Candy canes and popcorn chains
Ribbons and bows with pretty boxes below
What does your Christmas look like? Do you have family traditions from your childhood you’re now incorporating into the individual, couple, or all-in-with-kids Christmas you’re designing? Or not. Intentionally free of those reminders? Hanukkah? Kwanzaa? Doing your own thing?
I propose that having family traditions is a very good thing. Not any in particular, in my mind. Ones that make sense to you. Going together for a family drive to see lights and decorations, choose a tree, play in the snow and then drink some cocoa? Decorating cookies, putting up decorations (many made at school) indoors and out?
My husband and I were free to make our own traditions, as my parents were quite flexible once grandchildren arrived, especially; and my in-laws were all a thousand miles away. My father started a Christmas Eve tradition during my teen years (youngest of three daughters) which is kinda funny because he was an atheist; we had steak and seafood for dinner on Christmas Eve. My husband and I have continued the surf ‘n turf each of the 30 years we’ve been married. Popular with all. Ha ha
Tell you what, holidays change once you have children so this it’s a great opportunity to decide how you want to do things. Some that we kept up or chose were custom decoration on stockings upon arrival, angel on top of the tree, bead garlands, wreaths on the front door, both inside and out. The best tradition we had for the youngest years was a visit to the same Santa every year until my boys declined, when the oldest was nine. Such fun to have the exact same Santa in the picture year after year. Without a doubt, that is the favorite part of Christmas each year for all of us, looking back. So sweet.
Many “traditions” wandered in and out, lasting just a few years. From the time our sons were early grade school, I took down all the pictures, both large and small, in our living room, wrapped them to look like presents, and put them back up. Until my health started to unwind. I loved picking out the wrapping for next year’s Christmas when there are sales just after. The next year I’d get a great “surprise” when I retrieved that paper in early December!
We went together every year to get a live Christmas tree at a farm nearby, then an outdoor tree lot, and eventually an artificial tree for which my husband stood in line at 6 am on Black Friday, waiting two hours to get a really good deal on a great looking prelit fake tree, and he got the last one! Score! That tree has been really good at pretending for a decade plus. Now, the kids are gone and I’m not physically able to decorate. We do have some wonderful, solid Christmas decor my parents gave our family over the years including a really large nutcracker, a chess set, angels for the mantle and a beautifully lit, in motion little train and track snowglobe.
No matter how big or small, cost free or spending extra, extra for the season, generational or new, traditions are important because they provide a ribbon of continuity through these people we call family. The joy of having traditions will reveal itself when your loved ones begin to reminisce about holidays past. When I was a child, I loved decorating sugar cookies in holiday shapes, so I brought that into my sons’ experience. The second year in, they have a sense of anticipation when the ingredients were assembled. Some traditions take longer to be appreciated but may be sweeter for having needed time to age. My adult sons sharing their Christmas memories make all the mess, time, frazzle, and impatience, theirs and mine, worth it.
And, so, the value of traditions, whether holiday, camping in summer, sports, etc., is that it provides a sense of belonging, which is incredibly necessary. If we don’t feel as though we belong, 100%, no reservations in our family or friends group, we will seek it. Perhaps we look into the fridge for it or into a bottle or in a group of people who will take us in, though might not bring out our best. This applies equally to your children. If they’re not getting it from you, they’ll figure out a way to numb that ache or, worse, they’ll just feel it gnawing inside and feed it with anger, violence, self-harm or be on the news for all the wrong reasons.
This is a call to action – parent is also a verb, ya know. Start with a couple easy traditions to try out this year. You’re not committing to a lifetime. Your family gets to choose. Seize the opportunity!
Sara’s education and experience: B.A. Ed; M.S. Counseling; teacher grades K & 2/3, educator for childcare providers, training in Positive Discipline and Growing, parent educator, program director of crisis nursery, including parent support, staff management & training, stay home mom 16 years with two sons born 19 months apart, medical transcription for 10 years in order to stay home, substitute teacher grades K through 12. Blogs about a wide variety of topics on survivingsara.net.