Creating New Traditions

December 24th, 2010 by Dionna | 10 Comments
Posted in Adults, Children, Eclectic Learning, Infants, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Preschoolers, Respond with Sensitivity, Strive for Balance, Teens, Toddlers

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Christmas Tree Presents
One of my most vivid Christmas memories (vivid because we repeated it for the first 30 or so years of my life) is this: We wake Christmas morning and run downstairs to the tree, which is overflowing with brightly wrapped packages, bedecked in glittery bows, sparkling with festive twine and gift tags. Up until the morning of Christmas, the presents spilled out from underneath the tree in an ever-growing cacophony of dancing snowmen and jolly Santas. But when we arrive on Christmas morning, order has arisen: the packages are arranged by recipient in tidy stacks.

Each of us searches for our pile and stakes claim to the most comfortable piece of furniture available; coffee in one hand, the other outstretched and waiting for . . . our trash bag. And then the gift-fest begins.

My father, retired colonel and alphabetizer of canned food, is the master of ceremonies, and you better believe those ceremonies are timed. (Must stay on the turkey cooking schedule!) Starting with whomever had the most presents under the tree, dad has that person open enough packages to “even us up.” After we are even, dad hands out the gifts, one at a time. He never tells us we each have precisely 82.5 seconds to unwrap and ohh/ahh over each present, but I notice him checking his watch with military regularity.

The order is thus:

  1. Gift distributed;
  2. Gift opened;
  3. Recipient expresses admiration;
  4. Recipient quickly kisses or hugs gift-giver;
  5. Recipient disposes of wrapping paper in trash bag;1
  6. Recipient gets the heck out of the way lest she is knocked over by dad, who has already started handing out the next present.

It was pretty comical, and we always gave dad some (gentle) grief about his OCD Christmas morning ritual. I’m not bitter about my memories – I know my parents loved us and only wanted us to be happy.

2009-12-25 01

Kieran digging into his stocking last year.

But with every new generation traditions evolve, ideals change, and new rituals are born to be perfected and joked about thirty years hence. And so Christmas morning at our house will look different.

If you’ve been reading my posts in the past couple of weeks, you know that we try to minimize commercialism during the Christmas holiday season. We aren’t big on Santa, we attempt to make as many of our gifts as possible, and with everything we do, we try to keep a couple of goals or ideals in sight: we emphasize the spirit of giving by showing love and compassion through service and by respecting the Earth to avoid wastefulness.

The Christmas memories I’d like to build in our home will be more simple: we will limit the number of gifts under the tree, and we won’t have a schedule for opening them. If Kieran wants to open something and play with it for hours (days!) on end, I want him to have the chance to enjoy and appreciate the love that someone has put into his presents. On the other hand, if he wants to rip into everything and then take his own time to go through his gifts later, that’s fine too. Because we only have the one child, we have the luxury of being pretty flexible.2

If you celebrate Christmas, what does your house look like on Christmas morning?

Have you intentionally created new traditions for your family that are different than those you grew up with?

**By the way, I originally wrote this post for inclusion in the December Carnival of Natural Parenting, but I decided to write about celebrating motherhood instead. Check out the other Carnival posts for more ideas on family traditions.**

Photo Credit: formatted_dad

  1. Unless it was wrapped in a gift bag, those are the only item that my mother recycles. Ever.
  2. Of course when we go to the grandparents’ houses, we will let Kieran know that they might do things differently, and it’s important to respect how other families work too.

