Jenna Martin

Home for the holidays: …And cross-examinations for all

Approx Reading Time-11Keen to spend the Christmas holidays back home with the fam? Yeah, neither. To those seeking ways to dodge the Spanish Inquisition from relos you forgot about, here’s some sage advice: lie.


Ahh, there’s no place like “home” for the Holidays, amirite? Mum, Dad, the relo’s, one or two surviving grandparents and the odd small person all huddled under the Christmas tree waiting to see what Santa bought them in a mad panic before DJ’s shut at 6pm on Christmas Eve.

Everyone has different Christmas traditions. In my childhood, the big day was always spent at my auntie’s in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. The whole cul-de-sac would light up like Clark Griswold himself had decked out each and every hall, so for a kid whose mother was decidedly un-Christmassy (“It just looks tacky, Jenna”) going to Uncle Brian and Aunty Sue’s on the big day was always a treat. There’d be a million kids, a bunch of drunken uncles, way too much food, some sort of backyard cricket game I’d fail miserably at and at some point after the gift-giving someone would start a wrapping paper fight across the living room and  “accidentally” hit Great Aunt Lil in the head. We’d then pretend to enjoy Nanna’s Xmas pudding while hoeing into the pav instead before bundling into the car and heading home.

Rinse and repeat, every single year.

As we’ve all gotten older, things have changed. Grandparents have died, babies have been born and new traditions have begun with new families. There’s one other crucial thing that has changed: we’ve all moved out of home which means when Christmas rolls around, we all have to come back and attempt to reside under one roof again, sometimes for days at a time. My brother, his girlfriend, myself and my poor, long-suffering hound (the surrogate grandchild) will shortly all arrive en masse at the family holiday home for our annual Christmas cross-examination. Something about the end of the year, free-flowing booze and the knowledge they’ve got you trapped for a few days makes relatives decide that Christmas is the perfect time to ask all the important questions: how are you for money? Has your friend *insert name here* had her baby yet? When is whatsername and whatshisname’s wedding? All of which are code for “what are you really doing with your life and when can we stop paying for it?”

My advice: lie. When your uncle asks you why you haven’t got a boyfriend, tell him you recently joined a sex cult. Don’t skimp on the details: overshare once and you’ll never have to again. From your weight gain to your crippling lack of direction, just lie: the more elaborate the better.

After several of these Christmases, a few family vacations and the odd impromptu week stuck together in a country motel for Old Aunty Annie’s funeral, I am an expert at surviving the holiday with the relos…I’ve learnt to tolerate not only the questioning but the irritating intricacies of life in the family home. And the key, I’ve learnt is: suck it up.

Let your mum turn Sunrise up to full volume at 7.30am so she can get her morning news instead of scrolling through her Guardian Australia app in bed like normal people do. Ignore the grating timbre of Kochie’s voice and the obnoxious graphics and accompanying scrawl that is so busy it literally makes your brain ache. Doesn’t she know it’s too early for this shit? Doesn’t she know you aren’t yet sufficiently amped up on smashed avo and sourdough to fully comprehend the idiocy of the cash cow? Here’s my advice: don’t fight it. Smile. Nod. Let her add your phone number to the daily competition even though you know you’ll never answer the phone that early in order to actually win.

And when it comes to your father? Smile appreciatively then roll over and just go back to sleep when he bursts through your bedroom door unannounced at 5.57am because “the dog needs a walk”. (The dog, is, of course, flat on his back with his legs in the air because the dog is sensible and understands that holidays are for sleeping in.)

And as for the endless questions, the interrogations? Here’s my advice: lie.

When your uncle asks you why you haven’t got a boyfriend, tell him you actually have several because you’ve recently joined a sex cult. Don’t skimp on the details: overshare once and you’ll never have to again. When your racist grandma asks you about your roommate, tell her that nice white primary school teacher you lived with has moved out and in her place there’s a family of recently arrived Syrian refugees. Tell Nan they don’t celebrate Christmas because, well, terrorism. No matter what it is, from the real reason for your weight gain to your crippling lack of direction, just lie: the more elaborate the better.

The only thing you don’t want to lie about? Your finances. Tell your folks the truth when you’re broke as shit: if you’re going to put up with all the other family holiday related nonsense you might as well have it paid for.

At the end of the day, remember it’s only a few days, not a lifetime. Unless of course your year was truly abysmal and you’ve been forced back under your childhood roof indefinitely. In that case, drink up, my friend. Alcohol is literally your only option.




Jewish House Crisis Centre and The Big Smoke are asking the community in Sydney’s CBD to let us know when you see anyone who may appear to be homeless or in need of assistance.

We will also be providing packs this Christmas Eve to Sydney’s homeless which will include an inflatable bed.

By helping us know this information, you are making a gesture to Sydney’s homeless that you see them and you care about them.


Jenna Martin

Jenna Martin is a writer, producer, dog lover, red wine enthusiast and author of Driving Under The Influence. (Which may or may not be based on her own life and her enthusiasm for red wine)

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