You can’t come to the holiday season without thinking about traditions. There are cultural traditions, there are religious traditions, and there are personal traditions. When you branch out on your own, maybe you’re moving out of your parents house for the first time, maybe it’s when you buy your first home, maybe it’s when you have your first child, maybe it’s when you get married, you’re faced with the reality of it’s up to YOU to continue and build new traditions.
The holidays are a mixed bag for me. Having had worked retail for 18 years didn’t help my enjoyment of the holidays or the desire to put more work into them but one just cannot go through Christmas with no tree! Trust me. I have done it. It stinks!
So when talking about the holiday season and traditions lets back all the way up to Halloween. Do you do costumes? Do you carve a pumpkin? Do you pass out candy to trick-or-treaters? Do you turn off all the lights and pretend you’re not home? Do you let your kids keep all the candy? Do you eat everything you didn’t pass out?
Then you’re onto Thanksgiving. Do you do a turkey? Do you do sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top? Do you do green beans with French’s Crispy Fried Onions on top? Do you do cranberry jelly? Do you do cranberry sauce? Do you cook everything? Do you do a potluck? Do you invite friends and family? Do you just keep it you and your husband/wife? Do you go shopping Black Friday?
I am getting closer to finding a place for Thanksgiving traditions. For a long time I wasn’t sure how I even felt about anything regarding thanksgiving. However now living in rural northern Iowa a fall feast is much more meaningful to me. Add to that, I am making real headway in making a meal that is something exciting for both my husband and I find I am getting more and more excited about Thanksgiving.
Then we come to Christmas or maybe Chanukah or maybe like me it’s both. I don’t know if it’s working in retail but I really don’t like Christmas presents. I struggle with felling gluttonous about “stuff”, I feel stressed about finances from spending too much on everyone else, I feel all the hype is over in minutes, and I feel the season is lost on a moment.
Then again maybe I don’t like Christmas presents because my best Christmas growing up was they year my parents announced there would be no Christmas presents due to financial hardship and then on Christmas Eve when we all go together for family communion my parents gave each of us a small decorated box. We all looked confused. We opened the boxes and inside was a hand written note that said it was full of love and signed by both my parents. Or maybe because the first year I lived on my own my personal finances were tight and I had little food in the house and leading up to Christmas my mom would come to my work while I was working and place food in my car with a note indicating the 12 days of Christmas and each day was one of my favorite foods.
What I am getting at is that Christmas needs to be about love and family. About traditions and the season. It needs to be about giving if you know someone is in need and it’s about a feeling of joy.
Due to all my different types of Christmas’ I have shared with my family over the years I decided once I was out on my own and had my own family that I wanted to make Christmas about tradition. More specifically traditions that build lasting memories, that encourage it to be a season and not a day, and about family.
One of the things I do is an elaborate tree. People may see pictures of my tree and think it’s pretty but what they may not realize is that the ornaments all have a story. I do still have a lot of stuff on my tree to “round it out” but one thing I try to do every year is find a new ornament that helps me to remember that year. A good example of that is this years ornament. It’s a deer. Why? Because this is the year that I hit a deer with my car. It might be a bit morbid to some but it will be easy to remember and it makes me giggle a little. Last year I didn’t do any decorating. I don’t remember why just something about we weren’t sure where we were doing Christmas. The year before that was a squirrel because our dogs love chasing squirrels around the acreage. Before that was a key. That was the year we bought our first home. I think about all of this both as I decorate the tree every year and as I look at it though the season.
Another tradition I am still trying to be consistent on is buying a house for my village. I have a Dickens Village that is a collectors series. My plan is to buy one new house or accessory for my village each year.
At Chanukah I have to have my Mom’s Cheese Blintzes and a menorah and then last year we added Russian Cherry Walnut Latkes as part of that dinner.
I do love wrapping presents and have been giving a lot of thought to how I might have presents under the tree without doing “typical” presents. Then last year it came to me. My husband and I will each write down 12 things to do, buy, or watch. The things we write down have to be something we can share in together. We’ll fold them up or put then in an envelope. We’ll shuffle them all up and then I will place them in boxes that I will wrap and place under the tree. (This will be our post Thanksgiving activity rather than black-friday shopping.) Then each day of December we pull one present out and unwrap it together and do, buy, or watch whatever is written. This will be our “advent calendar”. This might be one of the ideas I am most excited about and as we grow our family we will continue to divide up how many each person gets to write so everyone gets to participate.
Here’s the thing. Tradition is what you want to make it. Sprinkle in some cultural things, add in some religious stuff if that’s important to you, and then fill it up with personal traditions. Making the season something personal and meaningful is going to be way more enjoyable than if you had the perfect golden turkey, got everything you asked for from Santa, or if you got the best door buster on black-friday. So as we get deeper into this holiday season don’t worry about having to reinvent the holiday but maybe instead think of one thing you want to add and each year build on that.