Traditions

posted by Andrea | 12/23/2013

The Dekker Traditions

If you’re like me (or another crazy musical lover), you’ll probably read the title of this post and immediately clap, throw your hands up in the air, and started singing the “Traditions” song from Fiddler On The Roof.

If you’re like all the other normal people who have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read the lyrics AND watch a video clip of that song here.

OK, now onto the point of the post — TRADITIONS — specifically holiday traditions. 

santa hats

I love traditions, but…

I’m a huge fan of traditions all year long, especially around the holidays as they often do help to simplify some areas of life.

BUT (and this is a BIG BUT) I only like traditions if they work with our current family, our current stage of life, our current budget, and our current interests. And I’m definitely not afraid to stop or alter a specific tradition if it stops working for us.

In other words, I’m not always going to mindlessly do something JUST BECAUSE “that’s the way we’ve always traditionally done it”. 

For example:

I’m not going to bust my butt hauling out all the Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving (or whatever the “traditional” day is for your family) just because that’s what I’m supposed to do or what I’ve traditionally done in the past. Yes, I love the look of festive holiday decor and a twinkling tree, but it’s certainly not something I need to put pressure on myself for or stress out trying to cram one more thing into a certain specific day if I’m already busy with other things that day.

I’m not going to beat myself up if I ever decide not to send out a holiday card. Yes, I LOVE sending (and receiving) holiday cards each year, but if the time comes when that’s not something I have time, or money, or the desire to do, that’s fine. I can skip a year without “ruining the tradition” forever.

I’m not going to feel pressured into going on a special holiday vacation (or spring break vacation) JUST because that’s what everyone else does — or just because we’ve done it in the past. If we have a place to go and have the money to go there, then we’ll go. If not, we’ll stay home and have a lovely break sleeping in and doing things around our house and our city.

I’m not going to freak out if we change the date or location of a holiday party — or quit getting together with certain people due to proximity or becoming too large of a group. Yes, I love holiday parties, seeing extended family, and reconnecting with old friends; but there comes a point when everyones’ own personal families start getting too big and either the party location has to change (my mom’s extended family now meets in a church) or the party just stops. Either is OK… as I realize we literally can’t keep having holiday parties with 4th cousins with 300 people there :)

These are just a FEW examples from my own life — I could go on and on and on if you really want me to!

But I think you get the idea.

Traditions are fun, I love them, and I think they DO help to make our lives (and our children’s lives) more special — especially during the holiday season.

However, more and more, I keep hearing other say things like:

“Ugg, we HAVE to do ______ today, just because that’s what we’ve always done.”

“We always do _____ even though we technically can’t afford it anymore.”

“I hate doing ______ but we always do it, so I just put on a smile and go with the flow.”

In those types of situations, I feel like traditions are NOT fun, or special, or helpful, or meaningful.

Yes, I realize that as adults, we often do things we don’t necessarily want to do — specifically when it’s fun traditions our children might look forward to but we don’t particularly love (like decorating Christmas cookies with small children who make a huge mess!) However, I also think that there comes a point when certain traditions become more hassle than they are worth.

And when this happens, I’m 100% OK with changing things up, stopping an old tradition, trying something new, and maybe even finding a new tradition we like even better.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, Dave and I don’t particularly have any set-in-stone traditions that we do every single year. We DO have lots of fun holiday things we do each year to make the season special for us, for Nora, for family, and for friends — but at this point, we don’t limit ourselves or stress out about doing something the exact same way year after year after year “just because”.

In fact, this year, we randomly decided to let Nora open her presents this past weekend — mainly because we’ll either be with other family members or gone for most of Christmas break — and we wanted her to open her gifts with just Dave and I.

It was SO fun, she loved her 3 simple gifts, and I’m certain she will not be scarred for life due to the fact that we didn’t open presents on Christmas morning.

very hungry caterpillar shaker eggs underwear

So as you potentially “go through the motions” of another Christmas season, stop and think if your traditions are still fun and meaningful for you and your family. If not, be brave and suggest that you try something new this year (or at least next year!)

