Column: Is it better to visit or host for the holidays?


It’s an age-old question, one I’m sure great philosophers such as Socrates, Nietzsche and St. Thomas Aquinas pored over. I think their work on this topic has yet to be uncovered.

Is it better to travel or host during the holidays?

Each has its up- and downsides — and many variables must be taken into account during the debate.

How far is one traveling? With whom? What will be the mode(s) of transportation? Have there been any recent arguments that could come to a head during the commute? Do you have enough arms to schlep your things from Point A to Point B? How many people will you be hosting? How many trips to the beverage store will be required to accommodate them? Should you invite Uncle Ted or just pretend you lost his number?

This year is the first my wife and I — who hail from opposite ends of the country, Massachusetts and Mississippi — have had to ponder such deep questions. With a nine-month-old, we now have leverage over family that we lacked in previous years. A new question has arisen for us to ask family members: Want to see the kid? Well, looks like it’s your turn to travel this year.

Growing up in a pretty big, close-knit family myself, the yearly questions seemed to be simpler — at least for someone who had no holiday hosting responsibilities at all. The only question I had to ask was, “Who’s hosting?” We’d travel 20 minutes at the most, eat a lot of food, poke a little fun at each other, then see everyone again in the next week or two.

Now things are a little more complex, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing by any means. Usually, it just means more planning, which … well, let’s just say that’s something I’m working on.

So this year, Christmas is on us. My wife’s parents are coming up to enjoy what certainly won’t be a white Christmas and my folks are making the trip down on the 26th. And we knew this a couple of months ago — before I really had a chance to even question whether hosting would be the better choice.

“No packing,” I figured. “No finding somewhere to change a diaper in the airport. No dog sitter. No mailing presents in advance. The list goes on. Hosting is gonna be awesome!”

I guess I never really appreciated all the work that goes into having family over for the holidays. Did you know a frozen turkey has to thaw for five days before you cook it? I just found that out over Thanksgiving weekend. Good thing!

I think the biggest thing I’m realizing is that all the normal things we do around the house during a typical Christmas year have to be done right when we’re hosting.

The stockings really must be hung by the chimney with care — not nailed to a nearby bookshelf. And we’re not winning any Times Review Media Group holiday decorating contest (not that we’d even be eligible). This year, I’m realizing that throwing some garland and a string of lights on the light pole is almost more sad than it is festive. So that display was probably due for an upgrade anyway.

And those leaves that I started to clean up in early November — before I got sidetracked with framing a door? I should probably rake up the rest of those. And get the paint to finish that new door frame. Our bathroom, which has been a “work in progress” for the past month or so, really needs to progress too at this point.

Instead of packing up our daughter for a trip elsewhere, those toys on the floor now have to go back in her toy box. And I wish winter would really come so my black Lab would stop shedding and we didn’t have to vacuum as much!

But I suppose most of these are things I should be doing regularly anyway.

Not that our families really care about the leaves or the stockings or the dog hair —  but who wouldn’t want everything to be just right when we get together? Especially since this will literally be the second time we’ve used our fine china since getting married. And it’s not often both sides of the family see each other.

But to answer the original question, I suppose we’ll actually have to make it through the holiday — and maybe even one or two more so I have a decent sample size — before deciding whether hosting or traveling is the better option.

In the meantime, I need to find myself some sandpaper and make another trip to the beverage store.

Joseph Pinciaro is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. You can reach him at 631-298-3200, ext. 238. Follow him on Twitter @cjpinch.

Photo credit: Lee Bennett via Visual hunt