Given and Chosen: Spending the Holidays with the Families you Choose

For some folks, being with their given family can be extremely difficult during holiday celebrations. A given family can be biological but also the family that an individual grows up with. 

Many choose to be with people who they consider family through friendships, romantic relationships, and general comradery. Regardless of one’s feelings, most agree that the holidays and winter months are made merry with other people. 

On the other hand, an anonymous member of the Waterloo community provided a helpful glimpse into the nuances of the holidays spent with chosen family.

“To me, chosen family are people who go beyond the heteronormative definitions of friendship. My family is composed of some of my closest friends, but it’s also about being committed to one another in a way that is similar to what people expect from biological families,” Anonymous said. 

Leanne Mendonsa, on the other hand, enjoyed spending Christmas with her family. Most holidays had been spent with friends since the start of their university career. For Mendonsa, being enrolled in university had forced them to learn how to celebrate the holidays without their given family.

 “[Chosen family is] anyone who I love and holds a special place in my life, and that’s honestly most people I choose to be friends with. It’s people who I can be myself with, and people that I can truly see as family, in the sense of sticking things out through thick and thin, supporting, celebrating with, and living with, really,”  Mendonsa said. 

Because of the ever-changing nature of COVID-19 restrictions it can be hard for many to make holiday plans. Although Ontario regulations have changed since last year, folks are holding their breath about another wave. However, despite the looming fear of the unknown, Mendonsa still makes plans for future Christmas and holiday gatherings. 

For anonymous, however, the holiday season is not always as joyous and hopeful.

“The holiday season has very mixed meanings for me. It’s a time for celebrating the people I have in my life now, while also mourning the people that I’ve lost. Overall, it ends up being a time for reflection.” anonymous said. This reflection also brings upon a hope for better days, and healing with the people that care for them most. 

“This year, I’m hoping to spend more time around the holidays with the family members in my immediate social bubble, and then hopefully have a chance to get together with my other family over the season,” Anonymous said.

December brings the winter cold and snow as well as commercials with depictions of traditional nuclear families gathered around a table and celebrating jovially with one another. 

However, this is not everyone’s reality. Keeping in mind that not everyone’s experience is the same keeps us grounded and makes us human.