The holidays are a time to gather with family and sink into the familiar traditions that you remember as a child. The evolution of tradition is inevitable when you begin your own family, but whether they are abrupt or gradual depends on your circumstance. New holiday traditions are a way to respect your past while creating your family’s future memories.
When I was young, thanksgiving meant a day of skiing, then coming home to turkey cooked the night before. Exhausted, happy, and rosy-cheeked, we would scarf up turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and fall asleep not long after, happy and stuffed. Christmas involved waking up whenever I wanted to open my stocking, and then having to wait until six to wake up my parents. After the wrapping paper carnage, the squeals of excitement, and the hugs, we would spend the rest of the day playing with new gadgets, eating Cornish hen for dinner, and watching A Muppet Christmas Carol until we collapsed into our respective rooms, exhausted.
When I got married, I realized I would have to share my holidays with in-laws. This meant that we traveled to see my sister-in-law’s family for an occasional Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I experienced a whole slew of new traditions. It seemed important to uphold these because there were young children in my new family, and their Christmas and Thanksgiving took precedent. The wonder of the season and the novelty of their uncle and new aunt traveling to be with them was beautiful and extremely special, not just to them, but to my husband and I as well.
Now we have a baby. Born in early November 2016, we traveled last year with him to partake in the traditions of my husband’s family because he was so tiny and had no concept of holidays, and it was fun to share his arrival with the people we loved. This year we plan to traveling up for Christmas, but will have a small thanksgiving at home. But what about next year when our child is old enough to understand the holidays? I want us to create new traditions. It is very important to me that our child thinks Christmas comes to his house as well as his cousins. I don’t know how or what this will look like, and I worry about offending my husband and the family I have happily married into. However, compromise is key.
My husband and I have already agreed that we will spend Thanksgiving with my family, and a portion of Christmas with his. This allows us quality time with both sides, while still keeping it intimate. As for Christmas, my in-laws live five hours away, so we’ll have to figure out when we go up while still creating new, and lasting traditions for our little family of three. Obviously, this isn’t an easy prospect. Peeling away from your family to begin something new can be met with resistance and can ultimately feel like abandonment. Change is hard.
But I assure you, creating new traditions is not only important for your immediate family, it’s important for your extended family as well. This is what your children will look back on when they think about the holidays. You need to strike out and craft what you see moving forward, and your parents and siblings should respect this. After all, they had to do the same thing at some point.
It’s also important to really listen to what your partner wants. Traditions can cause tension, so it’s important to hear what they have envisioned for your family, but you should both have equal say in the new ones you are creating. Listening and compromising will create a safe space from which to agree on the most important aspects of your family moving forward.
For our family, our first tradition is getting a permit and going into the woods to cut down our Christmas tree. We did it last year, and we plan to do it every year moving forward. Sure, it’s a modest start, but it’s something, and we like to think we’re the gradual sort.
What sort of traditions have you established with your family? Was it difficult to separate your new traditions from your extended family’s traditions or expectations?