If you celebrate the holidays in any fashion, then you have participated in some kind of tradition over your lifetime. When we are little we take these traditions for granted, but they often leave an indelible mark on our lives whether we are able to continue them or not.
Growing up, we had a lot of traditions and they all started with Thanksgiving. We would all convene at our grandparent’s house for a huge Thanksgiving meal with all of our aunts, uncles and cousins. Everyone brought their special dish and my mom’s yeast rolls and desserts along with my great aunt Helen’s noodles were always some of my favorites. What I would give to belly up to the kid’s table for a second helping of rolls and noodles right now. Sure, the parades and football were on the TV, but us kids just wanted to get to the important part of drawing names for Christmas Eve and talking about all the things we wanted that year.
A few short weeks later, we all came together again for a Christmas Eve extravaganza that just got bigger each year. As each family arrived and added gifts to the pile, the space to actually sit down grew smaller. The memory of that tree by the organ, with all the tinsel and lights and the gifts spread out to the middle of the room will always be Christmas Eve in my mind. That tradition, like our family dynamic, has changed over the years. They now celebrate at my aunt and uncle’s home and rather than lots of gifts they do a white elephant exchange. Every year I still miss all of them and smile at the memories we made over the years, but our lives change and so do our traditions.
When we had our girls, we chose to stay in Colorado and begin our own family traditions. Flying home for the holidays to celebrate with both of our families turned into a lot of driving and not a lot of celebrating. Over the years, we have blended our traditions and created our own. We have never had the beautiful chaos of aunts, uncles and chaos, but we have always shared with friends and neighbors.
Even in our little family of five, we have had to make changes over the years. When our middle daughter was ski racing we had to get creative with the timing of our tree decorating and eventually we moved our entire celebration to the mountains. What we learned over the years is that sometimes in making those transitions, we made an even better tradition along the way. Our girls miss celebrating Christmas in the mountains even though that first year we had a lot of opposition. You have to be open to what could be and not stuck on what it’s always been.
Nobody likes change, especially when it involves special memories and family traditions. In the last 6 years, we have made a lot of changes and our holidays look different every year. Our middle daughter hasn’t celebrated a Thanksgiving at home in 6 years and this will be the second year that we won’t have our oldest and her husband with us at Christmas. We try to roll with the changes and we have celebrated Thanksgiving in Nashville and Arkansas. This year, our youngest spent Thanksgiving with one of her sisters so we didn’t have any of our girls at home. Instead, we had friends come visit for a few days who also didn’t have kids at home. Of course, we missed our kids, but we made the most of it.
As our lives change we have to be willing to change, too. We have to ask ourselves what is most important. The tradition or finding new ways to connect with our family? I miss the full house, the noise and the interactions between all of us. We are all fortunate in this day and age to be able to FaceTime or Zoom and actually be able to see our loved ones whenever we want. Christmas without all of our kids felt hard though, so last year we decided to have a gingerbread competition on Christmas Day. We talked about it ahead of time, gathered all of the ingredients, set a time and then FaceTimed one another. We each had 45 minutes to create a masterpiece. While we weren’t allowed to “see” anyone’s creation until the end, we could hear everyone talking and laughing and it was like they were all here in the house with us. The fun continued as they posted pictures on social media of our gingerbread houses and asked people to vote. There was a lot of back and forth banter, lots of laughter and it felt like we were all together for a little while.
So, this year for Thanksgiving we decided to continue the competition and we all submitted homemade pies decorated with pastry and berries. I am not exaggerating when I say we got a lot of mileage out of this competition. For a week, we discussed what we needed and I sent everyone the baking tools via Amazon. For days everyone talked smack and on Thanksgiving there were sneak peeks, videos and so much laughter around baking these dumb pies. Our friends and their kids even participated. In all, we had 13 people in 5 states submitting pies to be voted on over Instagram. It’s not about the pie or the gingerbread house, it’s about bringing us all altogether in a fun way regardless of where we are.
Okay, it’s a little bit about the competition, but it’s all in good fun.
As I mentioned earlier, our oldest and her husband won’t be home for Christmas and we are already planning ahead for our gingerbread competition. In fact, our friends loved it so much that they already started buying their gingerbread ingredients and she even bought a trophy to be passed around to the winner each year! I’d say we have some new holiday traditions.
I hope that we all get to spend the holidays in the same place again soon, but until then we will continue to pivot, make changes and do the best we can to celebrate wherever we are.
Sunshine & Saracasm,
Lowi & G