Joslyn Carine
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Conversation Starter

Christmas – The good, the bad and the crazy

Christmas this year seems to have come so quickly. I feel like, when I was a child it took absolute ages for Christmas to come and now, as I’ve gotten older, it appears in the blink of an eye. For a long time, Christmas has been a difficult holiday for myself and my family. I mentioned on my about page that I come from a blended family. My parents divorced when I was 6ish. My dad remarried in 2009 so I gained a stepmom, Katrina, and a stepbrother and stepsister. Devon, my stepbrother, is 6 months younger than me and Saskia, my stepsister, is 4 years younger than me. My mom then remarried in 2014 so I gained a stepdad, Richard.


The Good:

Now that I’ve sort of explained that, I’ll give you an idea of what Christmas was like growing up. After my parents split, my mom moved to Durban with my sister, Hannah, and I. My dad transferred firms and moved to Cape Town to join Katrina. We alternated who’s house we were at for certain holidays so each Christmas we were at the other parent’s house. This went on until my mom decided to move us to Cape Town to be closer to my dad. We moved at the start of 2012 and a new Christmas tradition began. We would now spend December holidays between parent’s houses as my step siblings visited their dad. On Christmas Eve we would go to my dad’s house and Christmas Day was spent with my mom starting around 12 pm.

It sounds like a dream situation. Who wouldn’t want 2 Christmas’ every year? For the most part, I enjoy being able to see both families but I’ve always felt guilty about my parents. My stepdad is used to a house filled with people (he has stepchildren from before he met my mom). For him, waking up on Christmas morning to just my mom can be quite painful and my mom feels his pain out of empathy for her husband. For my dad, after having had the whole family around on Christmas Eve and then being left alone when we all scatter can be just as painful. 

Last year, my mom and stepdad decided to spend December in Swakopmund in Namibia. So my sister and I spent Christmas with our dad and face-timed our mom to wish her happy holidays. Being somewhere else for Christmas made it easier to deal with their dislike for the holiday. This year, they decided to spend December in Kuala Lumpur and brought us along. So, after spending Christmas 2017 with our dad, we will now spend 2018’s holiday with our mom. 


The Bad:

I don’t think it should be so stressful. If the point of the holiday is spending time with family and being thankful for what we have, why is there so much pressure for everything to be perfect? My parents will spend most of the day cooking, even starting the day before. They will slave away on cooking food, decorating and the pressure of providing the perfect Christmas to the rest of the family. After spending twelve plus hours preparing we will sit down to eat the food, pull the crackers and scatter. There is so much hype and pressure leading up to the day that you can’t even really enjoy the meal because there is so much tradition dictating your schedule.

My stepmom will cook for hours and shop for weeks in advance. She will draw up an A4 list of things that need to be done and everything is time sensitive. Other family members will inevitably arrive before the specified time which will just send her into a frenzy as she’s likely not ready yet. They will sit around and drink wine as she continues to cook and food starts being plated perfectly. We will sit down for dinner, take the obligatory photo and eat our starters. We will then dish up the mains, warm it in the microwave because there’s so many of us and then squish around the table. Once dessert is finished, the children will escape to our rooms to message friends and watch Netflix and by the time our extended family leaves, Katrina will have only just relaxed enough to enjoy herself. 

Christmas morning will be spent getting us ready for church even though my dad is the only one who attends regularly. We will then rush home where my dad will start cooking prawns and getting out sushi for our strange and altered Christmas lunch. We will open our presents and clean up the mess after which my mom will pick us up and my step siblings will head to their grandma’s house for a proper English Christmas feast. My stepdad would have been in the kitchen cooking for a while at which point I will start setting the table and moving food to be dished up. We will sit down for a Christmas roast, open the presents we’ve gotten for each other and then scatter for afternoon naps. 


The Crazy:

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy Christmas. I love how joyful it is everywhere and how everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. But let’s be honest. There is a lot of hype around the holiday and everyone feels pressured to make sure they enjoy it. When my dad tells people we are in another country, they will more than likely feel bad for him because he’s not with his kids. There is a pressure to spend time with your family and to exude joy at all times. However, there are millions of people out there who don’t have a family to spend the holidays with. There are orphans, widows and divorced people everywhere who are made to feel bad about themselves because they’re alone. There are people out there with bad or toxic relationships with a family who are frowned upon because they’ve chosen not to go home for Christmas. 

There’s also the panic to get the perfect decorations and perfect presents for people. We spend so much money on wrapping paper and cards and tinsel that will be used for one day out of 365 and then boxed up for another year. You are forced to ‘brave’ the malls and shopping centers where everyone else is just as stressed and uncomfortable as you. There is so much stress and anxiety behind what should be a day about appreciation and celebration. It should not be such a great effort to spend time with your family. We should stop putting so much expectation on one day.

I know it seems like I don’t like the holiday, I really do. I just think it would be more enjoyable to spend the time off from work and school having fun opposed to doing a million and one things. Whether Christmas is stressful or not, I am beyond grateful to be able to spend it with one of my families each year. At the end of the day, they are who I am most thankful for.


I’ve always wondered how other blended families deal with the holidays so if you have any insight, don’t forget to leave a comment. I’ll be writing another post soon about how Christmas festivities differ in Malaysia compared to South Africa so be sure to subscribe to be notified when that goes up.

For now, have a Happy Festive Season.

All my love,

Jos x

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Shawn Fouche
Shawn Fouche
24th December 2018 10:32

Christmas – The good, the bad and the crazy Thank you Jos for the vulnerable and insightful blog post. I think it is one that will resonate in different ways with all of us, who can identify in our lives one or more of the elements you shared of your experiences during Christmas. You have described the article as a ‘conversation starter’ and while specifically asking around blended families (of which I have no direct experience), I thought I would offer some insights on the subject of Christmas as you have written. While most people will not admit to this,… Read more »

Richard Mulvey
Richard Mulvey
30th December 2018 05:51

When I look back at my life from a slightly older perspective I realize that it is those special days that are remembered. Usually we get up, go to school / work / play and then come home, eat and sleep. Okay there are some other things that happen as well but they are mostly mundane. Then you have ‘special’ days. Christmas, birthdays, holidays, etc. Days when you do different things. Days that have been planned in advance, care taken to make them special, to do things differently. These are the ‘remember’ days. Parents spend days and sometimes weeks preparing… Read more »

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