It’s the holiday season, and our family has so many Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions that we hold dear. I am sure many of you do, too, and it is so fun to hear of others’ traditions to share and sometimes adopt! As the years go on, we’ve become more and more protective of our family traditions for many reasons. And this year, with a new home and new town, we will ensure that our traditions, while maybe a little modified, are as intact as possible.
First and foremost, it’s such a source of comfort for everyone in our family. Even with the world changing around us and the kids growing up way too fast, they can count on our traditions to give them a grounded sense of peace during the holidays. No last minute plans or stress – we all know exactly what to expect in the best way.
It also gives us something to look forward to as the air gets chilly and the cozy sweaters are dusted off. Instead of falling into the holiday chaos, having a sense of structure encourages us to think back on past years. (It feels like just yesterday Ryan needed to stand on a chair to reach the counter, and now he’s baking cookies all on his own – many, many cookies!)
And there’s an excitement to it too! I’m sure you all have moments you look forward to with your family every year. Keeping traditions is making a promise to yourself that you will be able to revisit those memories together.
Traditions also help us create a family identity. There’s a sense of pride in saying, “This is what we do every year.” But it’s not only limited to your immediate family. We’ve loved sharing our traditions with close friends and extended family. Plus, it opens up great conversations for us to learn about other people’s traditions as well.
Our Christmas Eve tradition, for example, is to join our friends for Mass and then go out to our favorite restaurant for dinner. One year we almost canceled because I had a terrible cold, but the kids wouldn’t have it- so I grabbed my tissues and a cup of tea and off we went. We always end the night, just the five of us, exchanging gifts with each other- it’s our most favorite and heartwarming night of the year!
One thing I should note is that traditions are best when they include everyone in the family and each person has a role. Our kids take pride in their roles each year, and it helps our whole family work together as a team. For example -- Each year when we cut down the Christmas tree, I complain of the cold, Mike measures the prospective tree with his outstretched arms, Katie doesn’t like any tree but her own, and Brennan and Ryan roll around on the ground helping Mike cut it down, then dutifully hike the tree onto their shoulders and march it out of the woods.
But of course, the most important thing about traditions is bringing your family together. Whether it’s an annual holiday tradition like decorating the house or a weekly tradition like getting donuts together after church, continuing traditions is a way of showing each other that we each value and prioritize our family.
And in a world where family is often sacrificed, there’s no better time to put family first.
All of this is to say: Protect your traditions. Celebrate your traditions. And maybe even create some new ones! We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, A Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!