“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39
I am a girl who loves tradition. I like to have things done the same way every year…especially when it comes to holidays. In fact, I remember the very first time it was casually mentioned by my mother-in-love (I think) when Shane and I were first married that maybe we should have Christmas at a beach house. I don’t remember much after that because I’m pretty sure the room went dark, I may have hyperventilated a little, the room started spinning…you get the idea.
I like my holidays just so. Thankfully, my folks and Shane’s folks get along really well and are all very understanding and so alternating holidays was more the exception and just all getting together as one, big, happy family was the rule when we all lived in the same state. When that didn’t work out for some reason, we were all very content to do Thanksgiving here and Christmas there, but it was still very traditional and very predictable.
Growing up, my holidays were steeped with tradition and predictability. I knew where we were spending Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years on any given year. I was an only child with no cousins of my age. And I didn’t mind at all. I loved the quiet, cozy holidays that my family shared. Without fail, I could expect End Times prophecy discussion and politics around the table and quiet snuggles afterward with my grandparents on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with my Dad’s side of the family. Come Christmas Day and the days that followed, we would drive to the beach to my Mom’s folks’ house where I could expect loudness, chaos, tickling, laughter, a dog that hated me and pantyhose Christmas stockings. And I loved both family celebrations equally.
Then one year, when I was in middle school, I was invited to go to Sun River for Thanksgiving with a dear friend of mine. It was SO MUCH FUN! But I remember thinking, This is really different. It felt so foreign to me.
To a point, tradition can be a really good thing. When we first adopted our boys, establishing family traditions of our own and creating memories was very important and they genuinely loved it. From cutting down our own tree to setting up our heirloom nativity scene, from the Grinch family movie night to ZooLights, from the Advent calendar to new Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve…the list could go on and on.
We have recently added a new Christmas tradition that we’re loving called the “Jesse Tree” and I’ll be sharing with you throughout the month of December how it works.
The ceramic Nativity scene my Grandma made
But somewhere over the last decade, be it ever so gradual, my compulsion for tradition has subsided. And I am…quite pleasantly…relieved.
Maybe it started when the traditions of my childhood were replaced with ones of adulthood. More family through marriage, less family through death. The family holidays shifted greatly after both of my Grandpas passed away. My Patriarchs were gone and with them, certain ways of doing things held less meaning.
Maybe it started when we sold our house and we couldn’t host everyone at the same time anymore.
Maybe it started when a large part of our family moved out of state.
Maybe it started when Nutkin was so terrified of the Grinch that we had to cancel our third annual Grinch family movie night.
First annual Grinch family movie night
Whichever way it started, I think it culminated when we decided to drive cross-country for Christmas in 2014. It was…Truly amazing. Full of memories. Adventurous. Packed with sight-seeing and stops to see friends and family along the way. Exhausting. And very, very different from our “normal.” And we were all OK with it. In fact, we were more than OK with it. We all absolutely loved it. That year, our only traditional family holiday was Thanksgiving (my favorite anyway) and it was relaxing! Because we knew we’d be gone for the majority of December, and that we were getting new carpeting while we were gone, decorating was nixed. There was no pressure to decorate for Christmas at all. No pressure.
A highlight of our 2014 Christmas road trip – standing next to the poplars Pa Ingalls planted in DeSmet, SD
There it is. When I think of what I am trying to instill in our children as they move into their teenage and adult years, I want them to hear the words “No pressure,” when they think of the holidays. I want them to hear the words, “relax,” “enjoy,” “cherish,” and “content.” If tradition helps us achieve those thoughts of peace, then it’s a useful tool. But if I feel driven and bound by tradition to the point where my kids get left in the dust while I’m screeching around going from here to there, wrapping this and shopping for that, baking this and decorating that, then what good is it, really?
I’ve been pondering this as I sit in an un-decorated living room writing to you dear friends in the end of October. In a typical year, there would be pumpkins and leaves strewn all about my house starting the first week of September. I have two totes FULL of stuff just for Thanksgiving and autumn, because it really is my favorite time of the year.
But this year, we’ll be breaking tradition once again to be with close friends and family for Thanksgiving out of town. And I have two totes FULL of filing to get done. And other projects to do. And honestly, I could do it all and still have a decorated house. But my kiddos would suffer and my husband would suffer because of all the pressure I would be placing upon myself.
It’s just. not. necessary.
Years from now, should the Lord tarry, my kids won’t remember if our house was un-decorated for Thanksgiving in 2016. But they will remember that one really miserable Thanksgiving where Mom was really stressed and we didn’t even have dinner at our house!
I’m not saying that non-tradition in my new tradition. I’m sure I’ll decorate my house in future years, and when I do, the nativity scene will always have its place of honor right up on the top of our bookshelf. We’ll probably give our kids new jammies every Christmas Eve for many years to come, maybe even into their adult years.
No matter what traditions are broken, or how pared down our Christmas looks, there are certain traditions that we will never, ever set aside. We will always have Christmas-themed devotions throughout the season and we will always read (or recite) the Christmas story on Christmas morning. Some traditions are at the very core of who we are and cannot, and should never be, laid aside. But I find that those traditions weren’t the problem anyway.
I’m just saying that IF I have to break from tradition to keep myself from having a breakdown, I’ll do it and I’ll give myself grace when I do.
New Christmas jammies, 2013
And, so…I’m enjoying my one pumpkin filled with flowers on top of my piano, and a teeny little gourd that Nutkin picked out at the pumpkin patch on Monday that he has leaning against a lone Yankee candle burning on my dining room table.
And there is a great calm.
Please know that as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been praying for you, dear Mama reader. I’m praying that during this busy upcoming holiday season, the Lord will speak peace to your soul and that there will, indeed, be a great calm.
What traditions do you hold dear? Have you had to lay any of them aside recently for your own sanity or that of your family? Or are you the type to break with tradition altogether? I’d love to hear from you!
But don’t worry. No pressure.
Blessings and much love,