As noted here previously, when my parents were alive our winter holidays tended to be nuclear in the Simpsons sense — relatives and friends gathering from all over to argue, insult, huff and declare that this was absolutely the last such occasion.
Until, of course, my mother died and those traditions died too, and we survivors miss them more than we imagined we would.
Since then, Bill, Ben and I have elected to travel over the holidays. This started as a means of dealing with feelings of loss after my mother passed away in December of 2006, and has become a fun tradition in its own right. Sometimes we travel to my brother's or my sister-in-law's family; more often we indulge our shared addiction to travel (it is possible to get incredibly cheap package deals to Europe during the holiday season, especially over Thanksgiving, because very few people actually choose to travel from the US to celebrate an essentially American holiday), and when we are really lucky, we combine the two and our whole extended family travels together.
This year, that isn't an option. My wonderful nephew is getting married In Minnesota next month, and of course we are all traveling out to help celebrate. Then, our family got an amazing deal on a trip to Beijing and Shanghai in January. (Yes, I know why travel there is discounted at that time of the year. I have already started shopping for long underwear.) we can't exactly afford to go, but we didn't feel we could afford to pass it up, either. So there is no way we can take another trip this year.
We have been batting around alternatives. We decided we don't want to crash friends' celebrations. We are all busy and don't get to see enough of each other as it is, and two of us are vegetarians, which can make us difficult guests.
The option that seems to be winning is ordering in Chinese food and watching a movie for at least one holiday, maybe both. That might not sound like much, but we are all together, we have some adventures planned, and I'm thankful.