This was advice I have received and given. I don’t think this is such a great recommendation. I mean, taken with a grain of salt, it is okay. But taken to the extreme, it is NOT good.
The best traditions my family has had are the ones that have been shared and handed down through the generations. The kids love the back stories about the foods served and activities in which we participate. During Thanksgiving, my daughter, who was in California and unable to come home, called for my grandmother’s sweet potato recipe. On Christmas morning, we serve a coffee cake that has graced the Wildenberg table for a number of generations. The days leading up to Christmas my mom baked cookies with the grandkids, showing them how to make Russian Tea Cakes and Candy Cane Cookies. When I was young, my family always had an Advent Wreath. Now we do this with my family and I hope the tradition will continue someday when my kids become parents.
When Tom and I were first married, we listened to this advice, thinking it was a smart way to build our newly formed unit. Rather than having Christmas Eve dinner and services with my parents and siblings, we made our own dinner, went to our own church, and stopped by my parents’ home for dessert. Looking back, I can see how silly that was and feel a sense of regret. It would have been especially sad if we had kids. The holidays are times created to be with family and extended family to pass along expressions of faith. They provide opportunities for relationships deepen.
The saying, “The more the merrier,” well, I think that is true. This year my sister, brother-in-law, their two kids, and my mom traveled from Minnesota to Colorado to be with us for Christmas. A new tradition (I hope!). We skied, sang carols, snowshoed, watched a skiing light parade down a mountain, tubed, shopped, baked cookies, cooked (and cooked and cooked!), ate, played games,read the Nativity account in Luke, laughed, talked, watched movies, and stayed up late. It was so fun, not perfect but fun! The unexpected happened; my son’s girlfriend’s car broke down on a mountain pass in a blizzard and we made one trip to the ER ( an actual Wildenberg tradition that I would like to dump and hope to not pass along!) It was… The. Best. Christmas. Ever.
We will reminisce about the Christmas when: Nana tubed down the mountain with the rest of us, Samantha was on standby for ten hours at LAX trying to get home, Courtney and Nana were roommates, Kendra disappeared into a hole while snowboarding, we skied down the mountain in a white out (Terry thinking it was the best!), Jake’s beard froze, Emma gave me cribbage pointers, Sam filled everyone in on the fine points of debate, Jaime’s car overheated, and Keri crying tears of joy for all of us being together. These are the moments. Precious and few.
Special occasions are about coming together, just like they were in Jesus’ day. People traveled for days to be together for the various feasts. Holidays are not about separating and doing something brand new. Weaving in a few new things, adapting some older traditions so they fit a little better, and being together, now that is a jolly holiday!
Certainly there are times things must change, like when Tom and I moved from Minnesota to San Diego. No longer were we able to go to my aunt and uncle’s home Christmas Day and play ice hickey with my cousins, siblings, and their kids. My kids would have loved participating in that but distance prevented that from occurring. We kept the things we could and altered the things we needed too.
Maybe with the holidays ending and all my children returning to their lives, I can see how critical it is to pass along traditions rather than make new ones.
So…next on the calendar, Easter! What will you keep and what will you alter?
By Lori Wildenberg
Wife to Tom, Mom of four
Co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting