There are a lot of reasons why people can’t “go home” for the holidays, including time, money, weather, strained family relations, and living in a different country. Obviously, I think that last one is a good reason. But sometimes having to “go home” isn’t a positive thing, though it can eventually become something very different.
When I was a young adult and first living on my own, I used to visit my siblings for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I didn’t think that much about it, though some years it was really quite a mission to get there and get back home.
However, once I started having relationships and set up homes with my partners, I began to kind of resent having to go visit family, especially on Christmas. I wanted the two of us to wake up in our own home on Christmas Day, and to me it felt kind of disempowering to have to pack up and go visit my partner’s parents (my own parents died before I was done with university).
Nevertheless, it was important to my partners, so I went along with it and didn’t complain about having to do it. And I usually enjoyed myself, too; it’s just that I felt invalidated.
The best Thanksgiving I had as a young adult was one year when my friend Grant hosted Thanksgiving for a bunch of us. The other guests were people I knew through activism, Grant, or both, and it was a lovely time, with good food and good company. I wasn’t long split with a partner, and after many holidays schlepping off to his family for the holidays, it felt liberating to be at a place of my choosing and spending time with friends, most of whom I was quite close with at the time—a family of choice.
I’m still friends with Grant, though I don’t know if he ever knew how important that day was to me at the time, or how fondly I still think of it (if he didn’t, he will now…). Mind you, that day was also the first time I ever played Tetris, and I was hooked instantly (and permanently), so there’s that…
Now that I’m well into middle age, holidays just don’t mean as much to me as they used to, and for a variety of reasons. We sometimes go to family members’ homes for Christmas, and sometimes we stay home; they’re all equally good times. We also get together for celebrations with family fairly frequently, so getting together for Christmas isn’t at all unusual.
Of course, I’m also older, but the times have changed a lot since the 1980s, too. Heck, I’m even legally married now, something that was unimaginable back then. So, it would be more surprising if my attitudes hadn’t changed.
Even so, I still remember the days in which I felt my relationship was treated as less than, how much I wanted to be home for Christmas at least sometimes, and how emotionally fulfilling that one Thanksgiving with friends was. What I have now is like that Thanksgiving, but all the time, which is pretty awesome. My dream did come true, but in very different ways than I expected.
There are a lot of reasons why people can’t “go home” for the holidays. But home really is where the heart is, so we all are home for the holidays in that sense.