Family Holiday Traditions Take on a New Meaning

I worked on this blog post all day yesterday, trying to recall some holiday traditions that I celebrate with family. It’s easy to say that we have traditions, but since my family is spread out not only by miles but by states, the idea of holiday traditions is taking on a new meaning for me.

Holidays are more than just being able to take days off from work, and holiday traditions are more than just having your picture made with Santa or sending out Christmas cards or always wearing matching pajamas with your family on Christmas morning. Holidays are a way for families to reconnect with family and friends, a time to commemorate a special event or cultural or religious event.

I don’t know when or with whom our holiday traditions started, but I do know that as I get older, the traditions of yesteryear are not the same traditions as now. Certain holiday traditions have gotten replaced with new traditions. Now that we are all older and there are no small children to buy presents for, we’re switching things up and creating new traditions.

Before I got married, my family would gather at my grandparent’s house {in Tennessee}. On Christmas morning, we would take our time getting up an around, and when we were all assembled in the living room, I would pass out the presents. One at a time, my family would open their gifts and we would ohh and ahh at each opened gift until all the gifts were open. Then we’d have lunch and sit around talking or playing games with my three nieces. When they were younger, I would send them on a scavenger hunt, complete with clues to their next gift. Now, instead of buying gifts for my nieces, we give them cash {because that’s what they ask for}.

When my husband and I got married almost 20 years ago, we had to incorporate each others family’s holiday traditions into our lives. We started having my family’s Christmas on Christmas Eve. Then we would drive back to our home that night, and my husband and I would exchange gifts. On Christmas morning, Maw, my husband’s grandmother with whom we lived, would make sausage balls and monkey bread. As the years went by, I became the main cook for our house. I still made sausage balls, and they would be gone within 30 minutes after my husband’s family arrived at our house. Presents would get passed out just a little while before lunch was ready, and wrapping paper would fly as everyone opened their presents at the same time. After all the gifts were open, the wrapping paper would be put in a garbage bag and then burned after lunch. We would watch an old John Wayne movie, and then someone would say they’ve never seen Tombstone, so we would end up watching it after lunch. Sometimes we would go to the movies and watch whatever blockbuster had just premiered.

In the past 20 years, all four of my grandparents and my husband’s grandmother {Maw} have passed away. Our house is no longer the central hub for my husband’s family because it holds so many memories of Maw that they don’t feel comfortable coming to our house anymore. {To be honest with you, I’m ok with that. Less stress for me.} Now my husband and I just spend Christmas evening with his parents watching a movie.

My family no longer have a traditional Christmas either — my brother and his wife live in Texas, my nieces live in Middle Tennessee, and my parent live about 1.5 hours away from us. We still get together with my parents, but instead of exchanging gifts, we play games {like Spades or Scrabble} and we have a nice dinner together.

As I said earlier, holiday traditions have taken on a new meaning. The old traditions still hold a special place in my heart and my memories, but as I get older, so do my parents. Expensive gifts and fancy things are not as important to me, whether I’m giving them or receiving them. For me, TIME is what I want to receive and give to those I love because we don’t know how much time we have with our loved ones. You may say that you already give the gift of time to your family and loved ones, but a gift will show them how much you love them. Well, I honestly think {and I may become unpopular for my opinion, but remember it is my opinion} that if you didn’t buy a single present for anyone and just spent quality time with them {i.e., playing games, putting a puzzle together, watching a movie, holding their hands, driving around town looking at Christmas lights, or anything else you can think of}, you would not only have a very merry Christmas, but it would be a day or weekend that your loved ones would talk about for years to come.

I think it was the year before my Grandpa Lashlee passed away that I put together a “Lashlee Memory Book”, complete with photos of my grandparents, and letters and photos from family and friends. That book, once completed, was over 75 pages. My grandparents read that memory book all weekend, and even looked at it from time to time, until my grandpa passed away. I did the same thing for my grandma and grandpa Howard over 15 years ago. These memory books weren’t necessarily presents, per se, but they were full of special memories and made with love. It held special memories for them, and the books still hold a special place in my heart.

So if you’re stuck on how to create your own holiday traditions, then try these ideas:

  1. Try making a new recipe. Pull that delicious looking pie recipe off Pinterest that you keep telling yourself that you’re going to try making, and just make it!
  2. Hang a new ornament on the tree. You can either make a special ornament together or you can go to the store and buy an ornament. If it doesn’t have the year on it, you may want to write the year on it.
  3. Send holiday cards. You’ll want to start on this tradition early because if you don’t get your cards in the mail by the first week of December, your cards won’t arrive to their intended destination before Christmas.
  4. Have a Christmas movie marathon. Think Elf, The Holiday, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Love Actually, The Polar Express, or Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

And speaking of Christmas movies, I recently discovered Pure Flix, a family-friendly video-streaming service. Between November 26th and December 24th, Pure Flix is offering five Sundays of Christmas movies.

Just remember, holiday traditions don’t have to cost a lot of money. They are more about giving your time to family and friends. At the end of the day, your family will be more happy to spend the time with you than the expensive gift you gave them.

What do holiday traditions mean to you? What do you think about when you hear the words “holiday traditions”?

Merry Christmas!

Yours Truly,
Vanessa

{Images borrowed from Rose Hill Design StudioPinterest, and BuzzFeed}

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