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You know when people talk about how engaged couples need to discuss important things like finances, religious beliefs and other major differences in the way they were raised before actually getting married? I think you could also throw holiday traditions on that list. While B and I definitely had different traditions around Christmas, I don't remember this being anything that caused any major discord. I think we have tried doing things his family's way one year, then mine another until we settled in the middle where we have each kept traditions we enjoy, while letting go of ones we're not so attached to.
Sometimes however you find yourself embracing new traditions that were brought about by circumstances outside your family. The (dark and grainy) picture above is from last night as all the houses on our street lit up luminaries and then met at a neighbors driveway for cookies and hot cocoa. Technically, this was something B's family did when he was growing up but this is the first time we've done this in our family. And really, we participated when we found out it's something our whole street has done for the past several years. The girls loved it--as did B and I--such an easy way to be festive together and makes for a super simple neighborhood holiday gathering.
Luckily the luminaries was something we were really excited to do, because it can be tricky if you feel like a tradition you're not OK with is being forced on you. Which, again, is sorta how it is when you get married--eek! As of now this is how we've blended our Christmas traditions to fit our family. We make and eat a nice meal on Christmas eve with something a little fancy like crab legs or Lobster and eat by candlelight (B's family).
Some people think this is strange opening all our presents on Christmas eve, but it's how I always did it growing up. Of course Christmas morning there are still stockings and Santa presents, so personally I always thought it was extra fun having 2 days of presents! This was probably the one thing that was hardest for B to get on board with, but over the years as we've tried different things it just stuck. And now I think everyone like it. Christmas morning is also when we open our letters. (B's family) We get letters from B's parents, then we also write a letter to each other and one for each of our kids. I've kept all these letters in a binder and I love looking back and reading these letters and seeing how we've grown and changed over the years. Some other things we do this time of year include making gingerbread houses like the year we made a scale model of our MCM home in Texas (or ginger bread cookies as my girls did with my mom last weekend), homemade marshmallows, sometimes I figure out a Christmas craft or two, I love sending out and receiving Christmas cards, we have an advent calendar that we do with little notes saying things like "eat a piece of chocolate" or "share a favorite Christmas memory" and I always, always watch It's a Wonderful Life. Just once--which is perfect--and I get all watery-eyed at the end errrytime time.
I love what we do right now, but I'm also open to these traditions adjusting and morphing as the kids grow older. I remember one friend telling me that all the kids slept in the same bedroom on Christmas eve, drinking hot cocoa and talking until the wee hours. I would love to see my girls doing that in a few years. For some people Christmas eve is the big dinner, for others it's Christmas day. Some people stay in, home bound and close together, while others get out skiing or going to a movie. As a kid I will admit that some of the traditions my parents tried to push just didn't feel 'natural' to our family or just plain didn't excite me as a kid. So I think it's important to make most traditions fun, uplifting, engaging and something kids want to participate in. As my kids grow older, I'm excited to see what their personalities bring out and change about our traditions.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions? Anything your spouse brought to the table that you had a hard time getting on board with? Have you ever had a tradition forced on you--like in a neighborhood or family? Those of you with older children, in what ways have your traditions changed as your kids grew? I also love this article from the New York Times about the importance of having a family narrative (traditions play a big role in this). Turns out it's not just kinda important, but it's the thing that helps keep a family together.