Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Okay to Give Up Traditions. Really.

I'm trying to decide if I'm weird. My girls were watching a Christmas movie the other day where some tragedy was happening (I wasn't paying close attention) and they weren't going to be able to do something that they always did at Christmas -- and the whole family was absolutely despondent that Christmas was now ruined. And I'm thinking, Seriously? It's not like Christmas doesn't happen every single year. You can do it again next year. Buck up. I mean, a little disappointment, yes -- but a ruined Christmas?

For some reason, the idea that someday, we won't be doing Christmas at Grandma and Grandpa's house came up this year, and my girls find that quite upsetting (and even Hubby, to an extent). "It won't be Christmas if we're not with the whole family opening presents at Grandma and Grandpa's!"  Uh . . . yes, folks, it most certainly will be. Not that I don't enjoy our Christmases in Lindsborg with Hubby's family, but Christmas will most certainly not be ruined when that tradition has to end. That tradition does not define Christmas for me.

Maybe I feel differently because of my own family Christmases. We had our traditions, but we often mixed it up, too. In fact, for most of my life, we haven't celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day. One of my sisters put her foot down one year and said she was done trying to decide which family to be with (or trying to get to both families in one day); her brood was not leaving the house on Christmas Day. We could have them before or after -- take it or leave it. (Wise woman, she was . . . )

So we usually celebrated on Christmas Eve or the day after. It was a bit disappointing the first year (because I was pretty young), but I quickly got over it when I realized everything was still just as fun . . . just on a different day.

My mom, also, was one to try new things a lot. Let's put the tree here this year. Let's have barbecue brisket for dinner this time. (That one became a yearly tradition 'cause we all liked it so much.) Let's make this craft with the grandkids after dinner. One year she bent a hanger into a wreath shape and stuck peppermint candies on it where you could just pull one off at any time to eat, and she offered mints to everyone who came in the door all season. I loved that.

And actually, it's the different things we did that I remember the most. The year mom put only the top half of the tree up on a table with the gifts around it so the then-tiny grandkids couldn't get into it. The year my sisters, their husbands, and I went to see "Superman" on Christmas afternoon while mom and dad stayed with the napping grandkids (THAT was so cool!). The year we prepared music ahead of time and did a little concert for each other (that one didn't catch on . . . but it was memorable!).

Several years ago, for a reason I don't recall now, my whole family met in Kansas City for Christmas. We went ice skating and opened gifts in one of our hotel suites. One year, we spent Christmas Eve at a sister's house and had cheese soup and home-made donuts. And I have vague memories of a Christmas Eve when I was very young that we spent at a downtown church listening to a big choir concert -- something I was too young to appreciate then but would love to do now.

THOSE Christmases I remember. The rest of them are a muddled memory of sameness.  Don't get me wrong -- very enjoyable and happy sameness. I still treasure those times. But it was when we were willing to, "just for this year", give up something we always did and try something new that Christmas was really special. By NO means, was it ruined. Sheesh.

We had friends in Missouri who packed up one year and spent Christmas in New York City -- just their family. And they all LOVED it. It sounded like so much fun! Maybe I can talk my family into that one year.

But . . . I kind of doubt it.

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