Seasons. By now, you’ve probably realized how important I think it is to evaluate what your current season is. And that’s because it affects pretty much everything.
Creating new traditions is one of those things. There are a lot of reasons you might be in the season of needing or wanting to create new traditions.
I’ve been through several in my life. My father and grandmother died within three months of each other, so Thanksgiving and Christmas were inevitably different after that. My grandmother was the person who hosted Thanksgiving and held all of the family branches together. Sometimes traditions are inexorably tied to one person. The Creator, or perhaps the Initiator. Without them, it fades away and is unsustainable for whatever reason.
When my mother moved a few hours away, and my brother got married, traditions had to shift or be created anew again. I got married and had children and even though we’ve been married for 5 years, (I can’t believe it’s been that long already!) we are still working to create our own family traditions and culture.
When we first got married, I remember feeling this pressure to come up with ALL the traditions all at once. What would we do with the kids? (even though we didn’t have any yet). How would we celebrate all the holidays, what would we do for birthdays?
SO MANY THINGS. The options are endless and overwhelming. And at that point you are still learning about each other and what your new family looks like and what your family culture is.
It takes time to learn and figure out those things. It takes experimentation. Sometimes you have to try something and see if you like it and if you don’t, be ok with chucking it.
Our bent towards comparison and pressure to create Pinterest worthy memories, makes us feel like we have to have it all together. Our holidays have to match some imagined expectation. We have to do the huge cool Advent calendar with all the cute little ornaments hidden inside, or the elaborate themed birthday parties for the kids with all the matching decorations, food, and favors.
I know I harp on You Being You, but it’s so important, especially in creating meaningful traditions that reflect your family culture and personalities.
You may be super crafty and the huge Advent calendar or the big themed birthday party are right up your alley and delight you. AWESOME! Feel free to make me one while you’re at it!
Or you may be a musical family, or an adventure and experiences family, or love reading and board games, or any other combination of things. EVERY family is different. We are all given the unique puzzle pieces of personalities and people that are ours to work with. To build on and create something with.
YOU DO YOU
The point isn’t to take all the other cool ideas you see and try to fit yourself into them. It’s to use all the other cool ideas for inspiration, filter out what doesn’t fit your personality or family culture, and then pick the ones you love the best and that FIT IN YOUR SEASON OF LIFE RIGHT NOW.
There is a time and place for Christmas caroling, and doing a big cookie exchange, but if you are pregnant or have a new baby, this year may not be it.
There’s also this pressure (at least for me) to find the perfect tradition and then do it every year for the rest of time, Amen. But that doesn’t allow for the changing of seasons, kids development and interests, family growing and/or shrinking.
Traditions can be flexible, adapted, put down and picked back up later, or quit altogether. Don’t paint yourself into a corner and feel like you have to keep doing something that isn’t bringing you and your family joy.
And let’s not get too serious with it. Some of the best traditions are the ones that started spontaneously, sometimes as a result of a difficult circumstance or having to adapt to something last minute. I place in evidence, the Thanksgiving episode of This Is Us. The worst Thanksgiving EVER turned into some of their most cherished traditions. (If you haven’t seen the series, it’s sooo good but just know going in that you’ll shed buckets of tears.)
In the end, it’s not so much about the tradition itself, as it is about the intentionality of being together. So please, give yourself grace and the space to let them grow.
Here are some ideas that might help:
1. FIRST decide on your priorities
What do you and your family enjoy doing? What is important to you? What personalities are reflected in your home and how can you respect/reflect that in the traditions you choose?
2. Get some inspiration
Maybe you feel stuck and are having a hard time figuring out what you might want to do. I’ve found that reading/listening about other people’s traditions can give me inspiration to think outside of the box, and come up with things I may not have thought about on many own. Just MAKE SURE you did step 1 first. Otherwise you’re going to be overwhelmed and feel like you should do everything. Be choosy about what fits your family.
3. Assess your season.
I know I talk about this a lot too, but use the printable and do a quick check to see what kind of season you are in before spending time deciding on a bunch of traditions that may fit your family but not your season.
4. Pick a few to try
Start small. Don’t try to do and change everything all at once. Pick a handful, maybe spread them out over the year, so instead of 3 Christmas ones, pick a Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday, 4th of July, etc…. Less overwhelming and more manageable.
5. Evaluate them
After Thanksgiving is over, spend a few minutes and write out what went well, what recipes you liked or didn’t like, what you thought of a new tradition you tried. Do you want to scrap it, or just tweak it? Doing this now while it’s fresh in your mind will help you so much next year when Thanksgiving is approaching and you’re trying to remember all these things. Spoiler. You won’t. Trust me. (You can write it in your bullet journal, have a holiday folder, notes on your computer, whatever works for you as long as you know where to find it)
6. Be intentional about your time
There are ways to add little traditions, little intentional present pauses into our lives without it requiring a lot of time, effort, and craft glue.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the mundane grind, putting one foot in front of the other, drifting through life and going through the motions. We don’t realize the pockets of opportunities we might have to do something a little special or have a little fun.
Sometimes, just putting down the phone, or closing the computer and being present with the people we love can give us some of the same benefits of traditions. Intentional time spent with family.
See where you are already spending time and think if there is a way to spend it more intentionally or with a bit more fun together.
I started realizing that we tend to just float around in the evenings, not really spending any intentional time together. It’s an area we are working on, but it’s not perfect and we are still trying to figure it out. Finding our rhythm, what it looks like in the world of working from home. Where are the boundaries and how to we do this?
Some things we are planning on trying out are having board game evenings, or going for walks together, or reading aloud with hot chocolate as it gets colder.
I’m having tea time with the kids some mornings and I started baking something with them once a week or so. Every so often we’ll do a picnic breakfast at the park if Daddy is going to be gone early. Sometimes the intentional time just looks like drawing or doing puzzles with them because that’s all I’m up for that day.
It doesn’t have to be anything big, or time consuming, or involve lots of craft supplies. Our lives are made up of the little moments. And all the little ways, the little choices we make to be present with our people will add up.
I hope this helps you to breathe a little more deeply this holiday season. Let the tension seep out and instead of taking it so seriously, have a little fun with it. Give yourself permission to experiment, try things out, and take your time. See what fits, tweak it if you want, and chuck what doesn’t work for you.
Practice being mindful, noticing, and just being with your family. That’s really what counts the most.
I’d love to hear what traditions you are creating!
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