Building new Christmas traditions
There’s 2 days to go till Christmas. I’ve got Hanukkah dinner on tonight’s horizon. Tomorrow, my sister’s ditching the Jewish portion to grab a bite with me and Dan. The 25th of December, Dan wants to take me on a Christmas climb before flying out the next day to hug his mom, scoop up our girls, and travel back here for our Paper Christmas.
I love how one of the most inviolable holidays of my childhood has turned inside out, something I’d never have imagined was even possible as a kid. As most of us do, I expected to continue the traditions of my childhood Christmas when I grew up and had a family of my own. Life didn’t quite work out that way; it rarely does.
This year, I’ve fallen in love all over again with our made-up holidays and new Christmas. This year, Dan and I realized that it’s these rituals that form the foundation of our blended family. We picked our thing and stuck with it, and damned if tradition didn’t coalesce out of thin air.
The karmic irony is that our new traditions arose directly as a response to our very non-traditional family structure.
We were never able to count on enough consistent time together to figure out how Christmas or Thanksgiving should work. We always had Miss L for Thanksgiving, but never had Miss G. We always had Miss G for Christmas, but never Miss L. And since the first half of Miss G’s winter break was spent with me, the second half was spent with her dad– the exact opposite of Miss L’s winter break split.
We fought to find a compromise with both other parents for a long time. Then one year we just let go, and started focusing on our arbitrary holidays instead. We weren’t trying to be clever; we were exhausted and defeated. Giving up calendar Thanksgiving and calendar Christmas was a last act of desperation we hoped would be worth the tradeoff for gaining peace of mind, along with some much-needed solid ground upon which we could build something new.
In the intervening years, our invented celebrations have deepened, grown richer, and become more established. Thankful French Onion Soup Day feels just as thankful as calendar Thanksgiving. Our Paper Christmas feels as crammed with holiday cheer as calendar Christmas.
Joy comes in many forms, most of them unexpected. This holiday season, may you uncover yours.