Amidst all of the questions and hope for salacious details about our sex lives and sleeping arrangements, poly folks often also get questions about more mundane issues that can come up in non-monogamous relationships. A big one at this time of year is always how poly folks handle the holidays. Who goes where? How do we decide? Is it even possible for us to have annual traditions?
Decisions around holidays can be quite loaded, as it can indicate couple's privilege or hierarchy. It can also be a fraught conversation for people who aren't welcome home for the holidays because of their relationship status or family structure.
Personally, it's varied over the years. Now that I live back in Vermont and am solo poly, I tend to go to either my mom's or my dad's — or both, if possible — and then in the evening, to my "adoptive" family's large gathering for champagne and catching up with those of us who come home for it. I always hope to make it to my fiancee's family dinner, but it often clashes schedule-wise. Regardless of where I end up, I tend to bring with me a small hoard of friends, loves, and chosen family, almost always including my "brother" and best friend (though this year, he's headed to my fiancee's house).
Here's how some other ethically non-monogamous folk celebrate Thanksgiving.
1. S, 24.
Polyamorous & ethically non-monogamous; no kids; one nesting partner (live-in partner); one other partner.
"I don’t really care about Thanksgiving as a holiday, so [I spend the day with] who ever claims me, whether friends or partners. It happens that my one partner’s family now expects to see me, which is fine."
2. VSL, 32
Polyamorous; no kids; one nesting partner; one other partner.
"[How I spend Thanksgiving] has always varied based on my partners and their wants. If left to my own devices I hang out at home playing video games and drink."
3. Gerald, 38
Polyamorous; two biological children; one nesting/primary partner.
"Usually we go to my Mom's house on Thursday, then we have the big Friendsgiving meal/party that next Saturday where we invite all of our favorite people."
4. Liz, 31
Polyamorous; no children; one nesting partner; no primary partner.
"I spend Thanksgiving with my chosen family! It changes every year. In 2014, I went home on my own. In 2015, I did a small thing with one partner. In 2016, I went to a new partner’s friend’s dinner along with my metamour (who was the host’s ex - lol polyamory). This year, one of my partners is hosting a small dinner at their house and I’ll be co-hosting. We’ll be spending the day with some close friends.
Living abroad really takes the pressure out of family holidays for me. I’m really glad that I’ve found a chosen family here, one that wouldn’t blink at my bringing multiple partners to dinner."
5. Alaura Mae, 27
Polyamorous & ethically/consensually non-monogamous; both biological and non-biological children; one primary partner; more than one nesting partner.
"In addition to our normal Thanksgiving stress, we are also a divorced family, with the child's birthday falling on or around Thanksgiving every year. Every year, our polycule decides on 'what to do' by throwing out ideas and seeing what we all like. Sometimes the fall and winter have already been so stressful that the idea of hosting ourselves is daunting. When we do host, we give priority to guests who have no other place to go, and extra priority to Trans/NB, to POC and to the city's youth.
Creating an environment of warmth and support for our partners and the folks they know is important. It's equally as important to create an environment where people feel safe to speak on any topic, and in giving priority as we have, we have avoided a lot of drama. We find this collaborative process to be gentle and soothing. We can't control much of the holidays, but how we communicate and flow together is the gift we give each other.
When we have the joy of having children with us as opposed to their other homes, not much else changes except whom the children want to invite. Children are considered respected and trusted individuals, and so we take their thoughts into account as we invite and plan. In elevating children to have the same consideration over the holiday as we do the adult partners, we build lifelong partners in our children.
Our holidays always aim for being the opposite of the stereotypical stress. We all know what Thanksgiving really means, historically, so our day of celebration isn't about genocide. It's about communication, respect, chosen family and most importantly, food."
6. Kelli R, 33
Ethically/consensually non-monogamous; non-biological children; one primary partner; more than one nesting partner.
"I love to cook so I usually plan a 4/5 course meal for up to 15 people at our place. We just moved to 5.5 acres so we now have the room for it!! This year we will have my partner, our three kids, my partner's mum, our partner, our roommate and his partner, my boyfriend and his mum and sister. I'm so excited for it all!"
7. Brad, 29
Ethically/consensually non-monogamous; no children; no nesting partners; more than one primary partner.
"Since moving away after college I've always done Friendsgiving (aside from the first year when I was still in a monogamous relationship). A few years it was in Madison, WI (where I lived at the time), but recently I've been taking a trip to SF to do so with friends there. That started off as just me visiting people in SF and doing what they do, but every year it seems to turn into a bigger event where more people are coming into town for it, so the tradition seems to be still evolving. There's virtually no consideration for what my partners are doing for Thanksgiving, as I generally assume they have their own plans."
8. Robb, 37
Ethically/consensually non-monogamous; biological and non-biological children; one nesting partner; one primary partner.
"For now, I've alternated between my daughter and my NYC family. Once I move, it'll be all of us alternating years — my daughter will spend one year with us, the next year with her mom, and so on. As for traditions, joint traditions are to be determined, but in the past I have made huge feasts for my daughter and myself."
9. Carly, 33
Polyamorous; no kids; no nesting or primary partner.
"My family has a long tradition of dodging Big Family Thanksgivings, so I just go to mom and dad's. Sometimes my brother shows up. Sometimes the neighbors show up. My partners are always all invited, but mostly have holiday avoidance issues of their own or other family obligations of their own. It works for me because it's always small, always chill, and there's always more than enough pie.
10. Crista, 35
Polyamorous & ethically non-monogamous; biological and non-biological children; one nesting/primary partner.
"We're just starting to build our own traditions after moving away from spending time with family and want to spend holidays with chosen family."
11. Leander, 32
Ethically/consensually non-monogamous; no kids; more than one nesting partner; no primary partner.
"We don't [celebrate Thanksgiving]. It's right around my wife's b-day and she grew up hating it. So I don't like to put her through it. Plus, well, my family is awful. Also, my other partner works a lot, so there's no point in going through that when they could be sleeping or hanging out [instead]. If, on the off-chance, we did celebrate it... I'd cook vegetarian foods, and bake a pie (specifically for my other partner) and I'd have my wife check into a hotel or Airbnb for a couple of days. Because there's no point in making her have to witness something she hates and something that makes her sad.
Thanksgiving bugs me anyway. We slaughtered the indigenous people, why the f*ck do we wanna celebrate that?"
12. Enter, 36
Polyamorous, biological children; two husbands/nesting partners
"Our family is no longer welcome at my extended family holiday gatherings (because of our family configuration) so we do a big dinner at home with just the three of us adults and our two kids, and any friends who might not have a place to go that day are always welcome."
13. Chrissy Holman, 35
Ethically/consensually non-monogamous & polyamorous; biological and non-biological children; more than one nesting partner.
"When I was little, Thanksgiving was a bizarre obligation wrought with yummy food and terrible lies. Now I spend it with intentional family, and the food is still yummy, but it's no longer an obligation. Some years we celebrate and some we don't, but when we do, I cook an enormous amount of food and we entice people with lasagna and pie. We celebrate love and give thanks for friendship."