Advice

I’d like to host the family Christmas dinner, but my older sister has claimed hostess honors for years

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

My sister always hosts the family for Christmas. We’ve been going to her home to open gifts and have dinner for probably 15 years now, ever since my parents downsized to a smaller place. This year I’d like to host the family, and she’s refusing to let me.

For context, I am “the baby” and she is 10 years older than me. She has a lot more space and, I’ll admit, a nicer kitchen. She has a real dining room with a table big enough for our family — her, her husband, their two children, our brother and his girlfriend, and our parents. We are all in the Anchorage area.

I admit my place isn’t as nice, and it’s small. My dishes don’t match, I don’t have a big table — I don’t even have a dining room. But I’ve had people for dinner before and I have folding tables and I can make it work. Yes, it’s tight, but it’s cozy and fun, and I feel like I deserve a turn hosting. I also admit she’s a much better cook, and I’ve never done an entire holiday dinner by myself, but I figured I could handle the main courses if she did a side dish or two. Plus I have some great ideas for signature holiday cocktails.

She won’t even hear me out. She’s completely dug in. She says Christmas is her thing and I should find my own thing — she suggested I do something on New Year’s Eve or something on solstice. How can I convince her it’s only fair to rotate some of the holiday hosting and that I should have a shot at having the family over for Christmas?

Wanda says:

Of course you have every right to take a turn as holiday host. So does your brother, for that matter. And it probably feels pretty belittling and unfair that your Scroogey older sister has somehow crowned herself the Christmas boss and gets to decide the plan without input — what, because her house is nice and she has kids? Bah humbug.

That said, you really have a good thing going here. Hear me out. Hosting a holiday dinner? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Hours of shopping, meal planning, cleaning and decorating go into a single evening — and afterward, clean-up and dishes and sorting through leftovers remain. Pricewise, those costs rack up surprisingly fast. Yes, it’s fun to have family visit. It’s also exhausting, messy, stressful, tiring and expensive.

Why not let your sister keep doing all that, and you can be the cheerful aunt who shows up on time with a smile and bottle of champagne, offers to offload some leftovers, and jets in time to still meet friends for a holiday nightcap? Instead of satisfying your hosting dreams by laying claim to Christmas, consider her actually quite good idea, and invite the family over for solstice desserts and a hot chocolate bar, or a New Year’s Eve cocktail and appetizers hour. Your sister can keep her Christmas, and you can wade into the world of holiday event planning with a simpler event, without blowing your budget, and without torching your relationship with your sister.

Wayne says:

So, you’re dying to be a hostess, but you don’t have the gathering goods. You’re not a top chef, but you make a mean cocktail. Your place is tiny, but comfy. Your furniture and dinnerware are a hodge-podge, but it’s mostly plastic so who cares if it gets beat up. And you’re part of an audience that is craving a change of pace. Hmm … I smell a party!

Why force undue drama into the already fragile family tradition dynamic — or add a ton of unnecessary stress and work into your life — when you can create a new holiday tradition that comes naturally to you and reflects what you are all about? I’m with Wanda — host a holiday house party!

Forgo the fancy food — make and buy some of your favorites snacks and sides, and ask guests to bring their favs, too. Create and crank up a modern holiday music playlist. Make a drink menu and get ready to show off your mixing skills. Tell everyone to wear terrible Christmas sweaters. Cover every inch of your place with holiday lights. Heck, have a gingerbread house building contest! Invite the family, of course, and consider extending it to close friends and friends who are away from family. Wanda named a few fitting dates; here are some more: Thanksgiving Eve, Black Friday, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Or go wildcard with Boxing Day or Festivus.

Now everyone’s happy — your sister doesn’t lose her grip on hosting Christmas Day, and you get a chance to shine and share your own holiday cheer. Happy holidays!

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