Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
No matter how you try to dodge it, the most wonderful year time of year typically comes with its fair share of stress. From finding the perfect gifts to deciding where to spend each holiday, it seems that a little bit of conflict is inevitable, especially when you're navigating two families. Make those two families Latino and you may have just upped your level of holiday anxiety a notch . . . or three.
Since my husband and I have known each other, we've spent seven Christmases together. Still, it seems each time the holidays are upon us, we have the same exact conversation about how we're going to share equal amount of time between both families. Do we spend Thanksgiving at one house and Noche Buena at the other? What about Christmas Day and New Year's Eve? Can we possibly convince anyone to tweak their plans to better fit our schedule? There is always an endless amount of questions and those questions seem to be identical every single year.
Luckily, with a little bit of planning and compromise, and a lot of patience, my husband and I have managed to make it through each holiday season unscathed. Here are nine strategies we've tried that you may want to add to your own holiday survival guide.
Devise a plan
When it comes to surviving the holidays with two Latino families, having a plan is everything. A week or so before Thanksgiving, my hubby and I sit together and figure out how we can most fairly distribute our time during the current holiday season. Once we've figured out a plan, we never deviate from it.
Write things down, draw maps, sign it in blood if you have to. This is how you will survive the holidays and you must stick to it. Changing things around last minute can result in major arguments between you and your beau.
Keep your plans to yourself
Once you've come up with your plan, do not share the exact details of that plan for as long as physically possible. Don't run and tell your mom, dad, prima, or brother that you won't be spending every waking moment of the holidays season with them this year. The less people know, the less chance they'll have of giving you a guilt trip.
"We're still figuring everything out" is always my preferred answer. This way, when you do show up (be it just for an hour or so) everyone will be pleasantly surprised.
Last year doesn't matter
Over the years, I've learned not to bring up past holidays to explain why we're doing things in a certain way at the present time. "But we spent the entire Noche Buena with you guys last year" is not something a Latina mother or grandmother wants to hear, let alone anything she will ever admit to remembering. As soon as the holidays are over, memory fades into a Christmas vortex, and next year you'll have to start all over again.
Do a little convincing
Does your family typically wait until 8 p.m. or so to start Noche Buena? Why not suggest they start at 6 p.m. this year? This would give everyone more time to spend together, after all. It will also give you and your beau some extra time to visit with both your families.
Come with gifts
If you have to arrive fashionably late to anyone's house, make sure not to arrive empty-handed. Trust me, it will make you a little harder to criticize.
Get ready for a long night
In our Cuban family, Noche Buena is like the holy grail of all holidays, complete with a caja China, plenty of domino playing, and a frenzy of gift-opening at midnight. No matter how early we wrap up visiting with the first family of the evening, we always prepare for a late night.
If you've ever attended a party with a big Latino family, you quickly realize that giving everyone a proper kiss goodbye could take you anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes, which is extremely valuable time if you're making multiple holiday visits. I'm not saying you should sneak out of your own family party, but I'm not saying you shouldn't either.
Volunteering to play host during the holidays comes with its own set of challenges. But at least if everyone has to come to you, you won't have to spend your holidays jumping from house to house.
Skip it all
Okay, so we actually haven't done this one yet. But if the holidays become too difficult to manage, give yourself permission to pass. Relieve some of the stress by taking a solo trip with your beau (or just enjoy a couple days off at home). There's always next year, right?