For all the divorced parents out there, you intimately know the pain of being separated from your kids at the holidays. It’s that first Thanksgiving or Christmas as an awkwardly configured new family, in which old traditions are ripped away, and fresh attempts at merry and bright seem, well, sad. Mourning what was and trying to celebrate what “is” does not a jolly celebration make. Enter the invention of what our family now fondly refers to as “Fake Christmas,” or Thanksgiving or Easter or birthdays; insert whatever special family celebration you deem sacred here. If the 2020 buzzword “pivot” ever held more responsibility than in a global pandemic and managing our expectations, she really killed it with flipping divorced holidays on its head.
My first Christmas as a single Mom could not have been more miserable and comically disastrous if you scripted it. My dear friend Kathy took me to get a tree, which in years past was a highly anticipated, photographed family affair. I cried as I cobbled together some inexpensive ornaments from Target because our entire collection of shared family treasures stayed behind with my ex. I did not have the will to fight over any more “joint property” from our 17-year marriage. In solid support, my sister and brother-in-law flew in from Seattle for that first actual Christmas “alone” and helped me wrap some gifts for the boys and plan an intimate meal with my Dad. In place of a turkey for our small “celebration,” we decided on a chicken for the eve, and we would order Chinese food for the following day. Well, let’s say none of the “meal prep” panned out as the only thing on my grocery list was said chicken, and as I wandered around the store in an altered state, I forgot the damn chicken. That evening we started to cook Christmas dinner and realized we had no main course. It was sad, completely embarrassing, but ultimately we had a good laugh. We drove around town to find ANYTHING to cook; any protein would do, but literally, everything was closed or sold out and in deep desperation, even stopped at a gas station. What were we even looking for? Corn dogs? And I swore that night I would never, ever, have another holiday like that again. Pity party no more. I was going to come up with a new and improved celebration and something even better than Christmas itself- Fake Christmas!
Instead of wallow in the fact that all of our family holiday memories and traditions were, well, just memories, I did what we moms do; we make due. For the next several years, I chose the weekend before Christmas to gather family and stage a completely new tradition to feign the actual holiday and create new meaning about being together and celebrating. Grandparents would arrive, and cousins looked forward to “Fake” this or “Fake” that every year, and it caught on as a thing to look forward to. It was almost as if we tricked ourselves into thinking the date on the calendar didn’t matter, which ultimately, it didn’t.
I found when we put the energy and special effort into making the occasion just as good, or even better than the real thing, that’s where the magic happened. We didn’t just go through the motions to check off a “holiday with one side of the family.” We made it our own and gave it true Christmas spirit and revelry and fanfare, creating something out of nothing that became truly special. And of course, it didn’t hurt that all the kids received double celebrations with their other families which meant double the presents, so it was a win-win! But seriously, the true meaning of Christmas (or any other special holiday, for that matter) really is in the spirit of it all. Giving, togetherness, celebrating our blessings and spending time with one another, there’s nothing fake about that around here.
Happy Holidays to everyone, no matter what date on the calendar you celebrate. XO