In case you missed it, we are knee-deep in the holiday season.
It is certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go. For many families, this means that you have a packed schedule of traditions and activities that you do to ring in the holiday spirit.
But, what if your family has just started and you haven’t built up any traditions just yet?
That is the conundrum of many mommy friends who had their first little bundle of joy this year.
They are now faced with the blank canvas of opportunity to develop their own paths, and they are likely feeling pulled by well-meaning family and friends towards paths that may not be right for them.
So, what do you do when you are thinking about starting your own traditions?
For many new families, they start off by doing just what their families of origin did growing up. That’s a great starting point and it can give you guidelines on how to proceed when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Extended families can help you think about your values and any religious traditions you may want to implement. They can be an invaluable resource, but they can also make you feel pulled in different directions.
For example, let’s say Mom’s family does Christmas at Grandma’s house and there is an expectation that your new little family comes along for the ride. But maybe Dad’s family also has a matriarch that cooks a fantastic Christmas dinner, in say, Florida, and she wants you to come visit her too.
There’s only one Christmas, so who wins?
And what if you are an interfaith family and you’ve got Chanukah and Christmas to contend with? Do you add dreidels to a tree? How do you integrate and appreciate both holidays? These are the types of questions that many new families face, and it can be exhausting.
The way through these concerns isn’t always clear or easy, but sometimes you need to realize that you can’t possibly please everyone, and you start to think about compromises. Perhaps you visit one family for Christmas and one for New Year’s? Or maybe you go to each family every other year? Or maybe you do the holidays at your house and that’s your go-to tradition.
Whatever makes the most sense for you is the right answer.
And let’s say you do decide to stay home and do your own thing. What might that look like?
Chances are, both parents have their own ideas about how the holidays “should” look based upon their own upbringing. I know my husband had this ridiculous notion that the Christmas tree must only be decorated on Christmas Eve. I think this was to help make Christmas Eve magical or something…not too sure what that’s all about.
I decided to listen to his cause, and together we came to a realization that this tradition was silly and that, of course, you decorate the tree the day after Thanksgiving like a normal family. I kid, I kid.
What ultimately happened is that we each expressed what was meaningful about our traditions growing up, and we created a compromise that worked for us. This year, it was that we would lightly decorate the tree early and that on Christmas Eve we would add sentimental ornaments together as a family. It was a great middle ground.
And if you are starting fresh, don’t overwhelm yourself with expectations of grandeur.
Instead, think about what’s doable for you.
Maybe it involves looking at lights and baking some cookies. Maybe it involves watching holiday movies with the family in the evening. Maybe it’s Black Friday shopping in holiday costumes like one friend I know does. And maybe it’s charity work.
Whatever you decide to do, make it your own and try to remember what’s important about the season…family.
And do your best to appreciate the smaller moments as well as the bigger ones. Your kids are paying attention, but they are also flexible and will go with the flow if you keep the attitude that this is ok to do.
So try something out, and if it doesn’t work, try something else next year. Eventually, you will find your groove and your own family traditions that your kids can fight with their spouses over in a few decades.