We have friends staying at the moment, and we got to talking about "what are you doing for Christmas?" This proved to be a Large Topic...
Here's how I remember Christmas when I was a child - me and my brother and my parents, and the six cousins, and the four uncles and aunts, and another two or three other adults (maybe my mother's sister, perhaps my godmother, maybe an au pair, maybe a visitor) and my grandmother, all crammed into a house for what seemed to be a week, but was probably only two or three days.
Back then we all (that is us, and the two sets of aunts-and-uncles) all lived in large houses which could accommodate everyone, on the floor, in bedrooms, in attics, wherever. For us children, it was GRAND. There was feasting and sugared almonds and peanuts and fizzy drinks and presents and non-stop fun and games. It was much later on that I began to realise that for the hosting aunts it was HARD WORK. In retrospect, it seems like a kind of re-creation of a Dickensian Country House Christmas, in miniature, and without the snow.
Here's how Best B remembers Christmas - just the four of them, and whichever granny was living with them at the time, out in the country. NO-ONE travelled at Christmas - travelling was just too expensive and difficult for most people. It was a Family Occasion, when the four or five of them sat round the open fire, shared the special meal, opened the presents. On Boxing Day they would always go to the next farm for a Proper Festive Tea with their neighbour and the family. The children could play games together while the adults enjoyed each other's company and watched a little television (BB grew up in a house with no electricity, so TV was a novelty. I said they lived out in the country!)
Once we had children, we started our own traditions. At first, a Christmas Day with just the four of us seemed strangely quiet (and also peaceful and relaxed, come to think of it!), with the children and cats nesting among the heaps of presents and paper carpeting the floor. Sometimes we went to my parent's house, but for the most part we have followed our new tradition; stockings, church in the morning, home to nibbles, presents, and Christmas Lunch. The rest of the day is always bit of a blur...
At the time it was a new thought for me, that the huge family get-together was not the "normal" and "best" way to spend Christmas.
Our friends also view Christmas as a special, intimate, family time "We didn't go visiting or have visitors on Christmas Day - that was for the days between Christmas and New Year", and "Christmas is a time for us and the children to spend time together". This from both sides of their family.
It's all a bit of a minefield, this big question of "Where are we having Christmas this year?" or, even, "Where do we have to go for Christmas this year?". There is the possibility of mega tantrums about who spends Christmas where, and how, based on "what we've always done" and "do we have to do this every year?" Especially, dare I add, where new grandchildren are involved?
Well, there are no new grandchildren on my horizon at the moment, so for now, I am watching, and learning, ready for when we might be so lucky. I'm hoping I will be generous enough to say to my son or daughter "do what pleases YOU this Christmas" when, if, the occasion arises.