My husband received a big culture surprise when he married into our family. Like many Northeast Michigan natives, I'm related to approximately half the region. That means lots of family gatherings throughout the year and a very busy holiday season. My husband grew up downstate and celebrated in a low-key fashion with two family gatherings. His first Christmas with his new family left his head spinning. Did I mention our holiday season is very busy? It went something like this:
Day before Christmas Eve
Him: "What are we doing for Christmas?" he inquisitively asks.
Me: We go to my Grandma's houses and then my Mom and Dad's.
Him: "Okay, that sounds fun," he says pleasantly.
Me: Are you ready to go? We have to go to my Grandma's to celebrate her birthday.
Him: "Okay. Then what?" he says as he looks at me with a hint of concern.
Me: Then we go to my other Grandma's house to celebrate Christmas with my Dad's side of the family.
Him: "All in the same night?" he asks, confused.
Me: Yes, and then we are going to church.
Him: "What time will we get home?" he asks apprehensively.
Me: Probably after midnight.
Him: "What are we doing today?" he asks with a sound of exhaustion similar to that of someone who has just completed a marathon.
Me: Well, we can open the presents we got for each other. Then, we are going out to my Mom and Dad's for brunch. Then, we go to my other Grandma's house to celebrate with my mom's side of the family. And then I'd like to go back to my other Grandma's to visit with my Aunt and Uncle that came up from downstate. And then"
At that point I lost him. His glassy stare and cold perspiration indicated that he had reached his limit and was about to go into shock.
Him: "How many grandmas do you have?! It seems like they are multiplying!" he whispered exhaustedly as he lowered his head to the table in abject defeat.
We had a great time visiting with family and I love the busy season but the constant get-up-and-go took my husband some time to get used to. For him, Christmas celebrations are at your home with your family. For me Christmas celebrations involve seeing as much family as possible, in whomever's home is big enough to fit everyone. Having a large close-knit extended family is a blessing as I've never been alone on a holiday. But when my husband and I merged lives I was reminded that not everyone celebrates Christmas 15 times over the course of two days. My husband moved to Alpena about a year and a half before I met him. He has often said that it was incredibly difficult to meet people and find friends for the first year or so he was here. Those of us that are surrounded by family and friends we've grown up with don't often think of this, especially around the holidays because we're so busy. Our social calendars are often too full.
This holiday season let's not forget the spirit of the season and open our homes to someone we know who may not have family in town to celebrate with. We probably all know someone through work or other activities that may be new to the area. Invite them over for dinner, coffee, or other holiday celebration. There is enough love and compassion in this community to go around and ensure that nobody is left alone for the holidays.