10 Responses to:
"Creating New Traditions"

  1. I had to smile about your description of your Dad. Nicely told!
    At my house, Christmas Eve (in Germany this is the “main event” including presents) we went to church and while we were there, Father Christmas (“Christkind”, more of a child-like, angel figure) brought presents. I think I loved the magic about that but what I truly remember is figuring out, knowing that it is my parents who bring the presents. As I was the oldest, the Christkind still brought the presents and I tried figuring out how my father did it. Following him everywhere, not leaving my Mom out of my sight. I was so sure that I could not have missed it I was shocked how the presents still appeared. I knew it was my parents – but it still was magic! I do not remember being sad about learning there is no Santa … I only remember trying to figure out how my parents do it.
    Although this is what I remember, christmas is completely different at my house. No tree, no decorations, no nothing. My sons birthday is celebrated at the 23rd to give his friends parents some time to organise things last minute. Christmas Eve my son spends at a Grandparents house, alternating between the two families. Traditions are completely different at these houses (my parents being protestant, there is one small gift, a nice, different dinner, not traditional, not too huge (there is never anything left), but more like fine cuisine (my brother is a cook and my Mom is a cooking teacher, they try out all sorts of things at christmas. e.g. We will have white tomato soup for starters today). With adult children we focus more on spending the time together. With the Baby-Daddys parents it is a very catholic, traditional christmas. Therefore my son experiences different traditions at once. Now that he will go to school next year I am planning to introducing a new one. I planned that since I was pregnant and only now think he is old enough. We want to explore other religions so my son gets to really know other views and learns respect and tolerance towards religion. I have only planned a tiny bit of that, but will talk about it in my blog when I start planning more about that.
    Wow, never thought I would write such a long comment, but you did ask for it! ;) Merry christmas to you and your family!

  2. Rachael   RachaelNevins

    You know, despite our trying to have a less commercial Christmas, the Critter is going to be getting lots of gifts this year (and in many ways succeeding), a function of having two sets of grandparents plus two aunt-and-uncle pairs on either side of the family. I’m expecting to see lots of torn up wrapping paper strewn about the floor tomorrow, plus a frenzy of playing with the new tunnel! trucks! trains! and so on. Everything is something I want him to have, and nothing is very big in itself, but it adds up to a lot to get all at once. I think I’m not going to worry about it too much for now but tuck the thought in to bring out again next year when we think again about how we want to do Christmas. Anyway, traditions are alive only if they keep changing according to need!

    Dionna, best wishes to you and your family for a merry, merry Christmas!

    • Rachael   RachaelNevins

      I put that parenthetical in the wrong place — I meant to write that we tried and in many ways succeeded in having a less commercial Christmas. But oh my gosh I had forgotten entirely about the generation of great-great grandparents — my grandmother, my stepmother’s mother, and my stepmother’s father and stepmother — all of whom also gave the Critter gifts. Yikes. Next year we’re definitely looking even more closely at the gift-giving traditions that we are establishing!

  3. Jen   diplomom08

    Hi! Too funny, I think you described Christmas at my in-laws to a t! While I love the chance to see family at Christmas, they rush EVERYTHING. It was so nerve-wracking, my MIL would hover over the girls with a trash bag (cringe, they don’t recycle a thing!) and it was hurry, hurry, hurry so we can clean up.

    We like a relaxed slow opening (or the girls go at their own speed). We wanted to do more hand-made stuff this year (though found a few things at the thrift shop), but it didn’t happen, so that is our goal for next year. Oh, and Peter won on the train issue (Nicholas got a Thomas set…) but he really just loves trains, so don’t think it will matter in the end. Now if that nice train table is still available on Craigslist…

    Merry Christmas to your family from ours!

  4. Ruth

    You forgot to add that all of the gift sacks came to ME for recycling for the next Christmas…and the next and the next!!! And the race downstairs to open your Christmas Stockings…which I think was always my favorite thing on Christmas morning!!!

  5. Melissa   vibreantwanderer

    I love your description! It sounds a lot like Christmas morning at my grandparents’ when I was a young girl.

    I have to agree with what Rachel says above about how traditions are only alive if they keep changing according to changing needs. So true, and I think that sums up our Christmas!

    Being atheist and trying to stay away from consumerism as much as we can, we specifically asked family not to send gifts and let them know that we’d love things like photos of their families instead. Still, there are traditions that correspond with this season that I thoroughly enjoy. We decorated our tree, we filled stocking for one another, and we made a special meal to share. We baked gingerbread men and took some to the neighbors, and we are still finishing up our Skype chats with family and friends who are far away. It’s the togetherness and the appreciation of what we have in one another that we are trying to emphasize most, and I feel like it worked out fairly well!

  6. MomAgain@40   karentoittoit

    I love the way you have changed the traditions in your household. The making of your own presents is a great tradition!
    We are also moving away from some traditions, such as the going-to-early-church on Sunday mornings. We do believe it is necessary to tell some of the stories (myths) around Christmas time, because our communities revolve around it. But we have moved away from most of the religious notions around it…
    But for us it is about the “giving” of presents to beloved family members and friends, and being grateful for being able to do so! We do not buy expensive gifts, and we love spending time with the family and extended family! :-)

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