Deciding Which Holiday Traditions to Keep?
Last week, one of my Facebook friends posted her Secret to a “Happy, Stress-Free Christmas” — She’s Jewish! I chuckled for a moment and it got me thinking, Isn’t having a stress-free Holiday Season something we all strive for and want? Are your holidays joyous but stressfull and somewhat of a challenge in terms of planning and preparations?
Thanksgiving at our home is about getting together with immediate family over a wonderful meal to give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. Sometimes we have extra guests but we generally keep the group under 10. This year we had a table of 7.
Preparing for Christmas on the other hand, is more complex and time consuming because it involves so much more than planning a meal. Christmas typically involves shopping, sending Christmas cards, choosing and decorating a tree, decorating the house, putting up lights, cooking, cleaning, parties, entertaining, and fighting clutter. What should we do? Omit some of our traditions, simplify preparations and just get together with those we love?
Which holiday traditions are worth keeping and which ones are OK to gradually let go?
When the kids were young (and I was younger), there was never a question, I was going to do it all and I did, always with pleasure. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t change a thing. I have fond and lasting memories of holidays passed with loved ones, many of whom are no longer here and those memories are priceless such as Christmas Eve family gatherings followed by Christmas morning excitement and breakfast in our PJ’s — then staying in our PJ’s most of the day! There are certain smells, sights and sounds that hold so much magic and love of seasons passed.
Our family tradition of attending the local Pacific Conservatory of Performing Arts holiday musical is another favorite event worth continuing. It’s something my Mother-in Law started more than twenty years ago. All the Sister-in-Laws, cousins, nieces and a few nephews get together every year, go to the play and then out to dinner. We always take a big group photo while we are there. It’s fun to have an annual tradition that does not require a lot of advance planning, work or preparation — the memories and photos that include three generations of family are treasures.
As we grow older, things change, loved ones depart and their loss leaves a void. They can’t be replaced and holidays are not the same without them but life goes on. Nieces and nephews have grown, married and started having families of their own. Although we’ve lost family members, we’ve gained others and the family has expanded to the point where hosting the entire group in one place presents a challenge. Sound familiar? What does your family do along the way to make adjustments?
Some friends have told me about their Holiday Dinners with 20 to 30 people or more, endless amounts of food, folding tables and chairs set up into the living room and sometimes overflowing into the garage. There is so much food that everyone goes home with big Tupperware containers of leftovers. Other people I know that don’t have close family members prefer to invite friends or others in the same situation.
What about you? Do you host the entire extended family for Christmas Eve but have just the immediate family on Christmas? Do you choose to host a late afternoon or evening Open House with heavy appetizers instead of a formal sit-down dinner or do you prefer to have a pot-luck where everyone brings a dish and a favorite beverage to share? Would you like someone else to host the party so you can just show up or do you prefer to make it real easy on everyone and either go out to dinner or leave town? Of course, everyone must do what works best for their own family and coming up with a solution takes time. In our family, we work it out one way or another and come together at some point even though it may not be all at the same time.
I’ve always loved taking photos for the annual Christmas card. One year I was late capturing the perfect photo so I sent a Happy New Year card instead but another year, I skipped it entirely because we were moving. What happened? We received calls from people wanting to know if they’d been naughty and crossed off the list? Guess that’s what happens when one breaks a 20+ year tradition so for now, sending the annual holiday cards continues and I try to make sure the cards are received before Christmas.
It was fun when the kids were young to see the surprise and delight on their faces after Santa came and brought their first train set, remote control car and tricycle. The older they got, the harder it was to excite them until it came to the point when we could no longer wake them up or get them out of bed until noon or later on Christmas Day. Shopping is something we’ve cut back on in recent years but have not completely let it go. Seems we all have “too much stuff” so we choose to donate to those in need, buy less for each other, and focus on something either consumable, small and sentimental, a needed service or cash.
Hosting Parties at Home or Going Out?
The office party at a local restaurant is a holiday tradition worth keeping! We love and value our employees, associates and their families. The benefit of going out is no worries about cooking of cleaning. You can thoroughly enjoy yourself as the host.
Family dinners, in my opinion, are best spent at home. I usually volunteer our home but not always. This year, I cooked and hosted Thanksgiving but will not be hosting Christmas. We are breaking tradition and doing something new for the first time. It should be interesting, fun, and exciting to say the least!
Love Christmas but hate clutter? We’ve finally come to conclusion after going overboard for more than 20 years is that “less is more”. Instead of spending days and countless hours putting up and taking down the big tree year after year as shown below in the first photo, we’ve simplified beginning last year with what I refer to as the pre-lit “Charlie Brown Tree”.
Truth be told, I like the look and smell of the big real tree better but I sure liked how quick and easy it was to put up and take down the second tree. Another option would be to choose a smaller live tree. Store bought Poinsettia’s placed in the entry and on either side of the fireplace add a festive and much needed touch to the tiny tree along with the iron ornament coffee table tree and a few selected table top decorative touches.
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Question for our Readers:
What are your time, energy and money saving holiday tips?
We’d love to hear from you in the comment area below.