What are your thoughts on traditions?

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31 comments

  1. Susan Duke

    12/23/2013

    I didnt do anythong on time this year the elf came out late in which i told my daughter(3years) that her elf had to helo Santa make her toys! The Christmas tree went up yesterday! I usually do so much more but ive been soo busy and i suck with time management.. next year and i know this sounds crazy im gonna make a holiday time line. There are so many things i want to start doing before she grows up and doesn’t believe anymore. Time goes by so fast! But the one tradition i kept was my daughter puts the first decoration and the angel on the tree. nd christmas eve we will bake cookies for us and Santa. I was cosumed this year… and i hated that i didnt take the time.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I love the fact that even though you brought the tree out later this year, you still followed the simple tradition of letting your daughter put the first ornament on. She will most definitely remember that much more than the exact date the tree went up.

    Don’t beat yourself up over not doing everything the same as last year — no one else probably even notices!

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  2. Erin

    12/23/2013

    Thank you for posting this. I feel very alone because of some of the choices we’ve made concerning Christmas this year.

    We have a one year old. We decided not to put up our tree because he would destroy it.
    We also do not regularly send out Christmas cards. I’m often made to feel guilty because of this (no more!)
    We are also taking it VERY easy this Christmas as I have been unemployed doing my student teaching to finish up my teaching certification. I went to some of our local consignment shops and got used gifts for my boys (I think I might MAKE this a tradition, though – it was fun to recycle).

    A very Merry Christmas to you and yours!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for not sending Christmas cards — that’s so NOT a big deal and has nothing to do with the meaning of Christmas!

    And Dave and I were also just talking about how this is probably the most relaxing Christmas break and holiday season we’ve had since we got married. That’s a good think for us as we’re able to enjoy everything more that way!

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  3. Helen C

    12/23/2013

    I love that you make everything simple and focussed on your family. When we got married 15 years ago we set the rule that it was just us, in our house, Christmas morning until noon. We would drive after that. It is so nice to have calm and quiet and no outside influences so we could make our own traditions. Yes, we still follow the ones my parents created when we immigrated to Canada when I was two (like stockings before breakfast and books left by Santa in the tree that we “find” after supper) but now we have our own and we love spending time with just the tree of us Christmas morning.

    Merry Christmas to you, Dave and Nora!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Helen — I do try pretty hard to keep things as simple as possible, because I know from lots of experience that’s how we like it best and that’s how we are the happiest. We do still follow some traditions — but more and more lately, I’ve been noticing that there are many “traditions” that we don’t particularly love. Those are the ones we’re slowing dropping right now — and hopefully in the future, we’ll have the time and space to create some new traditions with our growing family!

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  4. Susan Young

    12/23/2013

    Nora wearing her big girl panties over her jammies is just too cute! I have six little GrandBoys (not a girl in the group!) so I love seeing all the pics of Nora and have kinda adopted her as my “Cyber GrandGirl” (hope you don’t mind). I love her new kitchen and would love to play with her in her new space! I raised a family of three girls and one boy ~ the three girls have given me the three GrandBoys and my son hasn’t given Grammy “anyone new to love” yet! Anyway, regarding family traditions. When my husband passed away suddenly I retired and sold our big family home and moved near the beach. Then we didn’t have any place large enough to get together as a family as my daughter’s homes are not at all large. So now I rent an off-season beach home (super deal!) ~ this year we are going for three nights and four days after Christmas. The house has 7 bedrooms and 5 baths so we’ll have lots of room to spread out yet be together. We have certain rituals that have no deviation even if we are getting together after Christmas. First is on whatever night is our “Christmas Eve” we have a dinner of appetizers and snacks. Each family brings at least two of their favs and Grammy always has a huge plate of Christmas cookies. We always have a Cookie Decorating Contest. I bake sugar cookies (unfrosted) and bring them and all sorts of decorating goodies and we have prizes for such categories as “Most Frosting” (because some of the participants are less than five years old) but my oldest SIL wins every year in the “Best Looking Cookie” category. Also our “Christmas Day Dinner” (whenever we eat it!) HAS to be Barbequed Beef Brisket. I’m a native Kansan so a holiday meal must include beef! My grown kids would not attend I don’t think if we didn’t have brisket. While it is cooking we open our gifts and have to smell the beef cooking. By the time we eat ~ everyone is starving. It’s fun as a Mother and now Grandmother to see that the traditions we started when I was a young mother are so important to my kids especially now that they are parents. Merry Christmas to you and your family! Susan Young

