Spending the Holidays with Friends (if Orange is the New Black, then Friends are the New Family)

By Leah Campbell

For most folks, the holidays from—Thanksgiving to New Year's—are all about spending quality time with the family. And while most agree to this joyous tradition, not everyone agrees on just what family is. For some, their friends count among the most precious relationships—just as close as family.

Family is about more than blood.

That’s a mantra I have maintained for most of my life. Sure, the blood is what is dictated to you, and you don’t get a whole lot of say in who those people are—your relatives and kin. But family? In my book, these are the people you choose.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family—both those related by blood and those who aren’t. But as someone who has moved far away from home, adopted a little girl, and built a family for herself of friends more amazing than I could possibly begin to describe, I can tell you: it doesn’t take blood to make a family. And sometimes you find yourself relying on your friends more than anyone with whom you share genetic ties.

Which is why the idea of spending the holidays with friends instead of family makes perfect sense to me and why I split my holidays between the two groups; Thanksgiving with family back in my hometown and Christmas with friends in the place I now consider home.

I’m not alone. In fact, more and more people are choosing to spend the holidays with friends over family. And there are a lot of great reasons why.

You Save Money on Airfare
Not everyone lives away from family, but for those who do—traveling back and forth can get expensive. Especially around the holidays. If the choice is to spend the holidays with family or alone, most people will probably find a way to get to those with whom they have always spent the holidays. But when you have friend options just down the street, it becomes much more tempting to stay where you are and celebrate with the family you have made for yourself.

You Avoid the Dysfunctional Family Dynamics

Let’s face it, we all have our own version of a dysfunctional family. Even if your family seems picture perfect from the outside looking in, there is always a bit of something lingering beneath the surface that leads to uncomfortable interactions from time to time. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You love your family, and their dysfunction. Over the years, you have even found ways to laugh about the crazy family skeletons lurking in the closet. You have inside jokes about that dysfunction with your siblings and cousins, and it has all just become a part of who you are.

But still, sometimes ... the crazy can be a bit much to take. Whether it’s a relative who is continuously asking personal questions or the creepy uncle who always has a bit too much to drink and makes your blood boil with his political rants—spending the holidays with friends instead of family means avoiding the dysfunctional dynamics that have had years (decades even) to build up.

Sure, those dynamics sometimes lead to the most hilarious stories, but every once in a while—a holiday away from the chaos is kind of nice.

You Get to Make Your Own Traditions
When it comes to spending the holidays with family, most of your traditions have probably long been set in stone—in some cases, even before you were born. So Grandma has all the kids decorate her tree on Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning is ruled by breakfast and coffee before presents. You know what to expect, and there is comfort in repeating the traditions you have practiced for most of your life.

But, there is something to be said for starting a few traditions of your own. Friendsgiving allows your group to share new recipes and eat whatever time you all choose. Christmas with friends means embarking upon a White Elephant exchange or deciding to spend your time volunteering somewhere together. The point is—you get a say in what your holiday looks like when you start creating those traditions with new with friends. And there is definitely something pretty special about taking ownership of your own holiday traditions.

You Get to Unite the Strays and Give Everyone a Place to Go

Even if you can manage to get home for the holidays, you may have some friends who aren’t as lucky and just can’t make it work. Or, there may be extenuating circumstances that have you wanting to celebrate with the family you’ve made, realizing that they may need you more this holiday season than the family to which you were born. Whatever the reason, staying behind means having the opportunity to provide a pretty fabulous holiday to those who otherwise have nowhere else to go. Believe it or not, those people are often the most grateful for a holiday get together with friends—and the memories you make by bringing your friends together can be well worth missing out on a traditional family holiday.

Friends ARE the New Family
Remember, there is no rule saying you have to spend the holidays with blood. Sometimes, your friends are the ones who know you best and have been there for you the most (https://www.socialjane.com/articles/3-featured-article/115-friendship-support ). So it makes sense you would want to spend this special time of year with them, and this isn’t something you should feel guilty (or unsure) about.

Embrace the family you have made for yourself and enjoy your time with those friends who mean the most to you. The holidays are about being with the people you love—no matter how they’ve come to be your life!

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So tell us, where and how are you spending the holidays? Have any great traditional we need to try? We'd love to hear from you.

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