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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Traditions

Kenn and I had a really good conversation last night about christmas. We talked about what it means culturally, about what it means to each of us as individuals, and what we're going to do about it in our little family.

Culturally, christmas is all-encompassing.  There is no escaping it when you live in the US or in Australia for that matter. Whether you are a Christian or not, Christmas is here to stay.  But the mass consumerism of it all is optional.

Individually, Kenn doesn't have any long-established family traditions that he's looking to pass on, which opens the door to creating traditions which really fit our family.  And the same is true for me and my family.  When the family implodes, there isn't much left.

So many traditions are just handed down through family and the schools and we put them on regardless of the fit.  Well, for us, we get to choose.  Starting this year, we are consciously choosing our family traditions to make this day into a day we enjoy and have fond memories of when we look back.

We are in agreement about not wanting to buy into the buy buy buy mentality that the marketers on tv and radio would have us be. So that's easy. And we want to have happy memories of christmas in our home.  We do want it to be a special day, not just a day at home. But how to create that? And we don't want to have a lot of waste since it's ... well, wasteful.

Hmmm....   why give presents on christmas when we're not tying it to the presents Jesus received?  Well, because we've decided we want to give each other presents on christmas.  Simple enough.  Presents?  Yes.

Wrapping... ugh.  Paper?  No, too wasteful (financially, environmentally). How about homemade gift bags that are used year after year?  Maybe...   And then Kenn suggested personalized pillowcases for each of us with our presents inside.  That works!  I'll make the pillowcases since I'm in the pillowcase business (at least until Isabelle is old enough to sew).  And there maybe some small fabric bags incorporated to make the presents more of a surprise. Ok, that works.

Tree?  No, again so wasteful. Decorations in general? Maybe some lights to add something special to the day.
To add to the specialness of the day, we're going to begin a tradition of special breakfast foods, and sitting down to eat breakfast together.  And opening presents AFTER breakfast for a little bit of delayed gratification.

Afternoon/evening will be a time when we can enjoy family/friends around the table playing board/card games.

It was such a relief to have this conversation with Kenn, and make a plan for us to go forward with together. I'm excited about our new traditions and new found happiness in the holiday season.

What are your favorite family traditions?  Are you carrying on traditions that don't fit you anymore? Is it time to change things up? Please join in the conversation in the comments.

It can be challenging to go in a new direction, but the pay-off can be so worth it.  


  1. We ended up making our own traditions, too. One thing I always did with my daughter was to make it a season and not focus so much on the day itself. So we would listen to music, watch Christmas shows, walk around and look at lights and decorations, bake cookies, etc. One year she wanted to watch A Garfield Christmas every day, so we did--our taped version with the commercials left out :-) Because I was in college and had a long weekend at Thanksgiving, we put up the decorations the day after Thanksgiving. When she was a toddler I'd taught myself to knit and crochet and I started making ornaments each year, giving her the first one of each design. When she was old enough to start reading series books, we had a talk about book gifts. We were living in Portland, OR then, home of Powell's City of Books, and we told her that we could buy new books or used books, but we would be able to buy more used ones--we let her decide which she preferred and of course she said used books were fine. Putting the focus on the fun of the season worked pretty well. She was excited about getting presents, of course, but wasn't up at 4 am or anything. One year, before we moved across the country, we spent the day with Bill's sisters and mother. One of the sisters had two kids that woke her up at 4 and she was cranky and tired. She asked me what time Heather had gotten us up and when I said that we had to wake her up at 10 so we could get ready to travel to her home, she was actually angry--LOL

    A few years into our marriage we stopped having a big meal on Christmas Day. My birthday is Dec 23rd and we always have lasagna on Christmas Eve. None of us really felt like another big meal on Christmas Day and it was so much work to cook and clean up. Bill and I agreed that we'd rather have munchies, so I would always make stuff that could be done ahead of time and the only thing I made on the day were jalapeno cheese puffs, because they're best eaten right out of the oven! We would have (whole grain and quite filling) mocha muffins left that I'd made ahead of time for my birthday breakfast, so we would have those on Christmas as well. We just munch throughout the day when we feel like it--no muss, no fuss :-)

    It's all very peaceful and quiet--nice family time with lots of laughing. We do not buy a bunch of stuff, but we do exchange a few gifts, most of them handmade or consumables. These would be "wrapped" in gift bags I'd made over the years.

    It is so not the cultural norm for us! I know that for many people, the craziness is what makes it fun, but it isn't for us and I think that's the key--to have that mindfulness and to discuss what it is you want from the holiday and then do it that way! I have an old friend who hates Christmas--lots of bad memories of childhood trauma and a dislike of much of what Christmas is about made her really anti-Christmas. I was a bit dismayed years ago when we lived in Alaska and she told me she'd be coming to visit and would be with us at Christmas. But we just did as we always did and she couldn't get over it. That was 18 years ago and she still talks about how peaceful and wonderful that Christmas was.

    I think it's great that you guys are building your own traditions and making things special in your own ways. Merry Christmas!

  2. Replies
    1. It did! It went really really well! And then we all came down with a cold. LOL