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Split Family Holidays and Events

Updated on May 19, 2020
Gift wrap outfits at the grand parents' house.
Gift wrap outfits at the grand parents' house.

Dysfunctional Families and Holidays

Holidays are already a stressful time for families. It can become more of a headache if you are involved in a split family, or even multiple split families. This is something I have plenty of experience in. As a child, my parents were divorced, and holidays were confusing, trying to figure out where we were going and which side of the family we were celebrating what with. Now, as an adult, I still have two sides of my family to contend with when it comes to holidays, and so does my fiance. This means that we have four sides to contend with during holidays and birthdays. Talk about a headache.

"This means four sides to contend with during holidays and birthdays. Talk about a headache."

Options for Holidays

You have a few options to choose from when it comes to deciding how you and your family will spend time together during the holidays:

  • Alternate the holiday- i.e. if you spend Thanksgiving with your mom's side, spend Christmas with your dad's side.
  • Split the holiday- Spend the first half of the holiday with one side of the family, and then go to the other side of the family for the duration of the day.
  • Designate certain holidays each year to specific sides of the family- this means you will be spending this particular holiday with that side of the family every year.
  • Take over the holiday traditions yourself- See if your family would allow you to start holding the celebrations at your home, and invite everyone over at the same time. This option works best if everyone in the family can get along, or if each member of the family has room to spread out and not stand on top of each other.

Which of the above methods does your family use for the holidays?

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How We Split Holidays

With both my fiance and I coming from split families, it was quite the chore during the first year of our relationship to determine how our holidays were going to be spent. Of course we want to see our families during the holiday, but there was no reasonable way to see every family member during each holiday without spending the majority of the day in the car. With kids in our lives, this wasn't an option for us. So how do you determine what to do?

First, we figured out which holidays we were going to have our kids. Scott was previously married, which means we only have the kids with us for half of the holidays through the year, and we only have birthdays for the kids on certain years. This made it a little bit easier for some of the major holidays, and we actually skipped Thanksgiving in 2018 with our families and went on a vacation to Louisville Kentucky instead. That was a personal decision, but one that worked for us.

Next, we determined which of our family members would get along well together. If we could get two sides together at once out of the four, it meant half of the situation was handled for that holiday. This takes the guesswork out of both sides of that family, and as an example, my mother's side gets along wonderfully with his father's side of the family. So now we know we can always get those two sides of the family together for a holiday. (Scott's parent's do not get along or see eye to eye, so to keep things from getting uncomfortable, we have to keep them apart from each other.)

On whatever holiday followed, we would in turn get the other side of the family together and spend time with them.


Settling birthdays was similar, but not exactly the same. Often times, we end up celebrating birthdays twice in my household, which means that the kids technically celebrate three times, and get three cakes. This might seem fantastic for the children, but it does create a lot of work on my end.

My parents getting along with Scott's dad and step-mother means I still get to pair those two sides together for birthdays. This typically involves a homemade version of the birthday person's favorite meal, a homemade cake, and presents and visitors.

However, no one wants to miss the kids' birthdays, so I have to immediately throw a second celebration with his mother's side of the family. His grandmother usually makes another cake for this celebration, and one of the two birthdays ends up happening at a restaurant. A cake still gets brought to this celebration, and the kids choose the restaurant, gifts still show up, and the whole family gets to be involved. This makes birthdays quite hectic, and means that with a family of six, we celebrate twelve times a year.

Birthday cake for our daughter 2019
Birthday cake for our daughter 2019

This makes birthdays quite hectic, and means that with a family of six, we celebrate twelve times a year.

This Takes Patience

Double planning, or even in some circumstances, triple planning any sort of celebration is exhausting. I don't always look forward to the holidays, but we typically make it through. Even when there is a snag in the plans, we push through and make sure we get to see the majority of the family.

Whether you decide to alternate holidays, make multiple trips, pair certain family members together, or hold the celebrations at your home to make everyone come to you, each holiday comes and goes, and you will not always be able to make everyone happy. Keep in mind that you deserve to have a good holiday as well, and if someone chooses not to participate based on the decision that you made, or voices disappointment in how you choose to handle the situation, explain to them where you are coming from, and how it can be difficult to rotate celebrations around each person. You may not ever be able to keep everyone happy, but you can make your holidays more enjoyable for you and your family by doing what works best for you.


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