Changes happen in life and, as a result, holidays may look different. Whether you’ve relocated or lost your job, whether you’ve had a baby or are a newly empty nester, whether you’re married, divorced, or in a new relationship, or whether this is the first holiday season since a cherished family member has passed away, sometimes it’s appropriate to let go of old traditions and establish some new ones.
Confession: I am not a person with a lot of traditions — maybe because I never had children, and maybe because I push back against the words “always” and “never.” Regardless, I love learning about traditions established by others, and have been known to have lengthy conversations with friends about green bean casseroles and opening presents on Christmas Eve versus Christmas Day. I like to ask about various preferences as well. Apple pie or pecan pie or pumpkin pie (or all three)? And for some reason, I really need to know whether your holiday movie rituals include “Elf,” “Home Alone,” “Love Actually,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or 24 hours of “A Christmas Story.”
Over the years that I’ve been a volunteer at Adam’s Place, I’ve talked with the adults in my groups about their holiday traditions, listening to what they used to do, and brainstorming about what new traditions they might establish. I often suggest that their kids be allowed to choose a new tradition to try out. You never know what might find its way into a family’s heart, particularly when dealing with grief and loss. And sometimes, when the grief is new and raw, these parents tend to abandon all traditions and escape for the holidays. That’s okay too, especially when all of the family members are in agreement with the plan.
For the first couple of years after my husband died, I couldn’t even think about the holidays. Merely walking past the cabinet in the garage where my snowman collection was stored practically gave me a panic attack. Gradually, a few of my favorites have come into my house for a couple of weeks, and I’m okay with that because it’s become my new little tradition.
When you’re pondering whether to continue with a long-time holiday tradition or relegate it to the fond memory pages of your mind, please consider whether that tradition still brings you joy. Although holiday traditions are wonderful, calming, predictable, and warm, in many situations we outgrow them. If your family has evolved in any way, maybe it’s time to replace something you don’t particularly love (but you’ve always done) with something you choose to try (for now). You just might discover a new tradition that you’ll repeat next year, and the year after that.
Not to diminish the importance of my snowmen, and not to sound like the dialogue from a Hallmark movie, my favorite holiday traditions are to be kind, grateful, patient, and to look for the joy. Have you established any new holiday traditions? Please comment and share with me.