As a kid, I hated change. I didn’t handle a change of plans, interruption or variation in routine very gracefully. My dad would often encourage me to “learn to go with the flow.”
And I have. I might not be the most relaxed, easygoing person you’ll ever meet, but I no longer experience the stress and disappointment when things don’t go as I’d anticipated.
You can imagine how important holiday traditions would be to a little girl so attached to the familiar. I spoiled many Christmas Eves for myself inwardly (or outwardly) pouting over a tradition gone awry.
My family watched It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. One year, we got back too late from a holiday party. Many years, Mom wrapped gifts in the other room and missed most of the movie. Every year, Dad fell asleep.
All of these departures from what I imagined dismayed me. I didn’t enjoy myself unless all four family members watched (and enjoyed) the entire movie. I think that happened once.
I don’t have a single memory of actually enjoying this tradition. All I remember is trying to guard the tradition and do it justice, which is a lot of (unnecessary) stress for a ten year old.
If traditions start to feel burdensome and stressful, maybe they’ve run their course and it’s time for a new one, or at least a year off.
Mike and I haven’t established any of our own traditions yet. We piggy back on our families’ traditions when we visit them, but even those have changed.
As everyone gets older and time together is limited, what we do has felt less and less important. Sadly, I see my family so rarely that just being with them in my childhood home feels like Christmas. I enjoy the food and decor and gifts, but I’m really there for the company.
Holiday traditions can be a great part of a family’s identity and legacy. Traditions distinguish families from one another remind its members that they belong.
An even more important legacy my dad gave me wasn’t a Christmas full of perfect traditions, executed the same every year, but the lesson when things changed: “learn to go with the flow.”
What traditions do you love? Are there any you’ve let go?
This post is part of a doing less to build more: holiday edition series.