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.
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!