Christmas is not about peace and quiet and family values. Christmas is a trial, an ordeal, and a matter of anxiety for any family. You start preparing long in advance. You make lists so as not to forget anyone. You swear over all those relatives who have everything. You try to remember what you gave them last year not to give the same again. You try to remember what they gave you last year not to give it back. You decide not to give any presents to adults, only to children. You consult the in-laws not to give the children the same thing from the wish-list. You see some things you really want to give someone and then have to give something to everyone. You try to remember what kind of wrapping paper your in-laws use so as to not use the same. You realise that you won't have time to write all Christmas cards and decide that this year you will just send an email greeting. Then you get lots of cards and feel bad.
If you host the Christmas meal you start worrying a month in advance that your new in-laws won't like your very very special inescapable all-time family favourite salad. You realise that your new in-laws have a completely different schedule for the holidays. That they exchange their presents on Christmas Eve morning/afternoon/evening/Christmas Day morning/evening while everybody knows that it must be done on Christmas Eve morning/afternoon/evening/Christmas Day morning/evening (delete as required). That they open all presents at the same itme, when they must be opened one at a time and admired. That the label should say who the present is from – or just say Merry Christmas from Santa. That wrapping paper should be immediately disposed of in a huge black bin liner, or smoothed out and saved for undefined purpose.
You realise that they decorate the tree together on Christmas Eve morning while in your family it is always decorated on the day before – or perhaps has already been decorated for a week. That they put all their decorations even on a minimal tree and hide it completely under tinsel. That they actually have an artificial tree and believe that a real tree in unecological. They won't tell you, but there will be a tension in the air, or a young innocent child will declare it in the middle of present-sharing.
You realise that your in-laws have their meal punctually at one/two/three/four/five/six and cannot imagine anything else. That they cannot imagine a Christmas meal without homemade meatballs/jellied fish/mashed turnips, and they would have brought their own of they had only known that there won't be any.
You worry that you haven't cleaned your house well enough for their keen eyes, that you haven't got special Christmas curtains, tablecloth and napkins, that they would have brought their special Christmas plates if they have only known...
You realise that they never watch your favourite Christmas programme, but have their own that they cannot live without. That they think that mulled wine is wrong for Christmas, but how can you image Christmas without Christmas pudding? That they always go to Evensong on Christmas Eve, right when your family watches the indispensable tv-programme, which, God forbid! cannot be recorded and wacthed later. That they sing their carols rather than listening to that wonderful CD. That they go to visit great-Aunt Drusilla on Christmas Day morning. That they have their special songs they sing over their herring, and you don't know the words. That they spend all Christmas Day doing a jigsaw puzzle. That they go for a walk even when it's freezing cold. That they feel offended when Father withdraws after the meal for his traditional Christmas nap. That the youngest child, and not the oldest female lights the candles. That the father of the family, and not the youngest child dives under the tree to share out presents. That you don't count how many presents you have got and compare to your sibling. That you don't open all presents on Christmas Eve morning so that half of the family have no presents under the tree. Sorry, I seem to have gone full circle.
For many years we tried to escape the anxieties of Christmas by going away. However, before going away we still had to invite the rest of the family to exchange presents and have a meal, and the whole nightmare was just shifted a week earlier.
You are bitter, upset and disappointed. You know that the way Christmas was celebrated in your family when you were a child is the only right way. That is, if your family celebrated Christmas at all.