5 Ways to Avoid Spending Christmas with the Family

It is almost that time, the season when all good mommies and daddies pretend that they can’t wait for Christmas, just to please their kids and other judgmental parents. Office buddies get in on the heady excitement and start bringing goodies to the office, while children hone their writing skills by penning epic-length Christmas lists. Businesses and media fan the flames by assuring you that they have whatever it is that your most beloved craves above all else.

It isn’t the whole “birth of Christ” thing that makes me despise this overblown holiday but rather the obvious obeisance paid to Mammon (commercial culture and materialism) in the name of celebrating Christ. The hypocrisy of it overwhelms me sometimes, and I don’t even claim to be part of any Christian church or sect. If it were just idealism, sure, I could swallow my pride and be merry. But everyone expects wholehearted immersion in the illusion that Christmas somehow gives them license to expect gifts and extra artificial cheer. Being a Scrooge will often make you a target for ridicule, finger-pointing and, worst of all, misguided treacly pity.

Well, I’ve got a little list, not of society offenders who might well be underground, but of ways to escape Christmas duties if you’re not inclined to put on a false face and join the madness of the season:

Take a camping trip. Yup, gather the dogs, kids (if they’re not brainwashed by the season), sleeping gear, tent, grilling gear, what have you, and truck on down to the nearest state park for the least busy day of the year! Be aware that northern parks may be closed or inaccessible, and even the more southerly parks will close many of their services for the holiday season. But if you’re not afraid of primitive camping, this might be an option for you, and some state parks have RV facilities available year-round. Check your state’s official website for a list of state parks and their holiday schedules.Or just pitch a tent in your backyard.
Pretend you’re sick. This stands off most of my hillbilly relatives, since they’re really afraid of germs. I found out I could get out of all Christmas responsibilities by playing the “sick card.” Of course, it sucks if you’re really sick. Confuse them. Tell half the family you’re celebrating in November and the other half you’re celebrating in January. Then, when they ask about it, tell them the opposite of what you told them in the first place. If you’re lucky, they’ll be so confused they’ll forget they’re actually related to you. Bring the animals! Absolutely refuse to attend unless your dogs are invited too. Since I have no kids, my dogs are like my children. They behave like children too, only they’re more powerful and destructive. They are also very appreciative of the Christmas feast! Out yourself, even if it isn’t true. In desperation, you can tell your family you’re gay and you insist on bringing your boy/girl/other friend to Christmas dinner. Conservative families might break up over this one, but liberal families, well, it might not work for you. On the other hand, gay celebrants might shake things up a bit by proclaiming they’re straight, just to throw the family off-balance. I would say another strategy is to loudly proclaim atheism to your devoutly religious family, but this is likely to backfire, resulting in an emergency trip to church, as they attempt to save your soul from damnation.

Overall, I have found it is easier to get away from the family if you live great distances away from them, but even this isn’t foolproof. Every year I tell myself I’ll keep out of the celebrations, and the in-laws (who live next door, by the way) say they’re not doing Christmas either. Then the day comes, and suddenly the cousins from up north are visiting and the in-laws forget what they said and insist we all have Christmas dinner together at the last minute. I think I’ll find a nice Chinese restaurant this year.

Followup: It is just after Thanksgiving, and my mother-in-law initiated an act of militant holidayism just after Thanksgiving dinner by rushing into the back bedroom and dragging out the complicated, color-coded fake Christmas tree, one prickly piece at a time. I hadn’t even had any pumpkin pie yet. Things are not looking good this year.

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