As we move into the holiday season, many of you may be feeling a certain amount of dread or overwhelm as planning kicks in, not to mention all the advertising, sales and commercials everywhere you turn. Now that my kids are older, I can choose to ignore some of the marketing, but I remember how hard it was when they were younger.
For my own childhood, we celebrated a fairly-toned down version of Thanksgiving since all of our relatives lived elsewhere and it was mostly just the 4 of us. But my mom always went a little Christmas crazy, and we woke to an abundance under our tree. My parents would have a big open house holiday party, my mom made dozens upon dozens of cookies for friends & neighbors, and we had set traditions for going to church and visiting specific people. As a child, I enjoyed most of it, but I wasn't the one who had to plan for it all.
Once I had kids of my own, it was easy to just copy everything my mom did. Some of it was great and I still do it (mimosas and cinnamon buns for Christmas morning breakfast), but some of it I just didn't want to do (a baker I am not!). The older I got and the kids got, the more my own values dictated how I chose to celebrate the holidays, and how I shared that with my kids. I'm definitely more of a "less is more" kind of gal, and so their presents became gifts of experiences (a ski trip, concert/musical theater tickets, etc.) rather than physical stuff (I knew my mom would take care of that part!). A live Christmas tree is important to me so we make a mini-event of picking one out from a tree lot that benefits the local youth program, even though we don't live in the same town anymore.
I also wanted to be sure that we were giving back and so would have the kids buy gifts for needy families via our local charity/shelter programs like Angel Tree through the Salvation Army (the tags would identify what the child needed and I would choose ones that matched the age/gender of my own kids). It was also a great time to cull through their toys from the past year together and see if we could donate anything to make space for new things.
Some of these traditions took time to solidify, but I was happier incorporating some things from my own childhood as well as creating new traditions with my own family. Thanksgiving is becoming less about the food for us and more about celebrating being together and thankful for what we have. I'm happy with simple/less decorations, and it's less stressful to clean up after the holidays.
My kids may decide to do things differently as they start their own traditions, and I need to respect their choices, even if it doesn't look the same as how I did it. Of course, once grandchildren come along, my tune may change! Mom, then you can say "I told you so".
Re-posted from our Blog Archives 11/16/17.