If this year feels like the worst time to be writing about this, well, it kind of is, but I’d like to give the ‘timeless’ or regular, non-pandemic world advice instead of a single paragraph on how with COVID-19’s existence we all need to buckle in, stay in our pods and households and celebrate our winter holidays, past and upcoming, as quietly as possible to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. (That said, we all should do that this year. Stay home. Wear masks when you have to go out and don’t go places that aren’t necessary.)
In a regular year, the holidays are a beautiful and complicated part of being polyamorous. If your entire polycule is lucky enough to be friendly enough to come together for major holidays, AND be in the same geographic area AND not have enough separate biological family obligations that aren’t inclusive, then maybe you get to have one single get together on the actual holiday. It’s rare and beautiful. I think I’ve managed it all of once, with a relatively small polycule.
Then you start to have to get creative. You figure out who is free on what days and who has what needs for holiday time and events - whose traditions are time based or event based and how those intersect. You do the math on whose families are accepting and what they do on what days and who that leaves when. If you need to, you throw a right before or right after the holiday event for everyone to compensate for not seeing all your loves on the actual day(s), or do some rapidfire driving around to see everyone around their other events.
I’m usually a pretty easygoing person - I am a need-to-see-people-within-a-couple-days-of-important-dates person. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries - unless they belong to my kids I don’t need to do them the actual day of. That said, equally easygoing people can have specific traditions or needs that make a specific holiday, anniversary, or other day important to celebrate on an exact date, or in a precise way, even if that seems rather out of character for them. Being patient with your partners, metamours, and telemours as you sort this out, ideally well ahead of the holiday in question, is imperative if you don’t want to have a bad time.
If you don’t want to spend time with all your partners at once, or with any of them - or if you aren’t out, if you can only spend it with the “public” partner - that’s honestly as complicated a negotiation, because there are expectations cooked into the way the United States generally does holidays that play into it. It can complicate non-nesting relationships and make people feel less-than when that isn’t the intended message; the politics of who gets “actual days” or times on a specific day that suit their favored traditions best and how that’s organized can be as complicated as actual politics.
I guess… the actual message is to do what works for you and yours and don’t think there’s a “should,” so much as a “remember to talk before you decide what you will do” and “please be courteous to everyone in the polycule” as a rule of thumb. I hope this helps for next year’s holiday planning, and that everyone stays safely tucked up at home and gets to speak to loved ones over Christmas and New Years to come now.