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Tuesday, 28 December, 1999, 13:00 GMT
Christmas: Your worst family memories




Christmas is traditionally the time of year when families get together to eat, drink and be merry.

But for some, it is a highly stressful period when relationships are stretched to their limits.

The British Psychological Society has released a report proving that comedians were right all along; it's daughter-in-laws that come off worse. This is due to unrealistic expectations put on her by her husband's mother.

How are things in your family over Christmas? Have you got any bad memories of Christmas past? Are you dreading the influx of aunts, grandads and screeching young cousins this year?

Maybe not the right place but having lost four members of my family recently, I would like to send Steve Morton very heartfelt sorrow and wishes for a comforting Christmas and warm and peaceful New Year.
Paul, UK

Eight years ago I spent my first Christmas away from home, working in Japan, teaching English. Even though there is the usual Christmas hype in the stores, Christmas is not a holiday, so it was work as usual. I remember walking into a business English class, wishing them a Merry Christmas and being stonewalled with a room full of blank stares. Christmas Dinner was a chicken sandwich at Mos Burger (Japan's equivalent of McDonalds) and a side of fries. I really missed home that year.
Kat Naidu, USA

Possibly apocryphal, but I recall a friend telling me about a Christmas with his paternal grandparents. His mother and her mother in law did not get on. Mother in law was somewhat precious about the Christmas dinner arrangements (and much else) and everything was set up for the Christmas meal to begin. His mum had the honour of opening the champagne, popped the cork which hit the chandelier directly above the table, sending a shower of minute shards over the entire spread.
H Thompson, UK

Last Christmas my then 17 year old brother spent Christmas Eve in the pub from about 2pm. I arrived at my parents home at about 9pm having come from my own flat to be greeted by my father, on his hands and knees, sweeping up the etched glass (very newly etched I might add!) which had previously adorned the front door. Seemingly, my amazingly drunken little brother had come in, shut the door too hard, got upset and run off to try to sleep it off in a gutter! Of course, it was raining so I was detailed with the task of bringing him home. Not an easy job when you realise that he's 6ft 4in and weighs in at 18 and a half stone! When he can't walk you know you're in trouble!
Sam O'Regan, Scotland

I am reminded about my elderly aunt's story about a bad Christmas when she was a small girl. Her father had lost his job and was unable to afford Christmas presents. When she went into the living room on Christmas morning not only did she find no presents but also the family dog had died in front of the fire place. Her father told her that Father Christmas had done it!
Rod Maxwell, Scotland

Hard to remember a Christmas or holiday when my parents didn't argue. There were good times, as well but the arguments were always timely. My brother and sister and I would bet which remark, overlooked errand, or expensive gift would cause a rift. One Christmas, the usual occurred and mother went home to grandmother's house, so we all went skiing. In the packing Christmas dinner was forgotten. We dined on crackers and cheese and sardines. A storm blew in and we were stranded for the duration. All is well that ends well,...mom and dad made up but eventually divorced. We kids managed to move on and have wonderful families and holidays. Family is what Christmas is all about.
Lexi, USA

As an airman stationed at 16MU at Stafford Christmas 1948 I had to work in the office on camp. My assistant got roaring drunk on Christmas Day and attempted to "be friendly" with a WAAC on my nearby bed. She was waving her legs in the air and he was waving a big knife and yelling that he was going to cut off her garters. When I finally decided this really wasn't in keeping with the spirit of the season and had them both arrested by the station police. My peers considered my behaviour un-Christmas-like and I was ostracised until the New Year. A Merry Christmas indeed!
Gerald W. Marsh, USA

I usually enjoy spending the Holidays ALONE, simply because for nearly half of my life (in my growing up years) my Mother's second husband would get very drunk and on three different Christmases he knocked over the tree!! I usually enjoy the holiday tunes and a dinner with friends and QUIET! A Peaceful Noel to all
Kate, USA

When one of my best pals was going through a sticky divorce, he asked me to go with him to his parents for Christmas. He was very down, and got titanically drunk sitting in the living room with a rich assortment of relatives. He eventually staggered off, and walked back in five minutes later stark naked - thinking he was going into the bathroom for a shower. Granny nearly dropped her sherry.
Jimmy Harris, England

The worst ones were the first following the death of a family member during the previous year, e.g. grandparents and then my dad. Their absence at the family gatherings were poignant.
Lesley, UK

Christmas is especially difficult for those in divorced families. The children hate to be with one parent and not the other, and the parents find it difficult to let their children spend Christmas with the other parent; which leaves them alone at Christmas. This time of year brings a lot of heartache and complications for many families all over the world!
Elizabeth, London., UK

Having had 3 relatives die in the last 10 weeks, one in October, one in November and one this morning, I'd ask everyone to celebrate the lives of all their families ...while they can. None of the past arguments, family disputes etc really matter when compared to the loss of loved ones, so my message is "celebrate them for all their lives".
Steve Morton, UK

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  UK
The real trouble with in-laws

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