In the car, on the way to a meeting, I asked a friend about his plans for the upcoming Christmas break. What followed were some great stories of traditions long-held by his family. The thoughts brought laughter to our conversation.
The thoughts also brought out some misgivings about the upcoming time with family. Traditions and rituals that have existed for years have now become mandatory steps rather than joy-filled expressions of love and celebration.
So, I asked the question, how can we honor the traditions of our past while embracing the future by creating new traditions?
Traditions serve an important purpose. They are reminders. They remind us of special events. They remind us of special relationships.
But what happens when our traditions don’t make room for new events or new relationships? Or even worse, what happens when we go through the ritual but don’t actually remember why?
As a parent with young kids, my life is marked by newness. Every day my almost-two-year old son throws out a new vocabulary word. My four-year old daughter asks questions about the differences between girls and boys, particularly around bath time. I’m forced to expect the unexpected.
Do you think my traditions have remained completely intact? No! My children have forced me to change my rituals and routines (and textbook answers to life’s questions) in order to keep up with them.
I still remember with great fondness the Christmas seasons of my childhood – the unwrapping of presents at home, then a trip to one set of grandparents, a special breakfast at my great grandmother’s , and then ending at my other grandparents. I still share stories from those days.
But I’m trading in my old traditions in order to create new traditions with my kids today because my relationships with them are more important than holding to old rituals. The “why” behind those childhood traditions is still met but in other ways. Interestingly, the “why” for creating new traditions is the same – to remind my family of the importance of the event (and person) of Christmas and the relationships that surround it.
As you live out your Christmas traditions, don’t forget to honor the past but make room for the events and relationships of your future.
What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?