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha — thanks Susan. Nora actually has ONLY boy cousins right now (with a new baby boy cousin and brother on the way) so she’s definitely outnumber — but also a teeny bit spoiled by her grandmas :) You may gladly “adopt her” to spoil too!

    Love the beach house tradition and I’m sure your kids love the mini vacation!

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  5. Lety

    12/23/2013

    Hi, Andrea! Our traditions had always involved my side of the family. However, due to various circumstances, these have not been possible the last few years. It was heart wrenching for me not be with my family on late Christmas Eve (which was the time of the core of our traditions). But then it hit me…my husband and I can have new traditions. Starting these has been so much fun. While I still miss our old traditions, I feel so very grateful to have my husband with whom to share the new ones. It’s so true we have traditions so stuck in our minds that we don’t realize other activities or ways of doing things are options. We need to keep an open mind.

    Merry Christmas to the the three of you :)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Exactly! I’ve found that sometimes new traditions can be even better than the old ones. Plus, it’s been fun for Dave and I to “do our own thing” instead of everything our parents and grandparents did year after year.

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  6. Erin

    12/23/2013

    My husband and I have always spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family, mostly because his family lives too far away to see at Christmas. This year, however, we decided to fly out to spend Christmas with his family, which means it’s the first Christmas in 32 years that I won’t be spending with my side of the family. (Talk about not following a tradition!) We still had a get together with everyone on my side of the family; it was just a few days earlier than usual. I’m grateful that my husband gets a chance to see his family for the holiday and that my family is understanding of changing things up this year.

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  7. Jen

    12/23/2013

    Hi, Andrea! As a parent of three young boys, I’ve learned that the best ‘traditions’ for us are the ones that are meaningful to the kids. I come from a big Italian family so Christmas Eve was always The Feast of Seven Fishes. When we moved away from the coast and fresh seafood became scarce, we made pizzas for Christmas Eve dinner. The next year, my kids asked to do that again, hence our family tradition of homemade pizza on Christmas Eve! Making cookies on their first day home for winter break and using up leftover egg nog in our pancakes on New years Day are two more that didn’t mean much to me the first time we did them but turned out to mean something to the kids and have become our ‘traditions’. These are not the traditions I thought we would have (meaning the ones that were mine as a child or my husband’s) but they are even sweeter because they are specific to us. Happy Holidays to all!

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  8. Jacquie

    12/23/2013

    Love the Fiddler reference. You are not the only musical nerd out there!

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  9. Amanda

    12/23/2013

    Love, LOvE, love Nora’s gifts and the pics :) Here’s to potty training! Fun, Fun! It’s fun to read about your traditions as well as the other comments. I have a newly blended family. My Husband and I both each have a child from another marriage as well as my Husband’s Step-Daughter who is a big part of our family. With ages 15, 11 and 4(and a half..which we are quickly corrected on frequently by the little guy) it has been a fun first year of blending our family, learning about each other’s traditions and incorporating them in to our new life together! Merry CHIRSTmas :)

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  10. Abbey

    12/23/2013

    I love her wearing her little underwear over the pjs! Nora is just so sweet and full of life. Merry Christmas to your family!

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  11. Deni

    12/23/2013

    Thank you for posting about this, Andrea! We have been scrambling around every Christmas eve, going to our “traditional” Christmas parties with extended family, and quite honestly it’s exhausting and not fun anymore. My mother can’t understand why we just want to stay home. No offense to anyone, but we really don’t see most of these extended family members throughout the year, and everyone seems to group with their own family when we eat. And yes, we have to go to a church banquet hall now because the party has grown so big. We just want to start our own traditions, at home whether they are big or small but without offending anyone. To me, simple is always better. Thanks for all of your inspiration throughout the year.
    Merry Christmas to you, Dave and Nora!

