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Apparently My House is the Island of Misfit Toys. Just Don’t Send Me Any Creepy Jack-in-the-Boxes.

If you celebrate Christmas, you probably fall into one of two categories:

1. Those who honor family tradition, cooking the same meals, drinking the same drinks, playing the same love-worn Harry Connick Jr. Christmas album year after year, and taking comfort in the thought that while everything else changes — people grow old, babies get born, the ovens are stainless, not avocado, and presents arrived pre-wrapped at the front door — these other things, the ones we can control, will stay the same.

2. Those who forego tradition and family gatherings to sip mai tais on a tropical island somewhere and forget that the world even exists.

Me?  I’d say I actually fall somewhere between the two extremes.  When I was younger, my family did the whole gathering thing.  We baked, played with cousins, sang carols, annoyed each other in that hate-you-yet-love-you way families do… the works.

Then it fell apart.

And I started moving.

And my sister started moving.

And we eventually came to learn that while some people really can go home again, it becomes a little impossible when home no longer exists.

When most of your belongings were sold while you were away.

When someone else is living in your room.

Sliding down your stairs.

Playing your sheet music like it’s theirs.

And we realized that traditions can break — will break — if the people you counted on to keep them going are no longer on speaking terms.

Then I met Justin.  The first year he invited me to his family’s Christmas gathering, I felt all crumpled.  Broken.  Out of place.  How come they could hold it together?  How could they be so happy?  Every year 40+ people, related by blood or by choice, all gather in a single house to eat Grandma’s famous lasagna, play a detested (yet loved) family trivia game, watch the children take turns opening gifts one-by-one, exchange white elephant gifts and laugh, once again, when the 20-year-old cousin tries to grab the one with the beer, Mom shakes the shake weight, and Grandpa wins the coveted gift card to Omaha Steaks.

Rinse, repeat.

Sure, there’s gossip.  There’s bickering.  There’s family tension.  But, in all of its stagnant predictability, it’s all kinds of wonderful.

So I started to love it — to look forward to hanging out with the “outlaw” aunts who speak my language, to see how many cousin’s names I could remember, and to absorb through the pores of my skin whatever the stuff is — egg whites, perhaps? — that makes his family stick.

But sometimes we don’t go.  Whether we can’t afford the tickets one year, can’t muster the energy for holiday travel another, or “accidentally” book a trip to Hawaii instead, some years we just don’t go.

And inevitably, we miss them.

I miss them.

Family via osmosis, not marriage.

But, for the years we’re not there, we’ve started our own tradition of sorts, maybe in honor of my own crumpled history.  We invite all of the misfit toys — those who can’t travel or have nowhere to go or just haven’t gone yet — to our house for a little dinner.  Only this year, it turned into a big dinner, where nothing was traditional:  The turkey was smoked, the lasagna was vegetarian, the potatoes were au gratin, and the stuffing was German.  There were meatballs.  And hummus.  And peach something-or-others.  And white chocolate cheesecake.  And mulled cider spiked with Southern Comfort.

And a new kind of family.

Not one we were born into or chose through marriage, but one we made on-the-fly, built purely from us leftovers who somehow managed to come together to make something worthwhile.

So, thanks to our motley crew of misfits on Christmas Eve and my friend Alaina for inviting us to her family dinner on Christmas, it felt, strangely enough, like ours.


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Kat Richter

Sweet! My parents used to do a non-family Christmas potluck when they were first married. I think it had a “sangria” theme one year :)


Your parents are awesome. And I’m keeping the sangria theme idea for the next year we do this. ;)

Solitary Diner

That sounds like a fabulous Christmas Eve celebration. My family has started doing something similar, with neighbours and friends who have nowhere else to go, and it’s wonderful to share a holiday with people who are there out of choice rather than necessity.


You know, it was pretty fabulous. And you’re right — there’s something to be said for taking that extra step to get together with people you’re not obligated to spend time with. We had a wonderful night. :)


Sounds wonderful, warm, celebratory, and fun… The way a holiday shared should be.

Breaking old holiday traditions is sometimes just necessary… Kids get married and have to go 2 or 3 directions themselves, older folks aren’t as able to host, even though they want to… It can be tough. This kind of thing wasn’t a ‘growing pain’ my mom wanted to go through at 80, but it’s happened. We celebrated together at my house the week ahead of CHristmas instead of at her house on the day. Compromises and changes. It sounds like you have options and are making the most of them.


You’re so right — in fact, change might be on the horizon for Justin’s family tradition as well. I think some of the family is getting antsy about traveling to the same town year after year, and those of us who live on the coasts are getting a little tired of yearly escapades to Omaha, Nebraska of all places. :) Plus, I think his grandma might be getting tired of hosting us all every year. It might be time to start a new tradition — like renting a huge house in a different part of the country each year to which everyone can travel. ;)


Thanks for visiting my page, Holly! And thank you for the compliment — it was a little dark in there so the lighting was funny, but we made it work. :)


Your “Christmas of Misfits” makes me feel all warm inside.

And I agree with the last comment; the pictures are great!


Aww, thanks Amanda! You know, it kind of me feel all warm inside too. But that might’ve been the Southern Comfort. ;)


Its all good, Katie, I’m apparently quite behind on your blog as well–
Holidays like this are the best, though. For one thing, its very different, which allows for a break from that same monotonously boring family get-together where everyone brings the same thing and does the same thing year after year. As awesome as your #2 Christmas celebrator sounds, it is still good to see and spend time with your family every once in a while, so at least you got the best of both worlds, and probably made some new friends too.

As for me, the whole family came to my house (and by whole family I mean a lot of grandparents), sat around the fire place drinking wine and eating cheese and crackers, exchanged gifts, dinner at 1:30, sat around the table talking, dessert, more talking, everyone left. As you said: rinse, repeat. Lets just say its not the most exciting thing in the world.

At least I also had some SOCO to keep things interesting ;)


p.s. who’s the gorgeous blonde feeding the kielbasa to the dog? (…do we “know” each other well enough yet for me to ask that?) hahaha.


Not exciting, but filled with people you love. It could definitely be worse. :)

Ha, you know very well who the gorgeous blond is. :)

Once A Doodle, Always A Doodle. | Domestiphobia

[…] I’m terrified of tradition and when I feel things not changing in my life, it’s almost as though I can see the hours ticking away — like I’ve swallowed the very same crocodile’s clock that taunted Captain Hook and I understand, truly, why he was such a crazy bastard. […]

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