Growing up, the holiday season was such a special time of the year for me. As early as I can remember, on Christmas Eve my parents would turn on the Santa Tracker and the excitement would send my brother and me to bed at 6pm. (As an adult, I now realize how clever that was!) As my brother and I got older, a few traditions started to form. My dad would always get a fresh Christmas tree, and my mom and I would always decorate it with multi-colored lights. Funnily enough, using multi-colored lights is a tradition I keep to this day, whereas now my brother’s tree has white lights only.
Another tradition was that my brother and I got to open one gift on Christmas Eve—any gift we wanted. On Christmas morning we’d open the rest of the presents while mom made breakfast. Then we’d play with our gifts all day and have Christmas lunch. This was the constant every year in my home while growing up.
Those traditions weren’t the only things that made the holiday season so special, it was everything in between that lead up to Christmas, too. It was Christmas shows on TV. (Home Alone was always a staple in our house.) It was the excitement of spotting a new gift under the tree. I remember one year my brother and I actually took it upon ourselves to see where mom hid the gifts, and we actually found them. SHE. WAS. PISSED. She threatened to take them all back! Not only did that threat ensure we never snooped for presents again but realizing that we’d stolen our own joy from Christmas morning was reason enough to leave the detective work behind.
Before my boyfriend and I started living together, it was easy to fall into the ways of my old traditions. When he moved to Austin to be with me, he fit right into whatever traditions we had. Then his family eventually moved to Texas, and we had to create some new traditions that included them.
Now that we’re getting older and more serious, a part of me feels like I’m slightly letting go of my old traditions. My boyfriend is allergic to real Christmas trees, so we have a fake one; we don’t open gifts on Christmas Eve (although I’m fine with this); and my holidays now include more people. Letting go of the old ways of doing things leaves me with some sadness. Those special feelings that came around the holiday season when I was a child aren’t as strong. Things are different. I’m different. It’s almost like saying goodbye and shedding old skin. It’s a necessary step in the evolution, but it’s bittersweet all the same.
Although the sadness still looms, another feeling also grows: excitement. I can’t help but think about how it’s going to be to create holiday traditions with my own family—to create those special feelings for my children that I had as a child. Not to mention, the thing about traditions is that they never really go away. I can choose to bring back any tradition I please. I can also choose to create new ones.
This reminder lets me know that it’s not about balancing old and new traditions (as if you can only have one or the other), it’s about embracing the traditions that come naturally as life progresses. Whether those traditions are old or new is irrelevant. What a hopeful and exciting thought…
As I enter this new season of my life, the season when I get to start thinking about the traditions I want to set and keep for my own family unit, I’m focused on keeping all of the special feelings the holidays bring alive.
What holiday traditions from your childhood did you bring into your life as an adult?