The holidays are a busy (read: stressful) time for a lot of families — that stretch between November and New Year’s is full of extra trips to the store and events penciled into the calendar. Between light displays, cookie exchanges, and family gatherings it feels like most days get lost in a haze of an unfinished to-do list, leaving most of us feeling less-than holly jolly.
Our family was no exception to the Christmas chaos, up until about 12 years ago when we decided enough was enough. As a blended family — my brother and sister are both technically step-siblings, although we all agree that the “step” part is silent — we found ourselves struggling to be able to squeeze everything we wanted to do each year into the holiday season.
Between our bonus families, in-laws, and travel (we all live at least an hour from one another now) it was impossible to get to see everyone before December 25th. In fact, things got so bad that at one point we were spending most of Christmas completely stressed out as we traveled from house to house, barely having enough time to take off our coats before we had to pack it all up and go see someone else.
That’s when we came up with the best idea our family has ever had: Fauxmas.
Fauxmas is the one day a year we set aside to celebrate Christmas together. When we first started this tradition, we’d re-create the feel of Christmas day by spending the night all together at our parents’ house. We’d stay up late listening to music and snacking on our favorite foods before my mom sent us off to bed, telling us that if we didn’t get to sleep Santa would skip our house (yes, even in our 20’s and 30’s, mama commits to a role). In the morning, we’d wake up to find presents under the tree and the tantalizing smell of a fresh loaf of monkey bread baking in the oven.
We’d exchange our gifts and hang out until dinner, when we’d binge on a huge Christmas feast. When it was all said and done we’d clean up and head back out to our separate homes at our own leisure, free of the need to race around and ensure we checked everyone off our visitation list — because even though it was “Christmas” for us, the actual holiday was still weeks away.
Our tradition has changed over the years, which in my humble opinion is one of the best things about Fauxmas: the flexibility.
As each of us kids married off and started families of our own, we’d adjust our plans. Some years nobody would spend the night; instead, we’d all come over early that morning in our PJs. Other years we’d be missing a person or two when new babies had just arrived or someone got sick.
Adjustments aside, the one thing we’ve never lost is that stress free vibe of having our own special day set aside to enjoy one another’s company while not feeling like we’re letting someone else down because we didn’t pick them on the 25th.
Having a day where we can recreate some of the holiday magic from when we were kids, and share that same joy with our own children, makes the effort of planning a second Christmas feast worthwhile. It also gives us a chance to reinforce the importance of family to our kids. Sure, ours may not look like everyone else’s, but it’s still perfect in its own way.
Our children are growing up seeing how much we value family time — and learning how to get flexible when things change or can’t work out. During COVID we had our first ever virtual Fauxmas over Zoom, and we all mailed gifts to one another that we opened during our video chat. More recently, we’ve stopped exchanging gifts with everyone and opted to instead do a family Pollyanna which has been a blast (it’s also known as a “white elephant” gift exchange in some parts of the country). Not only does it save us from having to shop for a million people — there are nine grandchildren now — but it lets the kids have a chance to set up a budget and pick things out for their cousins all by themselves, which has provided its own source of entertainment.
I’m sure there are Christmas purists who hear about how we do things and say that it would never work for them because December 25th is a day for family, but to them I say that the magic of Christmas is what you make it.
Creating our own separate holiday has allowed us to keep the family traditions that we love while leaving room for each of us to begin new family traditions with the next generation. Fauxmas may not always look like this, especially once our kids start creating their own family traditions, but that’s kind of the beauty of a made-up holiday.
Merry Fauxmas to all, and to all a good night!
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