For me, the holidays are bittersweet. Bitter in that my family is dysfunctional...I mean really dysfunctional...dysfunctional to the point that we have an overwhelming number of stories that end in "and that was the first time that such and such went to jail" or "and that's why your father no longer drinks tequila." My family's often self-induced problems run the gamut from your textbook anger/depression/marital issues to bizarre, wtf? problems like we can't all have Christmas together because three years ago grown-up X threw a coat on grown-up Y's dog and now they're not speaking. Factor in a couple of divorces, some step and half siblings, and the other sides of their respective families and you've got a holiday season that will either warm you to the core or "burn your ass up" as my grandmother once said. One or the other, there's nothing in between.
The sweet part of my family is that for all the awkwardness we create, we find an equal amount of humor lying just underneath. For one day, my family makes an effort to sit around together and tell stories about all of the fucked up things we've seen and done and from the bottom of us, we laugh at how years ago I got so angry that I actually rammed my car into my step father's car (on purpose) and how this year, my sister's redneck brother-in-law shot a deer and brought a giant marinaded plastic bag of its remains to show off at the Christmas dinner table.
The best part for me is the gift giving. At a normal Couch family Christmas, your gifts may be "from" ex lovers, ex husbands, disgruntled elementary school teachers, deceased pets, people your ex spouse later went on to marry, any of their children, convicted felons, kids who beat you up years ago, or relatives the gift-giver made up entirely. You won't actually know who the gift is truly from until you open it and listen to whoever laughs out loud at their own clever pseudonym. Among other things, my mother received a day planner from two pretentious neighbors she refers to as "the Bloodsuckers," a coffee maker from the guy she married two husbands ago, and I received a book of skulls-on-fire themed temporary tattoos from a boy who dumped me in the 12th grade for being "too fat to go out with."
This is my favorite part of Christmas specifically because it's a time, perhaps the only time, of year when my family openly laughs at things and situations that used to cause us stress. It feels cathartic to sit with a glass of wine and hash out all of the amazingly awkward experiences you've had over the past year or to open a gift "from" someone you used to despise and feel nothing but gratitude and joy for being beyond the situation enough that looking back makes you simultaneously smile and roll your eyes. For us, Christmas is an acknoweldgement that even if things aren't ok now, not to worry. There were much worse times in the past and somehow, we all made it through the complications enough to endure one more year together...as one big angry, depressed, medication-dependent, anxiety-riddled, shit-slinging, therapy-seeking, delightfully dysfunctional family.