Making Your Own Traditions (And Being Okay With It)
I remember when Ryan and I were planning our wedding. I wasn’t interested in wearing a veil, holding the ceremony in any sort of religious space, or reading “traditional” vows, which seemed to raise a few eyebrows - if not some questions - here and there. Even the sales girl at a bridal shop pushed to put that dang veil on my head while trying on dresses, despite my clear and vocal position against it. I found myself thinking, “why are people pushing these “traditional” wedding things on us? And whose traditions are they anyway!? That’s not OUR tradition... we’ve never done this before!”
Now I find myself wondering: how do you define your family’s traditions, when your family is just starting out and doesn’t yet have traditions of its own?
Certainly we could each bring our own family of origin traditions along to our chosen or created family. But for me, I get held up with forcing an old set of traditions into a new belief system and evolved set of values. And in some ways, leaving those old traditions in the past is healing and freeing for me in the wake of overcoming a difficult childhood. As an adult, I get to choose what part of my past becomes part of my future - and my family.
Knowing that I get to choose my partner in life and together we get to choose what our family traditions look like is an incredible feeling (albeit sometimes overwhelming) and an honor. So, despite the day-to-day influence and occasional suggestions here and there from well-meaning relatives, we’ve been making it up as we go along.
We celebrate Christmas every year in a small, intimate and thoughtful way. This is the first year that our oldest (just turned 3) is really old enough to start to understand what all the holiday season excitement is about. But, he’s not behaving to impress Santa, he doesn’t receive a mountain of presents under the tree every year, and I’m certain he’d stare back blankly if you asked him who Jesus is. And we make no apologies for those things.
In fact, we almost hold some sense of pride in them. For us, Christmas isn’t about Santa, presents or religion, although those elements will certainly serve their purpose at the right time and place. We will talk about the spirit of Santa in giving to others as we adopt a family for Christmas and include our kids in the process of shopping for them every year. We practice the 4 gift rule where everyone gets one thing they want, one thing they need, one thing they wear, one thing they read. And we will likely attend some sort of non-denominational church service some years in the interest of being part of our community and in sharing the theoretical idea of religion with our kids, even though we don’t practice any organized belief system. Of course we throw in the little fun stuff too, like decorating our Christmas tree, drinking hot cocoa in front of the fire, playing in the snow, and baking some yummy treats together. Mostly, it’s about being together and taking care of each other.
Years from now when our kids have gone off and started families of their own I know that they too will pick and choose the pieces they would like to continue with and marry them with their own, new family traditions. I can’t wait to see how beautifully all those new and old traditions come together to create their own magic some day.
And when that day comes, when they look back on the holidays growing up, I want them to remember the spirit of the season, to be able to actually feel the warmth in our home, the magic in the air, and the love in our hearts. For us, those are the things that matter. Those are the things that will last.
Finding the strength and the courage to walk away from things that no longer serve me has been an invaluable and empowering practice - both in building new traditions and in life in general. Give yourself permission to make some waves, stray from the norms, and start creating new traditions in your own family this year. The risk is so, so worth it.
How do you celebrate traditions now the you are a mother? Do you incorporate ones from your own childhood, your partner's or do you prefer to make up your own? Please share in the comments below!