How To Make New Holiday Traditions

Holiday traditions are so special.  The thing I love most about them is that they will always have memories attached.  When I make cinnamon rolls each Christmas, I think of my mom, these are something we woke up to every Christmas morning while we wore pajamas and opened gifts.  Making gingerbread houses with my kids reminds me of when I was younger and sat around a table with my cousins and friends and pasted graham crackers to an empty milk pint with royal icing.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa there are traditions that are unique to you.  As a mom it is important to create traditions with your children to pass on the heritage of your family.


OK so I just named a few traditions that I grew up with…there are sooo many more.  We use to take awkward family photos in sheets (aka togas…guys, we aren’t even Greek!) and outside a 1950’s truck wearing poodle skirts and rolled up sleeves.  So classic!  I love this time of year.  I get to take down all the pumpkins and gourds and bust out the shiny fun stuff.  Christmas lights and snow globes just make my heart happy.  The holidays aren’t always full of good cheer for everyone.  Sometimes the holidays bring stress, overspending and arguments.  


My parents got divorced when I was super young.  My husband’s parents, too, got divorced when he was young.  That means a lot of sharing.  Christmas Eve we use to go to my grandma’s house.  It was awesome.  I got to spend time with cousins, aunts and uncles that I hadn’t seen since Thanksgiving.  The next morning we would emerge from our rooms with a huge shouldered video camera staring us in the face as we walked down the hall to gaze at full stockings by the fireplace.  We would open gifts, thanking each parent and sibling and Santa, of course, before my dad would pick my brother and I up to go to my grandparent’s house for tamale eating, Bocce ball and family time.  It was always a back and forth day for me as a kid…not that I minded it back then.  To be honest, I thought it was exciting.  I got to celebrate with everyone I loved that day.  I got to play and eat and let’s get real…I got gifts, lots of gifts.  


Now that I am an adult with a family of my own we have had to come up with our own traditions.  Sometimes they aren’t always popular with my “folks” because some of our traditions are different from theirs.  We now live two hours away from our families back home.  We like being in our own beds that night so that we can do the letter to Santa, set out cookies and milk, read “The Night Before Christmas” together, say a prayer and fill the kids’ stockings (shhh!) It is so nice to hear the kids wake up and jump on each other and pile on daddy so they can come out and eat a cinnamon roll and begin checking out the magic of the morning. Us doing this means that we don’t travel to Christmas Eve or Christmas day festivities with our extended family.  


I know this switch is tough.  Quite a few people I know get in huge holiday disputes over where they will go and what they will do.  Total bummer to fight about something that is intended to be special and memory-filled.  There are so many expectations though.  We love being around family during the holidays…I mean truly that is the best thing about it.  If I never got another gift from a parent or sibling, just being around them laughing and playing games would be plenty.  


All of the expectations make it difficult to branch out and start new traditions of your own.  But thinking back on my childhood I got to do many of the things that I want for my kids now.  If you are already feeling anxiety about all the Christmas plans and destinations, take a step back.  Think of your childhood traditions and which are important enough to carry on.  Figure out which ones you need to cut and new ones that you want to begin.  It may not be popular to change the routine, but you will likely reach a point where you will want to start your own traditions.  


When you reach that point here are a few ideas…


1. Announce your new family plans early on so that you will give your parents and in-laws time to accept the changes. If you don’t plan on travelling Christmas Day, as usual, then perhaps mention it as soon as possible.

2. Invite ALL family to join you in your traditions.  Let your new traditions carry over to your family by inviting them to come to you.  Yes, you may have to do a little more cleaning and cooking but this is part of the deal.

3. Be flexible.  If you still want to travel or spend time away from home for the holidays, you can ask for the dates to be moved or times to be changed to suit your plans.  Perhaps traveling on Christmas Day sounds like no fun, but maybe you can move that day’s plans to Christmas Eve or a few days after.

4. Be kind and understanding.  The traditions that you are seeking to change may have been part of your family’s history for decades.  Making new ones may hurt feelings, so be gentle.  Accommodate others and do your best to tell your parents and in-laws that they did such an incredible job creating family traditions that you are ready to start your own.


Good luck! May your traditions this year be as special and memorable as ever.