Before we had a family, Christmas consisted of cramming as much visiting and food into 48 hrs as humanly possible. We were driving an absurd amount trying to fit everyone in to our tight schedule. It was exhausting and super emotionally charged. Once we had our own family, it became clear that our old traditions stopped working. I remember wondering one Christmas day when my daughter was a baby, “Why did I just drive an hour to my family celebration to nurse my child in a room by myself on Christmas day?” It didn’t feel very festive. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just time to make traditions that reflected my new season of life.
At first, we didn’t know how to change them without hurting people’s feelings or feeling like we were missing out on what was important. But when we started talking to our family about it, everyone was quite understanding and we eventually came up with a few solutions that felt right.
The first thing we did was extend the season of celebrating. It took so much pressure off and also gave us more to look forward to over the month. Food even tasted better when it became spread out over several events, rather than 3 back to back turkey dinners. We started new traditions like our Sibling Christmas dinner one week before the big day. We also invited people to our house when possible. And we learned that it was actually nice to be able to enjoy Christmas day with the 4 of us. After all, we were a family now too! It was so wonderful to be able to slowly savour the excitement of Christmas day when we didn’t have to rush off anywhere. We could stay in our pajamas, play together, and watch the snow fall where it may without having to go anywhere.
If you are looking to make changes to the way you celebrate, here are some ideas to help you sort it all out:
- Reflect on what events/celebrations actually bring you joy. Ask your partner and kids how they feel too! Pare down what you will attend by offering to alternate years with people (ex, this year you will go to your parents, next year your partner’s parents).
- Try spacing out events over the course of the month and if possible, only commit to one event per weekend (Especially if you have any introverts in your family!)
- Keep a list this year of what worked and what didn’t and remember to read it in November of next year so you can modify your plans (we do this every year and I cannot express how helpful it is!).
- Buck tradition. Tradition shouldn’t be a chain that ties you down, it should be something that brings you happiness and comfort. If it’s time to make a new one, that’s okay! And don’t let the new one be set in stone either. When our children are growing, each phase allows for different possibilities, so it’s natural to need to change things up every few years.
- If your extended family is less than supportive about your new ideas, be gentle but firm. Encourage them to be open to coming up with a new solution. Sometimes people forget how difficult it is carting young children around who are tired and/or over-stimulated from so much excitement! Your family should always be top priority.
- Don’t compare yourself to what other families are able to do. Each family is unique and has different needs and energy levels. Make a plan that feels right for you.
- Make sure you are getting enough rest and taking good care of yourself during the season. Take those supplements, dial UP the self-care (not down!).
Regardless of your reason for celebrating, the Christmas season can be full of warmth, relaxation, and joy if you take a little time to reflect on what works for you and your family! If you keep the focus on the simplicity of being together you will experience all the true magic the season has to offer.