Last week, Lily had to make a “Holiday Traditions” poster for preschool. The instructions were simple: Tell the class how you celebrate the season. I helped Lily brainstorm before we got started.
Me: What is something we do every year at Christmastime?
Lily: We drive in the car.
Her answer made me laugh, but given that last year we logged almost 40 hours of driving in two weeks, she’s got a strong point. Traveling is one of our main holiday traditions.
I have, in the past few years, had a precarious relationship with tradition.
When I was pregnant with Lily, I bucked tradition altogether and told Jake I wanted to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas at a random bed and breakfast I had found in the middle of Illinois. It was risky move (one that, fortunately, worked out in our favor).
I wrote about that Christmas a few days later and noted that I wanted our family traditions to be fluid once we had kids. Honestly, I got a little scrooge-y about it all.
Three years later, just after our move to Cleveland and when the girls were 1 and 2 ½ respectively, I remember thinking about traditions again. Everything had been upended, and I was trying to reconcile what our new normal looked like.
Because I tend to make it a habit of quoting myself, this is what I said two years ago:
I suppose the holiday season reminds me of how much I value the creation and preservation of lasting memories for our kids. I’m not the only mom who feels a little paralyzed by this come Christmastime, am I? In a season teemed with tradition, how do you decide which ones to latch on to? There are so many aspects of this time of year that we could subscribe to, and for some reason, it sort of neutralizes me. So, in this strange response of over-analyzation and rebellion, I have realized that my tendency is to stray away from tradition all together and embrace something different each year.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m thinking about holiday traditions again this year.
Lily and I landed on four holiday traditions that we look forward to every year:
- Baking cookies.
- Decorating the Christmas tree.
- Opening envelopes from our Advent calendar.
- Driving in the car (obviously).
I do feel conflicted every year around the holidays (I used the word “paralyzed” two years ago which now feels a little melodramatic), but it dawned on me recently that maybe those neutralized feelings have something to do with the fact that in order to make new holiday memories with our kids, I inevitably have to let go of some of the traditions of my own memories. Or at least relocate them to a new physical dwelling.
In other words, I’ve been wondering lately if my rebelliousness toward tradition stems more from feelings of self-preservation and a need to control things that are changing than it comes from actually wanting to do something different every year.
I am, after all, a particularly nostalgic person. A distaste for tradition is counter to most of the hallmarks of my personality.
All this to say that I really do like tradition.
There, I said it.
I like the fact that our kids are starting to store away fond memories and lasting experiences even though 2012 Molly was all, “I hope our traditions look different every year.”
The more I think about it, the more I like that we’re relocating recurring memories from our past childhoods into our present home even though that means the warm pastry on Christmas morning will come out of my oven instead of my mom’s and that Jake will read the Christmas story instead of his dad.
More importantly, though, I’m realizing that I like tradition because it gives us a platform to focus on the only unchanging part about Christmas: Advent and the thrill of hope that’s found in believing that God has come to live with us.
Sure, there are things that will change from year-to-year. With small kids and a doctor husband, I’ve learned well enough by now not to get used to any one thing. But I would like to take this opportunity to publicly rescind the official stance I made on traditions in 2012.
Give me the cookies. The Christmas tree. The advent calendar. Give me more hours to log in the minivan, for crying out loud.
I will accept these things with gladness and use them all as another opportunity to teach my kids that this weary world has reason to rejoice. That God has come and is coming again to make all things right.
Hindsight, we really should have put that on Lily’s poster.
At least there’s always next year.