Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Who will host Christmas when grandma and her dining room are gone?

Every bride should be told that eventually she will have to learn to say no.

Whether it's a sweetly reluctant "not now" to Afternoon Delight; a firm "no, thanks" to chocolate-pecan pie or a great BIG negative to hosting yet another (darn) Christmas dinner.

I first noticed a strong itch to walk away from my maternal holiday obligations in the middle of an unusually uncomfortable hot flash.

Temporarily delusional, I honestly believe I heard the Almighty telling me to join the legions of other long-suffering grandmothers and move directly into a small mobile home, therefore avoiding the seasonal mass feeding of relatives, which in our case, is bigger than the crowd in the loaves and fishes scenario.

Ignoring a strong history of hospitality won't be easy. My husband's Scandinavian grandmother and her sisters labored feverishly to prepare great quantities of culinary delights for their holiday tables: Spritz cookies, gallons of ligonberry sauce, caldrons of lutefisk (cod preserved in lye) and platters of korv (a sausage in which mystery meats are stuffed into animal intestines, served for no apparent reason). Today, just deciphering their handwritten recipes brings on a sweat.

My own mother, who was less into sustenance and more into image, spent days hand-washing linen napkins, polishing a dazzle of family silver, chargers, teapots and platters, including every pickle fork, demitasse spoon and candelabra she could lay her hands on. I learned my first swear words at my mother's knee, my little hands blackened from Wright's Polish while "helping."

It was great

We actually managed to escape Thanksgiving hosting duties — an even lesser dining experience than Christmas — despite our children and grands all whining and pleading mightily when we announced, "Guess what, kids? We're skipping town! We're outta here! We're blowing this pop stand! Yer Grandpa and I are planning a Thanksgiving cruise . . . alone."

Ignoring the panicky texts and faint childlike voices crying "Noooo! Don't go! What are we going to do-o-oo?" from the distant shore, my husband and I gleefully sailed away and fully enjoyed Carnival's (almost) guilt-free Thanksgiving food fantasia in the ship's elegant dining salon with a bunch of strangers.

But it doesn't look as if we can get outta town again. With the prospect of yet another Christmas dinner looming, and living in the only home with that dinosaur, an actual dining room, I doubt that I can pull off that one again.

The big question: Who takes over the holiday chores when Granny just won't carry on?

All the usual attendees apologetically claim heavy workloads, too small apartments or "can't boil water." Actually a well-meaning lot, they all generously offer to "bring something," usually consisting of red Jell-O or a jar of pickles since a mountain of mashed potatoes with gravy and a 29-pound hunk of bird flesh "doesn't travel well."

Or was it?

So Grandpa, groaning, will once again drag in the borrowed church tables, inflate a giant lung-busting vinyl snowman and tug up the Christmas tree for the 50th time. In the kitchen, I'll struggle with a million details, pore over pages of ads in search of the lowest frozen turkey price and search for one decent tablecloth, all the while considering the dismal state of my housekeeping skills.

Then, while deciding between china or Chinette, silver polishing or plastic forks, I'll sag. Any last iota of holiday spirit will suddenly descend into a deep, dark pit. I feel old. And tired. And deathly bored with the whole shebang.

Head in hands, I flash back on all the other evenings we spent together eating this traditional meal, and the dozens of photos of family members happily stuffing their faces around the table.

I sniffle a little recalling that our dear children are scattered throughout the country. The cousins and sibs rarely see each other. This twice yearly holiday at the family home is a chance to reconnect, give hugs, see new babies, gossip and just have a good laugh. They travel long distances for badly cooked turkey. Obviously, this means so much to them.

I ask myself, is begrudging holiday hosting duties just being mean? Am I turning into a grouchy old lady? Heaven forbid. This isn't about me. This is all about handing out love in the guise of a free meal. Suddenly even the likely prospect of organizing that final yuletide dinner while lying prone at the old ladies' home doesn't seem so bad.

I'll carry on.

Jan Dutton, proprietor of Gulfport's funky Cottage Bookshop hates paperless technology. However, readers can send constructive criticism (or other messages) to her 1989 email address,

Who will host Christmas when grandma and her dining room are gone? 12/18/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 1:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who is in charge during a hurricane? Hillsborough County and Tampa still can't agree


    TAMPA — Who has the authority to order an evacuation during a hurricane?

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he has evacuation authority.
  2. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  3. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  4. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  5. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday


    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.