In response to our Christmas Divorce Child Appeal, we received over 60 very touching family stories. Someone lost his father on Christmas 1944. A reader was imprisoned because she wanted to flee East Germany. Some look forward to the visit of their children and grandchildren, others will be lonely. Behind every comment there is a fate, a person, an individual way of dealing with expectations and traditions. Just the right reading material, full of wonderful suggestions to get into conversation with your loved ones over the holidays. I share them with you here. (Note: Some of the comments are slightly shortened and deliberately kept anonymous.)
"The parcel deliverers and the taxi driver get presents" I wish my parents had divorced. Growing up as a child in an unhappy marriage is not nice. Our family life was characterized by tense silences and coldness on the part of my father and "pull-up-for-the-kids" on the part of my mother. Every day, for years - and that culminated at Christmas, additionally "fired up" by my maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, father and grandma were like cats and dogs. If you can perfect silence, these two could. But back to beauty and longing: I have created my own rituals to relive the beautiful memories and feelings from the Advent season as a child: the apartment is decorated on a certain day, I bake, I pack Advent packages for friends, the couriers and the taxi driver get gifts. I go to my favorite restaurant in December, accompanied but also alone, to eat beef roulades there. When the first snow falls, I'll take a series of photos, just for me."
"Time for a delicious meal and nice conversations" I am also a child of divorce with the corresponding quarrels. But I wasn't impressed by that, but made sure that I and my family, who were fortunately intact, had a nice and stress-free Christmas. Our sons come to us on Christmas Eve and we traditionally make raclette. Time for a delicious meal and nice conversations. We haven't given gifts for many years, not even among relatives. Being together as a family is more important to all of us. This year, at the request of the boys, there will be the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy spread over the days in the evening. Nice long walks, candlelight and of course a delicious red wine complete the thing. I am really looking forward to relaxing Christmas days.
"I can still hear my mother's scream of horror today" Some statements can only be understood if one has been affected by personal injustice. Like me, for example, on Christmas Eve 1944 at the age of four. My father had initially been given Christmas leave, but due to the military escalation the assembled garrison was not given an exit and had to remain in a troop transport train in Frankfurt/Main "Am Ostbahnhof". The night before, mother and I packed a package that we wanted to give him the next morning. Early the next morning, around eight o'clock, as my mother said, we were there and found out that the train was no longer there. Comrades from the neighboring train, which was on standby, said that the alarm went off at around four o'clock and the train left for the east. I can still hear my mother's scream of horror to this day. She gave the Christmas gifts to the soldiers waiting in the neighboring train. We didn't hear anything from my father afterwards. Since then, Christmas Eve has been a sad event, with plenty of tears flowing. Even at my age of almost 82, I still dread that day.
"On the 24th I'll be sitting comfortably in my jogger on the sofa" In coordination with my three grown children, I haven't celebrated Christmas for 20 years. We consciously evade the consumer terror, the artificial harmony. No more stress, no more rushing about whether you have the 20th type of sausage (which only one person eats) in the fridge to dispose of with lots of other groceries after the holidays. No more stress as I, as the hostess, have to organize everything. Family reunions, on the other hand, take place all year round according to taste without date constraints, small gifts and attentions come from the heart when it suits them and not "because you do it that way". On the 24th I'm sitting comfortably in my jogger on the sofa, enjoying a cup of punch and letting five go. Without bad conscience. "Many don't realize what love actually means" We (wife, husband, five children) emigrated to Japan last year. But here, too, we celebrate Christmas like we have for the last 20 years, just like grandma celebrated for decades. Maybe boring for many these days, but that's exactly why it's homely. As for the quarrels, many don't realize what love actually means, although everyone talks about it. And it is quite simple: mutual giving without taking expectations. My advice: Live Christmas, give to others! Then the childish enthusiasm will come back to you.
"Without" Christmas, we will be celebrating this year for the first time without my deceased husband. It's going to be special.
"Actually, we only celebrate for the sake of the children" At 60, I've already experienced more than 60 Christmas parties. Summary: I'm fed up with it now! If you work six days a week like we do, there is not much room left for a party in a traditional atmosphere. Over the years I've slimmed it down a bit: only presents for the children, the tree has shrunk to 1 meter in length and today I didn't set up the crib. My wife, however, enjoys the decorations. Actually, we only celebrate for the sake of the children. The highlight: they are just under or already over 30. It seems to me - I have a suspicion - the older they get, the more they hold on...
"We're already looking forward to meeting up weeks in advance" For work-related reasons, we move to another country or continent every three to four years. And no matter where we are, Christmas is always celebrated with the children, now 27 and 28 years old, whether it's 35 degrees outside or, like here, down to -35. In the past, they sometimes traveled 26 hours by plane. Christmas is and remains a special celebration for us. We look forward to meeting you weeks in advance. It's particularly nice that we always manage to spend these days together, I'm very happy about that.
"Responsible as adults for creating Christmas" The Christmas of childhood is remembered well because someone created that Christmas. Someone has planned, shopped and prepared cookies and handicrafts, turned on Christmas music, decorated an Advent wreath, put up the tree, prepared the duck. Lovingly wrapped gifts, sent parcels, written Christmas cards. As adults, we are responsible for creating Christmas. When I was still living alone, I bought an Advent wreath and made a small Christmas tree, baked cookies and listened to Christmas music. Now I'm married. Together with my husband, I create loving Christmases for our daughters, which I hope will trigger beautiful memories.