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  12. Melissa

    12/23/2013

    We normally put our full sized (artificial) Christmas tree up sometime in early December. This year our situation is not as it normally is (we are in the middle of fixing up the house we bought so that we can move from our condo to the house and everything is more or less in boxes) so we couldn’t see sticking with that tradition with everything else in chaos. Instead we pulled out our 12 inch fiber optic tree and that is it for the decorating we’ve done. It’s really the only thing that makes sense this year. We also decided not to make Christmas cookies like we normally do (besides the recipe, the cutters and the sheets are all packed!)

    My husband and I also normally exchange a few gifts but this year we are fixing the house so we cut the gift giving way down this year with eachother.

    I’m quite certain that the changes we made this year will make us enjoy the holiday more, not less, given our current circumstance. Next year we’ll probably resume our traditions as normal if life allows. :)

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  13. Lisa

    12/23/2013

    I love what you said but once your kids get used to certain things it’s hard to let them be disappointed. I have a child that really likes things to be exactly the same very year. When she was young I had to remember exactly how I cut her sandwich or other benign things like that because once I did something that was how she liked it. She thrived on things being exactly what she expected.

    Now that she is older it’s a lot easier to look her in the eye and say “I just can’t”. She lived through the year there were no outside decorations because my husband was away with the military and I just could not face it on my own but when she was little it was very different.

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  14. Lea Stormhammer

    12/23/2013

    Every year we bake cookies, decorate the tree while listening to Christmas music, and attend Candlelight service on Christmas Eve. We also have the same dinner on Christmas Eve (Swedish Meatballs) and Christmas Day (Seafood Chowder) every year.

    We try to put the tree up on the 3rd Sunday in Advent but that doesn’t always work – as long as it’s up before Christmas we’re good! The tree stays up until at least January 6 (Epiphany), sometimes later. No set times for baking cookies and sometimes I bake them ahead and we just decorate them. I can also make both meals ahead and just reheat them on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve.

    We had one year where we went to Disney World for Christmas – as our present to all of us. We had one gift for each child to open on Christmas Day there (slippers) but that was it and we didn’t do any of our other “traditions” each year.

    Hurray for keeping it simple and do-able!
    Merry Christmas Andrea!
    Lea

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  15. Beth

    12/23/2013

    Well, we are setting new traditions this year for sure. Only one of our 3 daughters is able to make it home for Christmas. I got the flu and the tree is still not up.. In fact, my sweet husband suggested we not worry with all the trimmings this year and focus on my getting healthy, finishing my quilt projects for customers, and family time with our daughter. He put up a small display tree we use in the front window for us.

    Oh, and our daughter got home last night to a mother who she couldn’t hug for fear of germifying her with the flu, a thoroughly messy house (I’ve been quilting and being sick….house was on hold), and not tree…..after about a half hour she said, “I guess we are not having a tree this year”. She is handling it very well! Wait until she realizes there will not be a stocking either!

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  16. Karen

    12/23/2013

    I really love your daughter’s piggy pjs! Merry Christmas & thanks for posting. I’m cutting back this holiday season because I have been overwhelmed. Maybe next year I’ll do more, or maybe I’ll keep it simple. I am perhaps being positively influenced by your blog. Thanks again!

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  17. Amanda

    12/23/2013

    I love that you gave Nora underwear! Our little guy will be 2 in 2 weeks, and he’s getting a potty :)

    My husband and I have had a tradition since we got married about doing a nice dinner and opening our gifts on Christmas Eve after church (of course our little guy is also now included). The main reason is that our parents both live within 5mi of us, so we go to both of their houses on Christmas, and then we also do some traveling to see extended family in Dec, but Christmas Eve is a time set aside just for us. I like it because it gives us some time to enjoy each other without the rushing around. Also, it means that some of the first presents we open are from each other, rather than other people.

