Every year right around November when all of the stores start to decorate for the holidays, something else returns: holiday anxiety. I aimlessly stare at the calendar and think to myself, How are we possibly going to finagle all of the holiday events again this year? From multiple Thanksgiving dinners to office/work parties and to pre-school extravaganzas. Don’t forget about cutting your own tree with the family, baking for multiple cookie exchanges, taking pictures with Santa, and attending every single one of the family holiday parties. All of these things are wonderful but exhausting. This year, I am empowering myself and you to avoid the holiday hullabaloo and start your own traditions.
The ghost of holidays past vs. holidays now
When we first got married and didn’t have kids, being in six places on one holiday was just part of the go-to tradition. Now that we have our own little ones though, driving all over town on these days simply steals the magic from them and us. Putting on smiling faces after a tremendous melt down because nap times were missed seems like a sick joke. Chasing my curious kids around a beautifully decorated, kid-free home and avoiding the glass ornaments from being broken is a huge feat. Pleasing his side and my side of the family induces challenging conversations where one side always loses. Well folks, I’m here to say it: NOT THIS YEAR!
Instead, I am strongly encouraging my family and yours to start your own traditions. Start creating the magic that your kids will remember about your own little family. Rather than my kids remembering all of the arguments their parents had in the car running from one side of town to the other, having to wear fancy, stuffy clothes, and having to pose for every picture, I want them to remember having their mom and dad both home and enjoying the day peacefully.
I’m not saying to skip out on everything holiday-related and leave your extended family high and dry. What I am saying is that it is more than OK to turn down some of the things you’ve gone to for years if they’re no longer working for you, your spouse, and your kids. It is OK to be honest with your family and friends and simply say,”This year we are trying something new. Thank you so much for the invitation, but we are sitting this one out as this is what is best for our family this year.”
Balancing the Yuletide
Putting your own family first during the holiday season may feel hard to do, but it is more about balance than it is about bailing. Maybe inviting your family over on a different day, rather than on the actual holiday, is a better solution? Maybe taking the load off of the elder family members who have always hosted and hosting one of the traditions at your home may be more accommodating for your kids? And for the love of all things cheerful, turn these events into a potluck style situation! Ain’t nobody got time for cooking an entire meal and ensuring that their house is ready to go when they have children! Keep calm; everyone will understand!
Now that you’ve decided to free up your schedule a bit from November-December, what are some NEW traditions that you could start with your spouse and kids? My family and I had an interesting Thanksgiving experience a couple of years ago when it came to food at a family event. My picky eaters (a.k.a. my husband and son) were starving by the time we left the family gathering. Of course, fast food was on their minds, but we live in what some would call a one horse town where those options were closed for the holiday. So, we stopped for slurpees and bread sticks at the local gas station, and we decided we will continue to do this every year.
Another fun idea is to consider local gems. Perhaps visiting Campus Martius in downtown Detroit is a lovely start? Their lighting display and ice skating rink is memorable all in itself! In fact, there are so many free, community events that one could seek out during the holiday season that could easily fit into his or her family’s newfound holiday freedom. For instance, my little family has attended Armada’s Holly Days Tree Lighting and Light Parade hosted by the local Lions Club for the last two years and plan on doing so ever year as long as we are able.
Traditions for the little ones and beyond
When you have small children, keeping it festive at home during the holidays is truly what helps decrease the stressful hullabaloo. A friend of mine recently purchased a pickle ornament for their Christmas tree. They hide it inside their tree on Christmas Eve. Whoever finds the pickle ornament first on Christmas morning gets to begin opening their presents first.
One tradition we have that is 100 percent kid-friendly (and a tad messy): we invite the cousins over to make gingerbread houses a few weeks before Christmas. This allows for way too much candy consumption, a chance to see those that we wouldn’t be able to see in the weeks to come, and just purely enjoy each other’s company. These delicious delights double up as a cute, handmade decoration to keep on display all of December.
Speaking of Christmas, my three-year-old and I started something new last year and made reindeer treats for Santa’s fleet. We threw trail mix in a bag with some left over candy corn from Halloween. This was a simple, fun household hit that we will surely do again.
In addition, we transferred my husband’s long-time family tradition of eating homemade waffles with ice cream from Grandma and Grandpa’s house to ours. We did this in leiu of having to trek it to their house early Christmas morning with the kids. At first, this felt strange, but overall, our parents and siblings very much understood how important it was for us to be home with our kids on Christmas morning instead of out and about.
Just do it!
Be the family who wears the matching jammies and cozy socks. Watch your favorite holiday family movie with a sinful amount of snacks on Christmas Eve. Let the kids sleep in your bed while they wait for Santa. Just keep it small, simple, and intentional. Make traditions that are easy yet lasting.
Cease the holiday!
Ultimately, the key is this: have those difficult conversations with extended family about altering or bailing on the annual traditions before the holidays turn into an annual hullabaloo. If all else fails and you’re feeling uncertain about totally switching things up with your extended family, commit to starting one or two new traditions with your own family unit. Remaining truthful, gentle, and genuine with yourself, your spouse, and your children, and your extended family and friends will make the holidays more memorable for all parties involved.