Join my live money healing and expansion workshop – it’s free! Reserve Your Spot

Some Traditions Are Made To Be Broken.

Some Traditions Header


There’s a tendency around the holidays to fall into the groove of doing the same things every year simply because that’s the way we’ve always done them. My friend Deb Kern beautifully described the way family traditions can bring us stress if we’re not mindful in her recent Blog Babysitter post here on my site.

I’m quite sentimental and I love a good tradition sprinkled here and there. But what makes me feel trapped is doing the same thing year after year without asking if it’s even fun anymore.

Last year Mike and I got married and became a new family unit. With the joys of marriage also come the pressures of trying to split time between multiple family units. When you throw in-laws and multiple family units on each side of the family into the mix this can be challenging.

The year before we got married I’d had a beautiful vision of a New Year’s Eve spent by the fire with a beautiful, home cooked meal, a bottle of champagne, and my fiancé. Because we’d overdone the travel and trying to see too many people in too short of a time frame, we were both passed out by 7pm and I was throwing up every couple of hours. We were sick and exhausted.

We vowed never to do it again. Spreading ourselves too thin and running around trying to please everyone was a tradition we were not interested in making.

So last year we decided to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas just the two of us. It felt radical. It felt risky.

I knew, though, that in our first year as a new family unit I wanted to set the precedent that we were one another’s priority. Instead of disappointing just one part of our family, we decided to disappoint everyone. At least that way it was equal across the board.

We wanted to start our marriage by putting our marriage first, not the needs of our families. It may sound insensitive but we both knew that we didn’t want to set the precedent of running around trying to make everyone else happy while we felt tired and resentful.

There were several times that we almost ended up breaking our promise to one another and going to the events we’d always gone to because saying no doesn’t always feel good. Nobody loves the feeling of disappointing others.

If we run around trying to please everyone else, we often end up disappointing ourselves. {TWEET IT}


If we run around trying to please - Tweet


Mike and I wanted to start the tradition of being together and feeling freedom around the holidays, not feeling stress and obligation.

It was a beautiful, quiet holiday. I made a ton of food. We didn’t exchange gifts, but instead savored the day together.

This year we’re excited to create new memories with our baby girl. And we’ll give ourselves permission to update our rituals as often as necessary to keep them fun and relevant.

Whatever your family traditions, now is a good time to ask yourself if you actually enjoy them.

Are you going to your mother’s house for dinner because you love it or because you’d feel guilty if you didn’t?

Do you relish going to the neighbor’s Christmas Eve gathering or are you just going because that’s what you do every year and it’s never occurred to you to do something else?

If you love your traditions, keep them going! But if you don’t, give yourself permission to break them.

You may very well disappoint someone. But there’s no real gift in being present when you’d rather not be there.

This year, why not give yourself and those in your life the gift of honoring what feels good and true by keeping only the traditions that truly nourish you?

Now that would be something worth remembering for years to come.


Over to You:

What traditions truly nourish your soul? And which ones are you ready to break? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear from you!


  • Jessica

    This is awesome, thank you Kate! I just had this conversation last night. So long as it comes from a loving place, some traditions truly are meant to be broken. The holidays are about feeling full and everyone accessing their internal and eternal light. If the flame doesn’t have enough space or fuel, it can’t light the way for itself or others… Ain’t that the truth?! Thanks for filling my inbox with infinite wisdom daily! Have a great holiday :)

  • Mary

    Beautiful!!! I wish I had done that 30 years ago when my daughters were small. Good for all of you!!!

  • Gwynneth

    Since moving away from both families, we’ve spent the last three Christmases -and will spend this Christmas- just the two of us and our beloved dog. But last year we did something radical even for a ‘just us’ holiday! Though I had planned a special lunch, that morning we decided to just have snacks and go running instead. We then had our usual “soup and salad” supper with a glass of wine and opened our gifts. It felt really good to do something together that didn’t involve over-eating or just sitting around! Though being with family is nice, there’s something really special about having that day just for us!

  • Veronica

    Same conversation happened last year with my husband and I. We decided to spend Christmas with our families taking turns each year, because we do like to spend this particular holiday with them. And every New Year would be just us, traveling if possible, to receive each year at a different place, together. This year we are doing it for the first time and we will be seeing the first day of 2016 at Seattle.