    We started a new tradition this year – no set date, but I just picked a night that we had nothing going on, we hopped in the car, I made a special snack for the little guy, and we drove around looking at Christmas lights and listening to Christmas music. It was fun, and it only took about 90min.

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  18. Kim

    12/23/2013

    I agree with you 100%!

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  19. Julia

    12/23/2013

    My husband and I were having a discussion about Christmas traditions last night. Our eldest son (23) and his girlfriend live with her family but they want to come to our house and stay overnight tonight so they can be here in the morning when our youngest three (12,9 and 5) wake up. They have done this every Christmas. We have already said to them that if grandkids ever come along, we don’t want to tie them to an obligation of where they HAVE to come to ours on a set day for a set meal over Christmas. In today’s day and age, young families need “chill out” time and time to “just be”. I really feel for all the families driving all around the place to ‘tick the boxes” with various relatives on Christmas Day. When a tradition becomes an obligation – it’s time to kiss it goodbye :)

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  20. Allison

    12/23/2013

    I love the big girl undies OVER the jammies look! Too cute. That can be a new annual tradition until you hear “oh mommmmmm….”
    all the best to you & the family

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  21. Tracy

    12/23/2013

    It’s so lovely to read about your happy family and holiday traditions. My abusive ex-husband ruined so many Christmases, with me trying to pretend everything was ok….but my now grown-up son is helping me celebrate again this year, I think I’ll make him a little album of some of the fun cute things he did as a child to look at on Christmas Day!

    Merry Christmas and every good wish for 2014…

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  22. Amber

    12/23/2013

    I think this is a wonderful family tradition. We live far far into the country, but if I lived somewhere this was possible I think it is an awesome idea for age appropriate children.

    http://womenlivingwell.org/2013/12/dread-drained-depressed-delight-at-christmas/

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  23. Aa.

    12/25/2013

    I completely agree.

    I prefer making tradition out of moments rather than things. I mean, it is a tradition to go in the first snow out, to go caroling or to phone-carol those who are not near us, to watch the Chriostmas decorations in our town, to drink a traditional hot-wine-beverage, to put up our Christmas tree (which is like the size of my arm and does not cost me a penny because i use the same decoration every year) and other things like that than to buy and spend money on objects that are bought just to fill a gift bag.

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  24. Kathy

    12/26/2013

    Well, after 60 years, my aunt started this when I was a child, my family Christmas Eve Wassail party has just got out of hand. Our immediate family (5 children (with 4 spouses) and, 5 grandchildren and 5 step grandchildren and 2 parents went from 14 last year to 22 this year. Additional guests a niece, husband and two children and a few drop ins during the night. I can’t do it anymore, it’s just too much. Buying 44 gifts, wrapping, preparing food (lots of help from the girls but I still have to do a lot of it).

    I hate to give up this long tradition and we do have a large house but after Tuesday night I know I have to make some changes, I just don’t know what and it isn’t going to make anyone happy. Two of the families live 2 hours east, 1 family 2 hours south one 30 minutes south and one 6 hours west (mostly NC, TN and SC)

    I would welcome suggestions as to what tradition we might start. None of the families involved have a house large enough for everyone so moving it won’t work. I need ideas!

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  25. Lizanne

    12/26/2013

    Yes, Andrea, that song popped into my head as soon as I saw the subject of your email… I’m glad I’m not alone!
    Completely agree with your thoughts on traditions, and not making them more of a ‘chore’ than a cherished activity. Sometimes it can be hard to ‘break the mold’ when there are older relatives who are invested in things being a certain way, but it’s better to save your sanity, and to focus on what the holidays are truly about–spending time with those we care about and being grateful for what we have.

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  26. Tracy

    12/27/2013

    My new thrifty tradition is not buying ‘luxury’ treats until 2 days after Christmas when they are all half-price…there’s plenty of food and leftovers from the Christmas dinner until then, and the treats are something to look forward to going into the new year : )

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