Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Traditions -- from scratch

Part of the beauty of blogging is the conversations I have with so many of you who I am able to e-mail in response to your comments (If you don't know about this; you change your email setting preferences in blogger). I love visiting your blogs, yes, but I also love learning a little more behind the scenes.

The past week or so has been enlightening as we correspond about the spirit of the holidays and our take on what family and celebrating means. As it turns out, I am not alone in trying to figure out how to give more meaning to this season.

For the better part of my life, I always spent Christmas Eve at my mother's house and Tommy and I, once he was born, would get up early to open presents. My grandparents would arrive not long after. Breakfast became a ritual, too, with egg casserole and fruit salad. Tommy and I would play the rest of the morning.

Sure, the presents were great, but the spirit of it all is what makes Christmas, or any of the holidays you celebrate.

But, all of this is different now that I'm the mom, that my Mom doesn't live close enough for us to drop in for an early morning breakfast, that everyone wants to be at their house -- not ours -- for Christmas, unlike when I was a child.

For the last two years, I didn't even see my family on Christmas Day. Our celebration happened the day before and, while nice, it wasn't the same for me and I've been mourning the season as I knew it as a child and young woman.

Since I do not work, and now Da's company holds after Christmas parties, which I think are ridiculous, we don't even have any party invitations this year. In fact, as soon as we became parents of twins I swear all of our invitations to everything stopped coming in the mail.

Also in past years, we had a little -- not much more -- money to put into gifts and glam, especially to throw parties ourselves. This year, many of our gifts will be homemade and parties are just out of the question.

The hand-made gifts will be thoughtful and cute and sweet. I love the idea, actually, and yet ...

It's all new to me and I'm trying to feel my way as we start to build memories for Jadyn and Liana. They, of course, are still too young to understand any of this, but I'm sure they will have a blast regardless.

I've been busy thinking hard about what traditions I want to start from scratch since we have this unique vantage point of being a blank slate.

I'm looking forward to finding resourceful, unique ways to enjoy the whole season and not just one day with my daughters and with my husband, and with some close friends who also want to share the spirit with us. We even bought a book last year on this topic and got some great ideas.

So, right here, right now I'm unveiling our two new-to-me traditions.

The first is an advent of books. Each day will offer one book to be unwrapped and read. Most will be holiday-related; many will offer glimpses of traditions around the world. As the girls grow, those books will be the start of that day's meal -- perhaps Mexican or French, and discussions. I never want them to feel as if American traditions are the only traditions.

The second will be a moms and kids holiday party. This year, and probably years to come, will be a cookie decorating party. The cookies my girls make will be given as gifts this year.

I know that as Jadyn and Liana get older, finding new ways to make Christmas and Thanksgiving and any other holiday our own will get easier.

In the meantime, these ideas will have to do.

How about you? Care to share a unique tradition that you've come up with on your own either to celebrate with your children or your special person?

Thank you for visiting today.

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Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

I have been struggling with this issue of holiday celebration for years now. My husband and I grew up in Christian households, but no longer consider ourselves Christian. We end up celebrating holidays like Christmas for cultural reasons, but they then become relatively devoid of meaning. We're still working out what Christmas means to us other than commercialism and gifts we don't need or want as we try to pare down what we already have.

Shannon said...

oooo, I love the book idea, I'm stealing that one! I know this sounds really cheesy but I really want the boys to learn to give more than recieve so I'm looking for a place where they can give a child a gift in person instead of just pluck a name off a tree.

LauraC said...

My husband and I got married in early November and there was already a flurry of emails going around about Christmas ideas. Our close family really doesn't need more stuff, so we took all the money we would spend on presents for family and bought a cow from Heifer International instead. We wrote up nice letters to our family with info on the cow.

I know everyone thought we were crazy, but we've continued that tradition. The year I was pregnant, we funded a field trip for the entire first grade of a low-income school to go to a kid's museum through Donors Choose. We gave the thank you letters and pictures from the kids as gifts to family. I cried, seeing that our Christmas money went to give 100 kids an experience they wouldn't get otherwise.

Last year, our boys got one big gift from us and the rest went to charity. This year, they will get one big gift from us and I think we're donating money to UNC Children's Hospital since they helped us so much with Alex's helmet (haven't finalized).

I want to teach our kids that there is more to life than possessions. That what you give in this world, you more than get back.

Oh, and the other tradition is that we will always spend Christmas morning at home as a family.

Anonymous said...

The thing is . . . nothing is ever quite like it used to be, quite as magical as I remember as a kid. But I've seen that children make whatever there is magical by themselves. In our home, we celebrate everything in every way. We exclude nothing, not commercialism, not spirituality, not kitsch, not hype. We do it all. It just gets done differently because every year things are different. Sometimes we travel, sometimes we don't. My husband is Jewish, but since he's gone a lot, many times I've fumbled through the 8 days of Hannukah by myself! This year, my sister has given us a family reunion in Hawaii. No sleighbells but who could refuse? I focus on tradition as the sentiment and not the scenery. And let your children lead the way. We teach them far less than they teach us. If we could only be as generous as they are with their enthusiasm!

James said...

I'm eager to start a Christmas tradition as well, but I don't know what to do but update things that have come before.

Christmas really does hold some of the most peaceful memories of my life. When I was growing up our only family tradition was that we'd all sit down in front of the TV on Christmas Eve and watch the classics together. We were all delighted by Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman and Santa-Claus is Coming to Town as children.

All three of my favorites plus four more are in a Christmas Classics DVD Box-Set this year and I can't wait to sit down with my family again after our dinner and watch these movies that made me feel so joyful as a kid. Now my tradition is technologically up to date. And it even comes with a bonus seven-track CD of holiday songs. I only know about this because I work with the company but you can find the DVDs at any store where you do your Christmas shopping.

Bastet said...

I know how you feel. It is hard to start new traditions. We are actually getting our wish this year, both sides of our families will be joining us for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I love hand-made gifts too, it is nice when someone takes the time to give from the heart. My only problem, I get heart-broken when someone doesn't seem to appreciate it - as much as I had hoped.

The past few Christmas' I have made both grandmothers and one great grandmother mini scrapbooks of my daughter. They took a lot of time to put together, but overall, they loved it. This year I am cheating...I hate to admit it...but it will still be special.