  • Mirjam

    Dear Kate,
    Merry Christmas from Germany.
    And thank you for that special blog.
    As a child I loved Christmas….but it stressed me when I saw the stress and hectic my parents had.
    When I got married and a mom I tried to please everyone at the holidays….but I went on with the tradition because….it was tradition….till christmas two years ago…then we became all ill….and I made a decision…with my husband and daughter together..we broke the tradition.
    Since two years we spent the christmas days just the three of us…relaxing..reading…eating…watching fary tailes…bbeing happy.
    We invite our families between christmas and new year…absolutly stressless..and you know what?
    Everyone is feeling better with that.
    Have a wonderful blessed holidays

  • Thank you for this reaffirming post! We’ve spent most of my daughter’s life traveling all over the place to visit family or close friends and have even had family travel to visit us for the holidays. While it’s great that people love spending time with us, if it doesn’t happen to be with them one year I get the guilt trip. So this year is the start of a new tradition! It’s just us and it feels so much better. The travel can come after the pressure is off.

  • Lisa Kuftinec

    Hi Kate. I love this post. I have actually been thinking about this a lot over the past week, as I get ready for Christmas. In a lot of ways, we keep things very low key. However, there are things I could probably cut back on/not do. So the question i have been asking myself is: what if I just stopped? what would the impact be?

    After reading your post, I have committed myself to cutting back even more next year, to ensure that I have the holiday that I want as well.

    Merry Christmas to you, Mike and Penelope.

  • ingrid

    thanks for filling the inbox with such wisdom

  • Sarah

    You’re my kind of girl, Kate! When our daughter was born we declared Christmas day was ours and we wont’ be visiting with others. We spend the whole day in our jammies, playing games, taking naps, and eating Chinese take-out. Last year my cousin wanted to come for a visit that would extend into Christmas and I told her that we would love to see her but if she decides to stay through Christmas she’s on her own for Christmas day. She left on the 23rd. I’m ruthless. :) I draw a clear boundary around what’s right for our family and nothing touches it–for this holiday or any other holiday/family event. At first some family members felt a little hurt but over the years it’s become something that they embrace. It liberated everyone. We no longer feel obligated to spend time together so when we are together it’s because everyone really wants to be there. Such a more meaningful experience. Have fun creating your way of being a family!

  • My family has been struggling with changing traditions in recent years. My parents divorced a few years ago (my siblings and I are all adults, meaning our family traditions were much more strongly rooted than if we’d been kids), and my sister got married and now has children. I recognize that we’re not all going to be together on Christmas morning anymore, but it seems like others aren’t willing to try and make time for at all for us to celebrate as a family (doesn’t have to be on 12/25), even though they seem to have scheduled plenty of time with their other family units. It’s been a good lesson for me in “you cannot rely on others for your happiness”, but at the same time it’s hurtful when family members suddenly don’t think you’re family enough to celebrate the holiday in some way. Just some food for thought from one of the people who gets left alone when others decide their going to only spend Christmas with their “new” families :-/

    • Kate Northrup

      It’s true – there will inevitably be someone left disappointed when traditions change. And that’s why it’s so important to not rely on others for your happiness as you so beautifully stated!

    • Gwynneth

      It’s not easy, but sooner or later things can change in families. We live on 3 different continents, so being all together is not feasible. This year, one of my brothers will be on his own for the first time ever (he’s over 40 and single.) Still, it was his choice not to travel and to take it easy. He got invited to a cookie decorating party at some friends house for Christmas Eve! Lauren, though this will perhaps not be as happy a holiday season for you as it was in the past, I hope this can fuel your creativity to come up with some nice traditions of your own! And remember that love is all around you, even if it might not feel like it’s coming from a particular place or set of people ;0)

  • Having been married only 3 years ago I found myself creating new traditions after 20 years of the classic family Chrisrmas. At 67 it is good to know that I could hunker down in Vermont by the fire and enjoy just the two of us after glorying in so many years of my larger family. Change is the constant element of being human. Namaste.

  • Melisa

    Love the picture! Please share what those beautiful yummy dishes are. A healthy, happy New Year to everyone.

  • I simply want to say thank you for posting this. It’s so incredibly important to share this paradigm shift and you’ve inspired me to do the same. We have been adjusting to taking the same stance for some time now, but I believe the more people who are on board, the easier it will be to make this a movement. It’s time for new traditions!

  • Thanks (again) Kate for another authentic, own-your-stuff article… when you tread your own path, others know its not a hurtful act, rather, they know its a choice of self preservation. Acts for the self are never selfish acts ~ @LillSclater

  • Looks like we were thinking the same thing! I wrote this while away in Florida for Christmas, just the three of us, while taking a social media and email break. It was fantastic!!

Leave a Comment

Site Design Studio DBJ
Site Development Alchemy + Aim