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ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

How do I tell my in-laws that we will be hosting Christmas Eve dinners in our home from now on?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (23285 points ) November 30th, 2011

My grandmother usually cooks Christmas Eve dinner, and my husband’s family does it as a collective thing (they are Italian, so a few different people in the family cook a seafood dish and it is usually held at my husband’s grandparents’ home.)
Last year, my grandmother decided that a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal was too difficult for her, as she is getting up there in age, and opted not to cook. This year she has decided that she won’t be cooking for that holiday anymore. My family and I have decided that I will take over.

All in all, I’m more than happy about taking over, and I’m greatly looking forward to not having to run from house to house (like we do for most holidays.) However, I’m not sure how to tell my mother-in-law, who I suspect will be very displeased that her son and her grandchildren won’t be coming over for Christmas Eve. We will see them on Christmas day, though.

Also, my in-laws (especially my mother-in-law) never come to our home. I think they have been here 4 or 5 times in the almost 7 years we’ve lived here, and they may have come in the house twice. I feel like I should extend an invitation for them to join us, but realistically I know that with them cooking, and their resistance to visiting us at our house, they won’t actually come. I should offer anyhow, though, right?

I’m not asking for lies, obviously. I just need help with the best way to word my email to her.

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20 Answers

zensky's avatar

You say to the in-laws: we will be hosting Christmas Eve dinners in our home from now on.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I think your plan to invite them is a good idea, and be prepared that they might say yes… But otherwise I would explain that you’re very keen on starting some of your own family traditions, especially since the dynamic vis a vis custody of the boys has changed a bit. Their feelings might be a bit hurt, but they’ll get over it, and as long as you stand firm and present it in the most positive light, without apologies it should be OK. You’ll see them the next day, after all… I can’t help with wording, but you get the gist…

cookieman's avatar

I would simply say (in person) that you’ve truly enjoyed spending Christmas Eve with her all these years, however, with your grandmother bowing out, the mantle has fallen to you. While you’re upset you can’t be at her house, you’re also excited at this opportunity to continue your family tradition. The only saving grace (thank baby Jesus), is that you’ll still be able to see her for Christmas day.

Perhaps, to ease your nerves, she could offer you advice on hosting such a night (as she’s clearly an expert).

Gently hold her hand and say “Mama” a lot.

This should work. But remember, you’re fucking with the night of the seven fishes here – so all bets are off.

Judi's avatar

Your husband tells her.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I think both you and your husband should be together when he, not you, breaks the news to his parents. And yes, it would be generous for him to extend a dinner invitation to them.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@JilltheTooth I would be happy if they came, honestly. I just don’t think they will.
@cprevite I rarely see them in person. My MIL and I communicate almost exclusively through email. She works two jobs, and is very busy, and she has never been especially fond of me.. so we aren’t close.
@Judi I considered that, but realistically I know that my husband is still in that phase where he is afraid to do or say anything that might upset his mother or make her angry at him, which means that she’ll find out the day before it happens if I don’t step up and tell her myself. That’s a whole other can of worms, but, still the case.
@Pied_Pfeffer it’s just his mother, really. His father is deceased, and his stepfather is a relatively new addition to the family. It’s a pretty cliche situation with the MIL. She is overbearing and wants things her way, she isn’t particularly fond of me, and my husband is afraid to stand up to her. In a nutshell.

tinyfaery's avatar

That’s for your hubby to do, not you. It’s his family.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Anef is Enuf would your husband be willing to have the two of your discuss it with her together? My first reaction after reading your question was that you could simply tell her how things panned out and why you are hosting your family’s celebration. It is awesome that you are willing to step up and host your family gathering and give your grandmother a break. Maybe your MIL will respect you for doing so which could make the situation easier.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Okay, well my husband is the same person who didn’t tell his family that his girlfriend was pregnant with twins, or pregnant at all, who didn’t tell them that we were getting married until they got the invitation in the mail, or that we were moving into our first home together, or a host of other events far more significant than a holiday dinner.
I’m not saying that is right, and it is certainly an issue all its own, but I’d rather not risk them not knowing about it because he would rather not deal with her. So, I am content with telling them, I just want to do it with minimal hurt feelings.

tinyfaery's avatar

I’ll just stop here.

marinelife's avatar

I think you should put the focus on your home becoming the center of your family’s Christmas Eve tradition: “My grandmother is not able cook the Ukrainian dinner anymore so I will be hosting the family get together on Christmas Eve.” “We’d love to have you join us although we certainly understand that you have your own traditional seafood dinner at that time.” “We will still be able to see you on Christmas Day in any case.”

wundayatta's avatar

Tell them what you told us. Tell them the story. Your grandmother has passed on the baton and you have agreed to take up the torch (hmmm baton to torch?). You are excited about transferring this family tradition to your hands and you hope they will be able to join you and see a different Christmas tradition. You would be very happy if they came.

