I’m not a religious person, but I find that it takes a certain amount of faith (along with a good dose of determination and hard work) to make it through the holidays with special family traditions intact.
Before we were parents–and even when N was a baby–it seemed fairly easy to carry on the family traditions that we loved. We had leisure time on the weekends to blend rituals from my Christmases past with G’s, and come up with a few new ones of our own.
Now that N is three, it’s more of a challenge to keep up those holiday traditions during the few short weeks (really, weekends) of the season. (I know some people complain that Christmastime starts way too early, but the other day I caught myself making a crazy wish that Christmas would be rescheduled — to maybe sometime in January — so I’d at least have a chance to get everything done!)
Of course, our family could do the sane and rational thing, and just let go of some traditions that take a great deal of effort to maintain. But here are some of the annual rituals that I’m not about to give up — even if I have to take my expectations down a notch, and give up some sleep between now and Christmas Eve:
-Driving one hour outside NYC to a Christmas tree farm in New Jersey to cut down our Christmas tree (I grew up on a Christmas tree farm, so it’s really special to be able to share the experience with my husband and daughter — EVEN IF said daughter just woke up from a nap in the car, and in the middle of the field insists on crying grumpily while yelling, “I don’t like that tree! It bothers me!”);
-Decorating the tree with G’s entire collection of engraved silver bells, which he has received from his grandmother every year since he was born (EVEN IF every one of the more than 40 silver bells require polishing before they are hung on the tree);
-Fully decorating the house, inside and out (EVEN IF it means that it will take us an entire week to do it — as opposed to the one weekend it took B.C. — or “before child”)
-Creating our own personalized Christmas card on the computer, complete with pictures and a written summary of our year (YES, we are aware that there are a million ways to simplify our Christmas card creating/ordering/labeling/stamping/mailing process, but maybe in this economy there are some out-of-work elves we could hire–??).
We also go to see Santa (even if N cries and won’t sit on his lap); take a walk to look at Christmas lights (the crazy over-the-top displays in Dyker Heights, where they have moving, life-sized lawn figures depicting scenes from “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker”); bake sugar cookies on Christmas Eve to leave for Santa; pop British Christmas “crackers” and wear the cheesy paper crowns to Christmas dinner; and generally spend too much money on gifts and goodies.
Holding onto all these traditions isn’t easy, and sometimes during the holidays we feel like stagehands producing a major Broadway show. But as they say, Christmas is for kids, and we think it’s worth it to put in the effort to pass on the traditions — because after all, someone passed them on to us.
EVEN IF it was a major pain in the tinsel.