How do you navigate family holidays as a polyamorous person?

This is a more technical question, but are there any good ways to make 'family holidays' work with poly? Thanksgiving is coming up and 1 turkey dinner is daunting enough, I don't know if I can manage 3. I don't really know how to coordinate who goes where on what day to maximize the number of people made happy (and having everyone over at my place is not an option). Plus there's non-understanding parents to consider.... help?

Ah, the eternal awkwardness of navigating the holiday season as a polyamorous person. Part of the trick is just being willing to let someone down; being a bit of a sponge willing to soak up some negativity and some conflict. You can't make everyone happy, so let go of trying. It's fair to want to "maximize" the number of people made happy, but really, your main job is to make sure your own needs get met, and to have the backs of the people you're in relationships with. Seven annoyed or offended aunts and grandmas isn't really "equal" to one burnt-out or insulted partner. 

Some families find that trade-offs work - "Jorston and I are going to Glavel's family Thanksgiving, but we'll be with you all for Christmas." Or, "I'll be doing Thanksgiving with Jorston's family this year, and will plan to visit you for Thanksgiving next year." Some people may pitch a bit of a fit about you skipping Thanksgiving, but that's their problem. If you're not up to 3 Thanksgivings, don't go to 3 Thanksgivings.

Figure out what's going to work for you, and then make that work. Don't get caught up in making everything work for everyone. That might mean telling your partners "I'm sorry, but I'm just not up to going with you to your family's Thanksgiving this year. I'll be with my family for Thanksgiving all day. Of course you're invited, but I totally understand if you want to spend it with your family." There is no Relationship Law that you have to be together on Thanksgiving. Their family might whine about it and pester them about "where's Blatilda? Why isn't Blatilda here this year?" - but that's, again, a mild unpleasantness that can't be avoided.

Some polyamorous networks find that it's easier to shake out into smaller, often more mono-passing, arrangements for the sake of the holidays. In my situation, for instance, even though I don't practice hierarchical polyamory and none of my partners are my "primaries," my partner "Casper" has a family that lives in the same city as my family, and I'm pretty close to his family. So I travel to my home state and do part of Thanksgiving with the Caspers, and part of Thanksgiving with my family. I can't go to the house of my other long-term partner, "David S. Pumpkins," for Thanksgiving because the Pumpkins family lives in a different state. Even splitting the day between my family and the Caspers causes some friction. But that's what I want to do, so I do it.

It may be that one year David S. Pumpkins lets me know that it would be really important to him that I join him for the Pumpkins Thanksgiving. In that case, maybe I'd choose not to go to my home state one year, and stay and do Thanksgiving with his family. That would mean some disappointed people in my family and Casper's family. But sometimes we disappoint people! Or, I could tell David S. Pumpkins "I'm sorry, but going home for Thanksgiving is a tradition that is really important to me, and I just can't do what you're asking. Let's figure out some alternatives."

Either way, someone has a Thanksgiving without me, and the world goes on despite the fact that I had to tell someone "no" in a bummer of a conversation. Anyone - family member or partner - who chooses to try guilt-tripping, tantrum-throwing, or other tactics to get me to spend a holiday with them immediately drops off my list, rather than making me more likely to find time for them. It can be tempting to think that you really ought to go to someone's house because they're the "most hurt" about it, but don't reward that kind of behavior. Decide where you want to go and then let people know what your plans are. It's not a negotiation. 

When it comes to non-understanding family members, there are two possible problems. One is that you tell your mother that you'll be with Glavel's family for Thanksgiving, and she gets deeply wounded because !he's not even your real boyfriend" or somesuch nonsense. All she's done is make it easier on you to choose to spend a day in someone else's company. You have my permission to flounce off elsewhere without any more fuss. You don't need anyone's permission or understanding to do what you want for a holiday.

But if you want to bring multiple partners to a family gathering and worry that your family members will be bigoted or rude, that's something to take a bit more seriously. Talk with your partners beforehand about their concerns, how you'll present a united front, which family members are more likely to be nasty, who you have in your corner, and what the plan is for responding to inappropriate comments. If you feel like a certain family gathering just won't be emotionally safe for someone, don't go, or at the very least don't make that person go. 

So maybe it works out for you and Jorston to go to your family's place for Thanksgiving and Glavel goes to his family's place. His family might be like "why didn't you bring your partner?" and Jorston's family might be like "but why can't you join us?" - but they will survive. They might sulk a bit, but they are adults and they will survive the crushing disappointment of an adult having other life obligations on Thanksgiving. Or, maybe all three of you go to your house for the dinner, and then all three of you pop over to Glavel's for some wine in the evening, and then go home. Or maybe you and Glavel will go to Glavel's house, then you'll leave early and swing by to say hi to Jorston's family.

There are infinite possibilities. All of them will make someone unhappy. But you do what you need to keep yourself happy. Make sure you see the family members who are important for you to see (both your own and your partners', if you are close to their families) and make sure you and your partners find some time without pestering aunts and insensitive grandmas to enjoy each other during the holiday season.