It’s a common, almost throwaway line: Christmas is a time for family. But for many of us, especially young people, the definition of family is beginning to change.
‘Found family’, also known as ‘chosen family’ is just what it says it is. The group of people you have found over the years and chosen to think of as family. People are often compelled to quote the full version of a famous saying: the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. However, to many people across the world, this justification isn’t required.
“Found family are the people who choose to love you. For them, loving you was a decision, not an obligation” says Dan, a bisexual man who lives in Delaware. These kinds of definitions are common, emphasising agency over duty.
It is becoming increasingly common to set healthy boundaries with people, and this includes biological family members. People, particularly LGBTQIA+ people, are resigned to the fact that maybe their parents or extended family will never accept them truly as they are, but more likely than ever to set the ultimatum: if you can’t respect me, I won’t put myself in a position to be disrespected. If you can’t use the pronouns you’re told to use then I won’t come home for Christmas.
“I spent a couple of Christmases with a best friend and a few others a few years ago”, reminisces mature student Sean Day. “We had all fallen out with our parents, big time, and we pulled together and made Christmas dinner for the five of us in a pokey flat in Partick. They were the best Christmas days I’ve had: no clashing of personalities, no historic bad blood, no feeling of having to do it. We did it to keep each other alive, out of love, not expectation if that makes sense.”
It’s also increasingly common for other things to get in the way of ‘going home for Christmas’; the increasing cost of travel is a huge factor, particularly as the cost-of-living crisis rages around us like a winter storm. “It would cost me just over £200 to get home by train,” said a second-year student in Stirling whose family lives in Wales, “plus two days of six hour journeys.” Many people have simply been priced out of travelling.
Some people may not have a deep and meaningful reason for spending Christmas with their found family. Their relationship with their biological family might be just fine.
Serenity, a single mum, said that she spends alternate Christmases, ones where she didn’t have her son, with friends. “I spent Christmas with my bio family every year when I was a child and do so every other year as a parent. I’m a firm believer that friends are the family you choose, and they are just as valid a choice for holiday celebrations.”
Spending Christmas with your chosen family, for whatever reason, is a wonderful way to establish new traditions, or even eschew traditions altogether. “We did homemade pizzas together during lockdown Christmas”, says Masters student Liz. “It took away all the stress and expectation of making a massive Christmas dinner that nobody was really that bothered about.”
So dig out your cosiest blankets, put whatever you want on the TV (no acquiescing to your belligerent grandad that the King’s speech will be a historic occasion), and spend Christmas with whoever makes you feel the most at peace – it comes highly recommended.
Featured Image Credit: Daniel Frese / Pexels