Building Traditions that Connect

Christmas can be such a busy season. It can be full of connection or completely void of it. I remember a few years back when a day or two after Christmas Justin and I got into a big fight. It was stupid how big of a fight we got into, and when we got right down to the root, it all started because we weren’t feeling connected. It is a lot easier to be mad at someone and hurt him or her when you are not connected to that person. The problem was that we had been so busy trying to run here and there and do all the things, make all the memories,  and buy all the presents – you know how it goes – that we hadn’t been intentional about actually spending any quality time together. Sure, we had been together in the same room most of those days, but weren’t actually connecting because we were too busy.

When thinking of your upcoming holidays, think about what makes your heart happy. Is it eating a big homemade breakfast or brunch together? We have carried over Justin’s Christmas family tradition of making a special breakfast sausage casserole for the morning along with a French Toast casserole. Both things can be made the day before and stuck in the fridge so they are ready to go the next morning. I want to have a special breakfast with my family, but I don’t want to be in the kitchen sorting breakfast while the kids are opening presents or trying to figure out how their new toys work. I want to be part of it, so I’ve figured out a way to have both. I also want to be intentional about helping Justin feel connected to his family through this too, since we live far away and we don’t get to spend as much time with them as we’d like.

We realized after a few years of leaving the house on Christmas Day to visit family that that wasn’t something that worked well for us. We like staying in our pajamas and relaxing and decided to open up our home for family and friends that want to come here. That was a choice that we had to be intentional about. It’s easy to feel like you have to go to all the places because that’s what you’ve always done. We definitely had to learn how to transition from life with just Justin and I to life with one kid, then two and so on up to the five we have now. When it was just Justin and I, we could visit family out of state over the holidays. Once we had kids though, we had to make the tough decision that we don’t travel for the holidays. You are allowed to grow and change and it’s important to know that you are allowed! I know that sometimes others might not understand, but that is OK. Maybe once you make choices for your family, it will empower others to realize that they can make their own choices too.

It’s easy to feel like you have to go to all the places and do all the things because that is what you’ve always done.

I’m gonna take a minute to speak to my married friends here. When bridging your two families together, it can be difficult when you realize that you grew up in different homes, each with their own traditions, which is fantastic… but it might mean that you need to come together and decide which ones get to be carried on, and which ones need to be let go. It’s important to be sensitive as traditions can hold so many memories, and it’s key to realize that just because you don’t have the same amount of time to do all the holiday baking you learned from Grandma, it doesn’t make Grandma’s memory any less meaningful. You have to separate your feelings from truth, the truth being of course that you love your Grandma, but it’s OK if you just don’t have the time to bake her special cookies this year. Maybe you have dear memories of going out with your dad to cut down a Christmas tree every year, but now you don’t even own a saw. Maybe this year you can just buy one from the lot around the corner. It doesn’t make your memories any less special, but being realistic in your expectations is so important at the holidays! As a couple or as a family it’s great to be able to honor traditions, and it’s also fun to be able to create your own.

I have found that Christmas traditions can be planned as a family, as in you can choose them, but more often than not it’s the the things that you don’t even think about that stick and become traditions. One year, when Chai was a baby and we still lived in Strongsville, we were out and about and came upon the city’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony. That was a tradition that ended up sticking. I don’t think we’ve missed it once in ten years! Two years ago was my due date with Avi, but I stuffed my hugely pregnant belly into a thousand layers of warm clothes and waddled around all night hoping labor wouldn’t start while we were in line to see Santa!

This photo was taken two days before Avi was born. One of the coldest years yet!

Traditions should be special to you personally. As I mentioned earlier, think about the things that make your heart happy and create memories around those. It’s probably best to avoid letting sites like Pinterest pressure you into trying to create a picture perfect holiday. If you’re like me, you take one look at those pictures and immediately want to do all. the. things. Also if you’re like me, you end up doing none of those things and are left feeling like you missed something. Whatever you do, make sure it is something that is life giving and not putting more burden on you when there is already enough stuff to do this time of year! Drinking hot chocolate over good conversation can build a memory just as well as making cut-out sugar cookies can. Being there is the most important part of any tradition. Do what you love and be present with those you’re doing it with!

Come join the conversation over at five things! Would love to hear all about your traditions and what makes the holiday season season special to you!



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