When I was little, there were certain holidays that my mom got super excited about, and holidays that my dad enjoyed. My Dad enjoyed his Griswoldesque Christmas Light decorations, always trying to create something that would stop traffic in the neighborhood. Like the year he creates a Christmas Tree of lights taller than our house. My Mom loved Easter, surprising us with Easter baskets way past what was considered age appropriate. She even drove to college and put one on my doorstep Freshman year.
Growing up, we had a lot of family holiday traditions that just quietly existed. They weren’t big productions, or recognized as family traditions that had to be upheld…they just were, year after year, because we cherished them as a family. The hanging of ornaments, my mom’s homemade hot cocoa in a huge glass jar on the kitchen counter, family Thanksgivings, Mom’s cinnamon rolls, Family pranks, HUGE stockings… I could go on and on.
So what happens, when the family falls apart? I was in High School when my parents divorced. I tried living with each parent at different times. Both situations were difficult for different reasons. Neither was my family as I knew it. I had to learn how to live in a new family. I didn’t want a new family. I didn’t want new traditions. I was just a mad teenager.
My Mom and I tried to keep things the same at first, but that was too painful. The truth was that nothing was the same, and was never going to be the same again. We needed new traditions. My Mom was just too sad to celebrate anything, so holidays became this thing of darkness for her. I am so thankful that this changed before she died. We had several years, making new traditions with just the two of us before she died. It did take time though, she had to mourn the loss of her marriage and heal first before she was ready to make new memories. When she came around though, she dove back in full heartedly. She loved every holiday!
My Dad remarried, which created an entirely different dynamic. We had to incorporate someone else’s traditions, as well as, make new traditions together. That took time in our relationship as well. There was also distance, and time sharing with my mom to take into consideration. My Stepmother has kids also, so her family had to be considered…
Divorce, death, distance, blended family, marriage, adoption, school…when any of these outside factors start impacting holiday plans and traditions, it is stressful. Sometimes, it is painful and confusing. Give yourself room to breathe, give each other room to grieve, give the pain somewhere to go, and give the holidays room to evolve. Change isn’t necessarily bad. Traditions can get better. The more, the merrier!
Some of my favorite things in life now, are the traditions that I have created for my family as an adult. When I had my own kids, I knew that I wanted to give them traditions and memories that were solid and unshakable. I might have gone overboard, as now they joke about how many traditions we have. Secretly, I think they are proud of it though, because I know how envious their friends are of that family life. They have the house that they invite friends over to share in their traditions; to share in something special. I enjoy knowing my kid’s friends, and they are always welcome in our home. My prayer for the future, is that each friend we have shared a memory with, will take that feeling and remember it so fondly that they want to share it with their kids someday. I hope it inspires them to start traditions like it with their own kids someday; and share with their children’s friends.
So, if this Holiday season finds you struggling in a similar situation, unsure in a new life, I encourage you to find new traditions. It won’t be easy, but it can be fun if you let it be. It can be interesting, if you let it be. It can also be encouraging to someone else, if you let it be. Be open to new possibilities, and open your eyes to those around you who might also be hurting this season. If all else fails, there is always a tradition waiting for you at my house.