Despite all the candles, tinsel, gifts, and pie, Americans consistently rate the holidays as the most stressful time of the year. That holiday stress may be compounded by family relationships — depending on what kind of family you have. With that in mind, I’ve pulled together a list of the best and worst fictional families to spend the holidays with, so we can all have a laugh before your least-favorite uncle begins his annual political tirade.
Hate the holidays? You’re not alone. This season has a way of magnifying family dysfunctions. Everyone’s trying to make the season magical, but let’s face it: many, many things about the holidays are mundane at best.
It might be tempting to say it’s best to avoid going home for the holidays, but that comes with its own unique stressors. Dealing with the hurt feelings and unhealed trauma that arise from — or lead to — severed family connections is difficult any day. It’s even worse when you’re surrounded by cozy visions of happy parents and kids opening presents in matching PJs, however.
If you aren’t going home for the holidays this year, please remember that you’re not alone. More than 25% of American adults are estranged from at least one close family member. Your feelings are valid, no matter what your reasons were for cutting ties, and I wish you nothing but the best in making your own holiday traditions.
From classic literature to comedy manga, here are the best and worst fictional families to spend the holidays with.
5 Worst Fictional Families To Spend The Holidays With
The Sohma Family
Now, before you come after me: Yes, I’m sure spending the holidays with Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure would be absolutely lovely. But just imagine if you had to spend the holidays with the rest of the Sohma clan — namely, Akito and Ren. Intrafamily problems in Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket go far beyond ordinary dysfunction, crossing the line into pervasive and systemic abuse. When it comes to toxic relatives, it’s hard to get much worse than this secretive bunch.
The Karenins and Oblonskys
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” So begins Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. First published in 1877, this is the family drama to end all family dramas. Right in the center of the action are the Karenins and Oblonskys. Anna and her brother Stiva’s families are rife with infidelity and neglect, and all the money in the world can’t fix their problems. Trust me, you want to stay as far away as possible from this kind of high-society harping and backbiting.
Someday soon, we’re going to start hearing from the children of mommy bloggers — young adults whose whole childhoods were manufactured and distributed for internet consumption. Until then, we have The Family Fang. Caleb and Camille Fang would waste no time roping everyone into their holiday art stunt, which is doomed to go horribly wrong. Coming home to parents like these just isn’t worth the risk to your own reputation.
In Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, narrator Oly clearly harbors deeply conflicted feelings about her dysfunctional family. Her parents only wanted children whose disabilities they could market for free sideshow labor. All the good memories in the world can’t make up for that. Then there’s the matter of the cult that grew alongside the family business…
The Dollangangers are the absolute worst fictional family to spend the holidays with, bar none. Locking away young children, à la Flowers in the Attic, is hardly in the holiday spirit. And who poisons desserts, of all things? 0/10. Do not recommend.
5 Best Fictional Families To Spend The Holidays With
Mother-daughter duo Vivian and Maddie are true #FamilyGoals in Jasmine Guillory’s Royal Holiday. After finding love in The Wedding Party, Maddie still chooses to take her mom, Vivian, along for the ride when get gets the chance to spend Christmas in the UK. These two women are the kind of people you want on your side all year long.
The Koishikawa-Matsuura Family
After the two families met on vacation, Mr. and Mrs. Koishikawa divorced so they could marry Mrs. and Mr. Matsuura. Now Miki’s mom and dad are her classmate Yuu’s step-parents, and the six of them are living together as one very blended family! Sure it’s a little weird, but the parents at the heart of Wataru Yoshizumi’s Marmalade Boy more than make up for their awkwardness with the love and support they have for their children and each other.
One of the three intertwining stories in N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season centers on Syenite’s polycule, in which three adults share one big bed and help to raise their adorable young son. That portion of Syenite’s story is as idyllic as the Broken Earth trilogy gets, and it’s guaranteed to give you the warm-and-fuzzies, no matter what your family happens to look like.
The Fifth House
Gideon the Ninth is full of dysfunctional families, but there’s one house you might actually want to spend the holidays with. The Fifth House is home to the charming and intelligent Abigail Pent and Magnus Quinn. When their anniversary passes at Canaan House, they throw a dinner party for everyone — even Ninth House outcasts like Gideon and Harrowhark. You can’t come away from Gideon the Ninth without thinking that, yes, the Fifth would welcome you with open arms, without question, the moment you needed them.
When it comes to the best fictional families to spend the holidays with, you just can’t beat the Addamses. This clan of black-clad misfits first appeared in Charles Addams’s The Addams Family cartoon in a 1938 issue of The New Yorker, and they’ve been making the strange and unusual among us feel welcome ever since.