"No compulsion, no obligation" With us, the (adult) children can decide freely whether, when and how long they want to come for Christmas. No compulsion, no obligation, we just want to know a few days in advance so we can adjust our purchases and stock accordingly. And what can I say: Every year everyone looks forward to being there as quickly and as long as possible and those who can't are very sad. Everyone loves it that way and we hope it stays that way for a long time. Happy Holidays everyone! "2019 was our last really nice Christmas" Up until 12 years ago, we always had to spend the Christmas holidays with my parents. That was: breakfast, lunch, coffee and dinner. Creepy. Then a falling out with my parents (we made up later) and my husband and I were finally able to celebrate our own Christmas. Just as we wanted, without coercion and regulations. This went on for many years, then unfortunately my husband received a life-ending diagnosis. 2019 was our last really nice Christmas. After two years of grief, I found myself again. I still love Christmas. All the lights, the kitsch, the duck, that's just part of the most beautiful time of the year. This year my mother wanted to invite me to my father again. I had a stressful horror week until I could make her understand that I didn't want that. She saw it. Now I can look forward to Christmas again because I have my peace. Happy Holidays. "One must also be able to treat oneself" I am divorced, the children have long since grown up. I don't invite my ex over, but we don't have a fight. My children are coming to my new partner and I with my granddaughter (18 months) on Christmas Eve. The father of my children goes to his father and family, it was always like that and it was never stressful. You don't have to look at it so doggedly, I wouldn't have a problem if my daughter and her husband went to her mother. This, in turn, is invited to the second son. I have the two public holidays off for that and I'm happy about that. I made the advent wreath myself. You also have to be able to treat yourself and not come hell or high water and see the others as competition. Merry Christmas to everyone here.
“Two sad Christmases in prison” In August 1961 the wall came. Christmas 1961 was terrible, my mother cried bitterly, we weren't allowed to go home to her family in Hamburg. We lived in Dresden. 20 years later, my husband and I applied to leave the country and … were arrested. Two sad Christmases in prison. After the release, or the ransom and our new life in Hamburg, we experienced the most beautiful Christmas we have ever had. I pack Christmas parcels and hang them on a number of doors in my small village. The joy I bring with it comes back to me. I wish everyone a Merry and Happy Christmas.
"Simply relaxed and in a good mood" We, a patchwork family with five mostly grown-up children, do it very relaxed: The children decide for themselves where they want to be on the holidays. No pressure, no expectations from our side. Children are always there on the holidays - to eat roast goose, to chat - simply relaxed and in a good mood. And in between, when there are no children, we make it nice for two.
"At some point that was too much for us" My parents-in-law and I didn't get along before and didn't have any contact. My husband was with them on Christmas Eve and I was with my parents. We had the holidays to ourselves. We have now agreed that on the 1st public holiday we will have roast goose for everyone. This is how we do it every year since 2015 without my father-in-law, who died that year. A former colleague of mine joined me who suddenly became a widow years ago and had no family. We take care of her and are friends with her. She was accepted into the family. My husband takes care of goose and co., I pick up the old folks. I drink red wine with my father, my husband takes everyone home. Tradition - which will not last forever due to the old age of our guests (all around 80). I'm aware of that, so I enjoy it all the more. "Probably scolding my family who don't care about me" As single and due to the pandemic, I'm spending Christmas alone again. With wonderful classical Christmas music, which my mother always loved, with Silesian potato salad and sausages, just like my grandma loved it. With fir branches and lots of candlelight and a nice film after the meal. Then I will most likely scold my family for something, who don't care about me. After that, watch a favorite film to relax, then get in the box and have a good night's sleep. "It'll be fine, we'll all try" I am a child of divorce. I am 75 years old today and have suffered under these circumstances for a long time. Today it's like this, my ex-daughter-in-law with our grandson will be sitting at our Christmas table this year because it was always like that in previous years. It'll be fine, we're all trying. Happy Holidays to you and everyone here.
"Walk on the beach instead of standing in the kitchen" Today our son gets on the plane to spend Christmas with his wife at his parents-in-law after Corona. Our daughter is already with her partner and child with her parents-in-law in Spain. We will be spending Christmas alone for the first time in 37 years and have completely eliminated the Christmas tree, wreath and gifts. We have pre-cooked something and want to go to the sea and take a walk on the beach instead of standing in the kitchen. I am curious how we will like this unusual holiday. I would like to treat the respective families-in-law to finally be able to celebrate together with their children again. "Last year we found out about my father's cancer" I'm spending this Christmas with my partner at his family's. Exactly the family who were neither allowed nor wanted to see us last year due to our corona vaccination status for fear of impending state reprisals. He loves his family and feeds on such experiences, which in turn will feed on me in a way.. But that's just the way it is in a relationship and with compromises that are made so that the other can live his happiness. My parents are doing without the "festival" in all respects this year, they don't want any visitors, no crazy gifts, no tree. Around this time last year we found out about my father's cancer. They don't want to be reminded of it at all and are consciously spending the days differently this year. For that I love her very much. I'm sure they inherited their non-conformity.
"Since then, I've only had merry Christmas" Even as a child, I couldn't relate to all the fuss. Clear. Everything should always be particularly beautiful, but somehow it seemed as if the parents were doing it out of some compulsion. Of course it never went smoothly. It was like packing my suitcase too late. At some point, when I was earning my own money, I booked a vacation: to the Canary Islands, departure 24.12. at noon. It was the first really nice Christmas. Even the Christmas decorations there couldn't change that. Completely bizarre, snow crystals at 30 degrees in the shade. Since then I've only had merry Christmas. Greetings from the beach on Koh Chang.
This text originally appeared in the WELTplus newsletter "Honey, we have to talk".
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