This is the first Christmas I am spending with my boyfriend’s parents. Last year I decided to skip it because I thought it was too soon into us dating, however this year I’ve decided to join them for our first major holiday together. Thankfully, me and his parents already have a good rapport so I’m not nervous about being there. Your first Christmas invite is potentially your induction into the family, it’s paramount that you make a good impression, regardless of whether you’ve already met them before. Here are my top 5 rules to follow, to make sure you’re first Christmas doesn’t become your last Christmas (RIP George Michael).
1. Tis the season of giving – Regardless of the race or culture, it’s impolite to turn up to someone’s house on a major holiday without a present. They’re about to feed you several courses and have you in their home for the most important family holiday For each parent I’d suggest either a budget of £10-£20 or if you’re doing a joint present, then an item worth £30 is sufficient. If you know enough information about your partner’s parents, I would tailor their present based on their personalities/ interest, to make them more meaningful. If you are completely stuck with what to get them, I’d suggest either a gift set or alcohol. I’d relegate gift cards unless to your last resort as it may come across as cold.
2. Don’t get too competitive on Christmas – Many families have family games as a Christmas tradition. I don’t care how many pick up 2s, pick up 4s and pick up 7s you have in your deck, be merciful with the cards. Monopoly and Uno has been known to break bonds between blood relatives, don’t play as callous as you would with your own family.
If you can avoid sending one of your partner’s parents to jail or jumping over them in Ludo, I’d suggest so. I’m not saying forfeit the game, just don’t go Super Saiyan and be ruthless – there’s no need to damage egos. Resentment may set in and retribution may occur in the form of small portion sizes, burnt pieces and accidentally flushing the toilet when you’re in the shower. Inflict the majority of the damage onto your partner.They’re more likely able to withstand the embarrassment and if not, post WAP, they’re too tired to hold a grudge or complain.
3. Tis the season to help the needy – Volunteer to help your partner’s parents in the kitchen or setting the table. Christmas in a black household is a major family event – it requires planning, pre-seasonings and the completions of countless to-do lists. Offer to help even if you think that you’re not needed, and his parents have the situation handled. Some people may perceive this as outdated, but I like the thought of embedding myself into family traditions – I feel like it facilitates familial bonding. This rule is especially important, if your partner is West African. If you’re at an African household, you offer to help, and they reply no – ignore them and just help. I promise you it’s a trap, your name will end up in group chats next to poetic insults and relatives you’ve never met before will shade you at your wedding.
*TIP* If you can’t cook, stay out the kitchen, no one want’s to be “that” person who gives everyone food poisoning. In this situation its the thought that counts so even if the only thing you do is wash the plates or load the dishwasher, do something.
4. Read the room and dress appropriately – I’d first start off with consulting with your partner regarding the etiquette/ dress code for Christmas. Some families prefer to dress more formally in the “Sunday best”, however some families prefer to dress comfortably in attire that enables them to consumer copious amounts of food. No one wants to be overdressed and uncomfortable, however being underdressed and looking like the odd one out in the family photos is “amabarassing”. If in doubt dress smart casual or in a cute Christmas jumper.
5. Tis the season to get merry, not to get lit – The phrase is mistletoe and wine, not mistletoe and Wrays. Libations tend to flow a little more during the festive seasons, don’t forget to be mindful of your environment, behaviour and language. When we get a little tipsy, we start to make mistakes we wouldn’t make sober, so although you’re allowed to indulge in Christmas beverages like eggnog, Baileys and Guinness punch, re-evaluate after every 45 minutes. The only thing worse than getting too drunk at the Christmas office party, is getting too drunk at Christmas dinner with your potential in-laws. Overindulgence in alcohol may leave you stumbling and slurring your words, potentially even uttering profanity, that again may have you end up in the external family group chat. Don’t wake up on Boxing Day feeling embarrassed, dodging your partner’s parents and eating yesterday’s leftovers alone in your partner’s room. New Year’s Eve is less than a week, that’s the optimum rum no chaser holiday.
If you were feeling nervous about the protocol for your first Christmas with your partners’ family, I hope this has helped. From the bottom of my heart, I hope you have a happy Christmas whether you’re single, taken in a relationship or one of the many complex types of situationships, arrangements and entanglements.