My friend, Beth, chose: Holiday Traditions.
I rarely say the word, Tradition, without breaking into the song from Fiddler On The Roof….”Tradition, Tradition! TRADITION!…the Papa, the Papa! TRADITION!”
Tradition is defined as: the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way.
For most people, we think most about traditions as they relate to the Holidays, more specifically, Christmas, which is what this blog post is focused on. I think it’s safe to say that every family has them. In our family, some of our traditions were and are intentional, while others just evolved over time.
Growing up, my family celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve night. My mom made homemade pizza, that we ate by candlelight. Someone read the Christmas story, and we opened presents. Opening presents was an activity that we made stretch. Each person was handed a gift, and we would go around the circle and open them, one by one, repeating the circle.
On Christmas morning, my mom made a big breakfast; we played with our new toys, and then got around to go to my Aman Grandparent’s house. The five years that we lived in Illinios, we simply played all day with our new toys. I remember most of those years having heaps of snow to play in, outside, so we bundled up and played until we couldn’t feel our fingers and toes. Steamy cups of Hot Cocoa always thawed us out.
Decorating our very simple Christmas tree was also a tradition. Every year, Christmas music floated from the record player, as my dad untangled tree lights, and my mom hung the tinsel garland. My brother and I hung our salt-dough ornaments while my mom very strategically placed each glass bulb on the branches. At the end, my dad would stretch up and place the plastic angel on the top. Some years I remember sleeping beside the tree that first night.
All of our families live near, and when Duane and I started ours, it was easy to mesh the two sides. Mine traditionally celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, while his celebrated on Christmas Morning/Day. The hard part came with meshing the extended family traditions. We rushed around, for 2-3 days, trying to “hit them all”.
In 1993, the first Christmas we had Ashley, we celebrated Christmas EIGHT TIMES within one week! With extended family, immediate family, divorced parents (on my side) and the family I was currently a Nanny for, we wore ourselves and our four month old baby out! TRADITION!
We started talking that year, that we needed to decide and settle on what we could reasonably do, and what was most important to us. It took some time and tears….and guilt. Today, we are focused on three celebrations, with some years, having four.
Currently, we begin the Christmas season, with what I refer to as “decking our halls”. I bring “Christmas” out of storage, and set out to make our home warm and inviting for the month of December. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate simplicity, using what I already have, and giving it a Christmas flare. Around the second weekend of the month, I put up our fake tree. I string it with white lights (no colored lights here), wrap it with ribbon or burlap, and then that evening our kids decorate the tree with their personal ornament collections. When they are done, Duane and I hang the rest, and Duane places the star on the top.
On Christmas Eve, we go out to Murphy to Grandpa Bob and Grandma Sue’s house (my parents), for homemade pizza by candlelight. My brother, Aaron’s family is always there, and most years my brother, Matt and his family are there from Pocatello. We open presents one at a time, as is our family tradition.
The next morning, we are rudely awakened by our three children, while we attempt to pretend we can’t hear them. We sit in a circle on the floor, and open gifts (that have been secretly marked with fictional names, as to confuse the children) . Because we have two dogs, they are very much a part of the party. Tucker tears the gift wrap laying around and tosses it in the air for Chester to grab. It’s crazy and fun!
After gift opening, we enjoy family breakfast together. Most years it’s sausage biscuits and gravy, bacon, and eggs.
Around 1:00 in the afternoon, we make our way up to Grandpa Bob and Grandma Margaret’s (Duane’s parents) home. There we will eat Prime Rib for lunch; listen to Grandpa Bob read the Christmas Story in Luke 2, and then open gifts….only this family divides the gifts among everyone, and says, “GO!”. For the next twenty minutes, it’s a flurry of craziness!
As our children got older, we established what was most important to us, and did our best to make Christmas less about the stuff and the parties, and more about the time spent making memories, together. We’ve succeeded in some and failed miserably in others.
I believe the key to Holiday Traditions is not holding too firmly to the traditions. I’ve seen families split hairs so drastically over “This is how we’ve ALWAYS done it!”, that feelings are hurt and bridges are burned. It’s tragic and I’ll go as far as to say, severely immature, in my opinion.
As our children become adults, Duane and I are on the brink of having life change for us, in regards to holidays. Eventually, they will move out of our home, and possibly out of town. They will get married, have babies…and they will need to determine what is most important for them. There will be years, when they may not all be able to be home for the holidays.
My hope is that I’ve learned lessons along the way, as to how to graciously let go of our traditions, when it’s necessary, and how to allow some traditions to remain, while keeping Peace and Joy our focus.
This year, we are making plans to change one of our traditions with my family. We are going to still eat homemade pizza by candlelight, on Christmas Eve, but in exchange for gifts, we are going to go as a big ol’ family to McCall (a few weeks after Christmas), and stay in a Cabin at Tamarack.
This is about getting the focus off of “more stuff” and spending time, making memories together. It feels really important to focus our energy here, as all the children are growing up. It will be strange and possibly hard to let go of presents….but years from now, I think each member of the family will think back, and remember the quality time spent together, over having another toy or a new shirt.