Yesterday was a wonderful day, filled with time with family, a gift-opening schmorgesboard for the kids, and great food.  Today I would be quite content to stay at home in my pajamas all day.

The years that we stay in Ontario, away from our Nova Scotian and Albertan families, it is quite different.  At first, I was anxious that I would be painfully homesick.  I put great mental effort into thinking up what family traditions we wanted to develop for our kids.  Unexpectedly, what transpired was 3 glorious days at home with my husband and children.  From Christmas Eve to Boxing Day we eat the meals I plan in advance, lounge in our pajamas, read good books, go for walks with our dog, all peppered with prolonged periods of the kids playing with their new toys.  We are entirely free to spend our days in whatever way we wish as they unfold before us.

So often I lament having our families living on opposite sides of the country, but from watching other friends and family, I am grateful for the simplicity we have.  And I realize it is because our families live so far apart that we were given the gift of being able to focus on the people who we are with – whether it is our family of four in Ontario, with my family here in Nova Scotia, or with Dean’s family in Edmonton.

This year, being back with extended family, the early morning gift-opening was enormous fun with our young 2 and 4 year old nieces.  And we will go home with great memories of all of the kids playing together at my mom and dad’s.   However, I was also witness to the hectic day experienced by my sister and brother and their young families – as they tried to accommodate both sides of their families on Christmas day.  It made me extra-grateful that for us, with 7 and 9 year old children, and only one side of our family to spend time with, it was still quite relaxing.  (although we also love that skype exists to talk to Dean’s family)  According to Ethan and Audra, it was the best Christmas EVER.

I have heard many versions of how families try to accommodate and spend time with family over the holidays – with alternating years for Christmas dinner, dividing up the holidays into brunches, Christmas Eve dinners, family Christmases hosted before and after the holidays, and many more versions.  It’s all an attempt to give every relative a piece of the family pie.

I can understand why parents with young kids may cringe thinking of Christmas day.  Knowing that their day will involve an early, excited start, followed by hectic episodes of packing up kids and gear (and favourite Christmas toys).  Last night, as we spent a half hour retrieving all of the stuff we had at my parents to bring it back to my sister’s house, I realized that for many people, who visit more than one house on Christmas day – this may equal to six or more loading/unloading sessions on one busy and long day.  I think that would be exhausting.

As for our Christmas, everyone had a great time, the kids played wonderfully together, and we had many laughs over many hours.  Being all together is one of the best parts of the holidays (and obviously the reason we travelled 2000 km to be here)  And yet, it surprises me to realize that having our families far away allows us to have the best of both worlds:  time with loved ones… and simplicity.