal Christmas Eve service for the 'smells and bells' - insence and bell choir and candles and liturgy ... as much UU as we are on my side, my step-dad was Episcopalian in origin, and he tended to split time between the two churches, this time being one of them. I didn't even need to learn to love that service - I also love the Catholic services, and could place myself within their realm as a reverent guest and accept their blessing without any personal conflict, the same way I could do at a Buddhist temple in China. The Universalist in me, I suppose.
Anyway, we slowly drifted off from that due to the kids, among other issues (including ones to do with the direction of that particular church), and shifted focus to the Christmas Eve family traditions. My mom does a range of Eve things that are kid-friendly, and have kind of become kid-mandatory.
Hence the problem that needs tweaking. Last year, it was a rush to complete all the things lined up for the kids to do before we left to do the evening sing at the Quaker Meeting. It was Not Fun. Hurry, go put the apples in the wooden shoes for the reindeer, hang the stockings, now sit down and one of you read The Night Before Christmas, now pack up let's GO we're going to be late!
I don't think that's the Christmas Eve to remember.
So, more tweaking. We're in discussions now about what we want to do, and how we want to do it. The kids are old enough to join the conversation. Then it is scheduling it all. Like, today.
Discussing it will mean talking about what is fun, and what is important (like maintaining the Quaker connection), and where those fit, and how to make them work. Doing that without strong-arming anyone when there are six potential opinions is interesting.
But we know it doesn't have to be perfect this year. Celebrations evolve. They're responsive, not rigid. So what happens will shift, and settle, and shift again. If there's a major upheaval at some point (like a loss of a grandparent), we'll shift again, find more stable ground, carry with us the things that are most important of what remains undamaged, more able to see in the clear light of loss what is and is not essential.
Meanwhile there's still tree-up and decorating for us. We haven't the money (let alone space) to do what I really want to do, which is to have a forest of small trees - six of them, one for each - that we each decorate the way we choose out of our collection of ornaments. Right now we have settled to my theme and a kids theme, with the 'window tree' (an artificial tree designed to hang on a wall that we hang in the window) being for the kids, and the 'big tree' aiming for a tree that looks like it was decorated by Mother Nature, Winter form, in an expansive mood. Ice crystals and snowflakes and some birds, but fairly frosted with them.
Poor ep, he likes a more sparse tree... I grew up on Victorian Excess for Christmas decorating, he grew up with something much closer to Quaker simplicity. Hence me wanting six trees, equal size, so we can each express our sentiment and aesthetic purely and clearly, to share with the others and allow them to glimpse our individual Truth. Another of the Quaker expressions from me, though it crosses over with the Universalist again - each expressing their understanding of celebration fully, and the forest together being the collective vision, in both contrast and symphony.
Sigh. We'll tweak that one later, if we get the chance.