If you are like most people, you have a set of holiday traditions that you participate in each year. How do you choose your traditions? Perhaps you have never given it much thought; holiday traditions are just something you do. We pass on traditions from generation to generation, not unlike like family heirlooms and Grandma’s famous pie recipe.
Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Is it possible to pick and choose, to carry on with those traditions that delight us and connect us to family and friends and eliminate those that no longer serve us? Perhaps traditions that once sparked joy no longer seem fulfilling. Perhaps circumstances change, and old family traditions are no longer possible.
I’ve never really examined my own holiday traditions until this year. The death of my father means the end of traditions I have known since childhood. There can be no more Christmas Eve dinners, gifts and merriment in my family home. I will no longer make Dad’s favorite chicken noodle soup and attend midnight mass in my home town.
My Christmas day will be different too. For years, my parents joined my husband and daughters at our house to eat lasagna and cheesecake. This year it will be just the two of us. It is a huge change from Christmases past, and it has caused me to examine our traditions, to see which traditions I love and which I can release. It is also an opportunity to start new traditions.
Considering my holiday traditions has brought up many questions. Do I want to make chicken noodle soup? What about lasagna? Do I want to bake Christmas cookies? What about decorating? Do I want to go all out with multiple trees and decorations in every room or stick to one tree? What are the two of us actually going to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas day?
Every time I am faced with a Christmas tradition, I have asked myself this kind of question.
I’ve made some decisions, and they may or may not be the right ones. I said yes to Christmas cards, because I love keeping in touch with people I care about. I decided to make only one kind of cookie- my grandma’s cut out cookies. It wouldn’t seem like Christmas without them. I said no to hanging stockings, hours of shopping and elaborate decorating. The chicken noodle soup and lasagna are off the list too.
My husband got on board with the idea of new traditions. He wants steak on Christmas Eve. He decided that on Christmas morning we should bundle up and take a thermos of coffee and go sit down at the lake. We decided to start a December tradition of eating out in a new restaurant each week, enjoying the beautiful holiday decorations and not having to cook ourselves.
Last year, I wrote about the Icelandic tradition of book floods, where people give each other books on Christmas Eve and then spend the evening drinking hot chocolate and reading. I love that idea, and think there is a strong chance that it will happen in my home this year.
Change has opened the possibility to redefine our Christmas traditions. I look at the changes not with sadness, but with fondness for what was, and for the possibility of what is yet to come. I don’t know what the future will bring, or what future Christmases will look like. But I do know that I will choose traditions, both new and old, with care.
Whatever your traditions, I hope that you enjoy them and that your holidays are full of love and happiness.