Monday, December 15, 2014

Merging Traditions


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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).
Then we gather around the Christmas tree, read the Christmas story from the scriptures (both families) and divide all the presents under the tree then open one by one youngest to oldest (my 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.

Of course we now have Baby Zuzu's birthday thrown into the holiday mix.... so I'm just not sure how that's going to play out in the years to come.  I will say that coming home with a new baby on Christmas eve last year and the girls waking up to a new baby sister on Christmas morning?  Nothing will top that Christmas.  They've already told me so and I agree.


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.  

6 comments:

  1. Such great compromises and traditions. Before I had my own kids, my grown siblings and I would sleep in the same room on Christmas eve, just as we did when we were kids. We've lived far apart over the years, but we tried to make it work when we could. And we always get to open just one present on Christmas Eve.

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    1. I love that you guys still do this! Totally makes me on board for when the babe is a little older.

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  2. I was an only child raised by a single parent. We were always at an extended family member's house for Christmas. Now that my husband and I have our first child, I feel like I'm starting with a blank slate Christmas tradition-wise. She's almost two this year and we're AGAIN making the 6 hour drive to see his mom and siblings. Next year, I'd like to stay home and get the immediate family tradition ball rolling. Any advice on the extended family Christmas juggle?

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    1. Oh boy...my first thought was "have another kid." Ha! It seems like it's a lot easier to just stay put the more kids that are involved. Too much to work out with Christmas presents, Santa, etc. But of course that's not a practical solution to Christmas woes. Honestly, I think if you want to stay home and start doing your own thing it's OK--it's OK to want that and it's OK to say that. This is assuming your husband is on board first. From there make a list of ideas and traditions you like and then remember this: It takes effort. If it looks effortless online or from your friends houses, it's not. If you feel overwhelmed, maybe pare your list down a bit but know that magic doesn't just happen and if feels forced or like a lot of work, you're not doing it wrong. (I may just be saying this for my sake, but if it helps you as well, that's great). Can I ask what Christmas was like growing up with just you and your parent? I sometimes Gilmore-Girl romanticize this type of dynamic, so I'm interested to hear if your childhood was anything like that. If it's too personal, no need to divulge.

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  3. Our traditions have merged too. We always have a big Christmas dinner with lots of food and lots of people (my family). I don't mind being away from family at Christmas, but I DO mind having a quiet Christmas Eve dinner. We tape our Christmas cards all over a doorway in the kitchen and leave them up until March (husband's family). We have a big breakfast with sausage, eggs, pancakes/waffles on Christmas morning (both families). We stay in our jammies all day and play with toys, eat leftovers and watch a movie together (both families). But we've also started other traditions too-- like doing a little Christmas tree/scripture advent calendar, and making a chocolatey trail mix for friends. Husband didn't have a lot of traditions growing up, and he didn't always like mine (lol) so I have let go of some of mine so that we can create our own. Now we have four girlies and it's fun to do Christmas just OUR way. There is one more tradition we'd like to implement which is to do 12 days of Christmas for a needy family in our community. Our girls LOVE doing this, especially in secret and I think it's only going to get more fun as they get older!

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  4. Our traditions are: Christmas Eve -- party at my sister-in-law's. Home late, cocoa, the children open their gifts to each other. My husband reads "The Night Before Christmas" to them. Christmas morn - homemade cinnamon rolls, presents & stockings, then off to my other sister-in-laws for a family dinner. There are usually matching PJs in there (though my teens are starting to rebel against it), and driving around and looking at lights.

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