You need not say this will happen from now on. You don’t have to talk about wishing to go visit them. This is about this year and what you hope will happen. If they decline, hopefully they will be polite about it. If they give your husband shit, hopefully he can tell them how rude they are being.

cazzie's avatar

When you tell her that you are hosting Christmas dinner tell her that it is because your grandmother has handed the tradition down to you, and you are taking it over for her and your family. It’s a big thing you are taking on, and you are certainly not doing it to spite her, you are doing it to honour your family and their traditions.

poofandmook's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf: A bigger issue at this point is what your husband’s problem is, and why it’s being left to you to be the responsible adult. I know that isn’t the question, but what keeps sticking out like a sore thumb to me here is that his responsibilities have fallen on you to deal with his mother, which puts you in an extremely awkward position, especially considering her apparent aversion to you. If it were me in your shoes, I would be extremely pissed at my husband, and tell him that he has to deal with this now, or he and he alone can deal with her wrath come Christmas Eve when she’s sitting there waiting for you to show up.

That’s my two cents, and I’m sorry if it’s harsh. I just know how miserable it is being in that position… I’ve been there once and I’ll be damned if I’m ever there again.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@poofandmook : I’m sure @ANef_is_Enuf will ask us about that when and if she wants to. Now she just seems to want ideas to present to her MIL.

poofandmook's avatar

@JilltheTooth: True enough. I just don’t think @ANef_is_Enuf should need ideas… it’s not supposed to be her place, and it’s unfair that she’s got the stress of the job.

But if it has to be, I would not sugarcoat it. Don’t dance around it… she’ll likely see through that and resent you further for it.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Just to clarify, I volunteered to tell my in-laws.
I don’t particularly like that my husband doesn’t like dealing with his mother, but it doesn’t make me miserable, and I don’t really care if I have to be the one to tell her stuff. This is a pretty minor thing, I just wanted some help with what I should say. I would have probably asked the same question if I were addressing my own biological family.

It might be a different story if he bent to her every whim, or did whatever she wanted, regardless of how he or I felt about it.. but that isn’t the case. He just doesn’t deal with any type of confrontation with her, and frankly, I’m not sure that I should force him to. @JilltheTooth is absolutely right, in that I didn’t ask how to deal with my husband’s resistance to talking with his family. The majority of the time it is a non-issue, and I don’t think it is my place to force him to change the dynamic of his family relationships, unless it affects our relationship. Which, basically, it doesn’t. I’m not afraid to tell his mom that we’re not coming for the holiday, even if he is, I just want to say it nicely. No harm, no foul.

poofandmook's avatar

@ANef_is_Enuf: Perhaps I was projecting… I apologize.

But I still stand by what I said. If you sugarcoat it, it’s going to make it worse. A simple apology if her feelings are hurt, a straightforward email, and call it done. “My grandmother feels that she’s unable to carry on a family tradition, and so it’s been passed down to me. We would love for you to join us. I’m sorry if this change is unpleasant.”

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

The message I sent was pretty straightforward, though I did take @JilltheTooth‘s advice about not being apologetic. I told her that I would love for them to join us, though I recognize it may not be realistic as they have traditions of their own. I also said that we look forward to seeing them on Christmas Day, and that was pretty much the end of it. She hasn’t responded, yet, but if she is upset, she is upset. I don’t deliberately want to hurt her feelings, but I know there is a chance she will take it personally, even if it isn’t personal. I have no control over how she takes what I said, only what I say.

I’m sure if she freaks out on me, I’ll be back and agreeing with everyone who said my husband should have done it. ;)

Sunny2's avatar

There are some really good ideas of what to say, but I suspect you did just fine with whatever came out. Do let us know how she responds. We’ve all had family situations similar to this.
And reactions have varied from, “No problem” to not speaking for a long time. If it’s the worst case scenario, don’t take it personally. It becomes her problem, not yours.

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