Up until my life didn’t allow for it, I was a Holiday snob who was adamant about keeping traditions alive. I grew up going to the same tree farm every year, hanging the same eclectic ornaments, setting out the same sentimental trinkets, decorating the same mint-frosted gingerbread men, using the same singing-snowman cookie jar… and heaven forbid anything ever be different! However these past few Christmases have been anything but traditional. We bought our house in 2012, yet (if all goes well) this will be our very FIRST year to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas at the colonial! Can you believe it!? I can’t tell you how fun it was to go back to Hagg’s tree farm this year with a baby!
Although it was sad to take this extended-holiday hiatus, it was also quite refreshing. I was obviously frustrated that last year’s #plumbingproject hijacked yet another year of home-for-the-holidays, but I fully enjoyed the once-in-a-life-time situation of living with my parents as a married woman. I mean, who doesn’t want 3 months of Mom making dinner most nights and offering to help you with the laundry??? I’d rather have those unordinary occasions logged away in my memory-library than have e v e r y t h i n g go according to plan just for the sake of ritual. I’m not saying my sentimentality or desire for normality has evanesced, but often the things that (we think) mean a lot to us are not important at all. (We might place meaning on something, but that doesn’t make it meaningful.) My BEST Thanksgiving to-date was Thanksgiving 2013, spent in a hospital bed with Cruz. While most of the country was gathered ’round tables garnished with turkey and stuffing, my little babe lay starving… so I chose to fast instead of feast. Now, how’s that for untraditional?!
But although I may not seek or rely on consistency in my own life as much as I used to, it’s still important to me that I provide a more “reliable” environment for my kids while they grow up. In an ever-changing/unpredictable world, traditions are a great way of creating the feeling of stability. I’d like my boys to look back on their childhood someday and have anchoring memories that will hopefully draw them home for Christmas, no matter how far away they may be. ❤
If you’re anything like me, I had a hard time figuring out which traditions I should and shouldn’t carry into adulthood. When you get married, suddenly you’ve got twice the amount of parties, twice the gift-exchanges, twice the dinners…… which equals twice the time, money, AND extra pounds! I found myself feeling anxiety instead of relaxation, and suddenly the hilarious Vince Vaughn movie Four Christmases became all-too-real!
So… this predicament many of us find ourselves in just begs the question: HOW DOES ONE ESTABLISH THEIR OWN FAMILY TRADITIONS???
Extended family get-togethers grow so large after you + all your siblings/cousins start having kids, and eventually some of us have to go our separate ways to start something new. I think the temptation with traditions is to try continuing allllll the silly little things – the food, the activities, the gatherings – but just because you’ve always done something doesn’t mean you still have to! The pressure to live up to “the good ol’ days” can almost squelch one’s ability to enjoy the NOW-moments taking place; while you’re busy stressing over an under-appreciated 12-course meal, you could be sitting with the kids sipping the homemade hot-cider you made for the first time. The gift budget may have fallen short of your unrealistic expectations, and the peaceful-present-opening might seem a bit more chaotic than you remember it to be, but these odd and unfamiliar happenings are not bad, and they might even be the NEW traditions starting to unfold for your little family. So revel the perfect imperfections, and stop trying to recreate the past!
Your Holiday Tradition Guide
When picking/choosing your family’s traditions, it’s best to keep it real simple. I used the old English rhyme for brides (minus the something blue)……
This one is sentimental. What are the things you and your spouse did as children that meant the absolute most to you? You may or may not have grown up with similar traditions, and some of you may have come from different beliefs or religious backgrounds, so pick 1 – 2 things each of you did, and be willing to compromise with conflicting traditions (i.e. You always opened presents Christmas morning, but he opened at midnight on Christmas Eve, etc). When the two of you cannot agree, maybe it’s time to consult the kids!
This one is personal. What is something unique/special to your family that could become a NEW custom? Maybe you happened to go on a movie-date after your first Thanksgiving together as a couple… so why not make that the end to every turkey dinner from here on out!? Maybe you were so broke your first year of marriage that you bought nothing but lottery tickets for each other… so why not put Holiday Scratch-Its in the stockings every year!? (and be THOSE parents who reminisce with their kids about the same thing over and over 😉 )
This one is casual. The best way to establish an arbitrary custom is to adopt a preexisting tradition from someone else. What have you seen your friends doing with their families that looks enjoyable/entertaining? What’s trending on social media? Read the December issue of Family Fun magazine to see what Disney is suggesting, or look up the Top 50 BEST Traditions online… there are some GREAT ideas out there! (And don’t be afraid of the ones that are out-of-the-box or opposite of how you’re used to doing things.)
This one is charitable. Christmas should never become about us… it should always be about others, right?! Every year, giving TO a cause or charity should be of highest priority, and you can make this process fun for the whole family! Whether it’s taking your kids to Target and letting them each select items to fill a shoebox for a child in need, or writing/drawing thoughtful cards to the child or soldier you support…… this tradition of giving instead of receiving will become the most fulfilling tradition of the season. Checkout these #GoodforGoodness’Sake ideas!
Note that these are my suggestions for creating new traditions, but I’m in no place to suggest what you should do with ongoing family commitments etc. My husband and I get invited to 6 different family gatherings every Christmas, plus 2 work/ministry related parties, and we don’t even come from blended families. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those of you who have more! Before we had Ezekiel, we did our best to make an appearance at each location, although most of the time the get-togethers would be scheduled for the same day/time… so we had to alternate years. But now that Ezekiel is older, we’ve made it a priority for him to see his immediate cousins, aunties/uncles, grandparents, and GGs (aka great grandparents), but we don’t stress over making it to everything else. If we happen to be available for anything broader than that – which RARELY occurs – then we feel blessed to have an opportunity to reconnect with the families we grew up with as well! I wish life wasn’t so complicated/busy, and it’s sad that family traditions have to go through these awkward and sometimes hurtful changes, but I feel like I’m doing the best I can to keep e v e r y o n e happy.
If you still want more ideas, here’s a list of The Strickland Family Traditions!
I hope I helped solve at least one dilemma you’ve been dealing with in regards to the starting/stopping of family traditions, and please feel free to share YOUR unique ideas for everyone to read in the comments as well! I WANT TO HEAR THEM!
Happy Holidays, Everyone! Just 16 days and counting!!!!!!……