Family feasts, opening presents, heading to Mass together; these are the stuff of family gatherings at Christmas. Along with imagery of tinsel, nativities, Christmas trees, and the Christ candle lit. Every year, this has been part and parcel to my Christmas experience making this time of year an uplifting and heartwarming experience. But it’s also one of those things that can change with major life events like moving, marriage, and the arrival of children. For me, it’s been all three.
My husband and I married in June 2010, moved 18 hours away from family in September 2010, and had a baby in May 2011. It’s been a whirlwind year-and-a-half, and for the first time, we are not seeing extended family for Christmas (last Christmas, before our baby was born, we took a trip to see family both Thanksgiving and Christmas). It feels strange, and a touch lonely, but it is turning out to be a wonderful opportunity to start developing our own traditions for our new little family.
What kinds of traditions, might you wonder, are we developing? We’ve blended some traditions from both sides of our families and made them our own, to be modified as the years go by, more children come, and as children grow.
- This year, our Christmas dinner is not going to be the traditional ham or turkey or roast. Instead we are having a main dish common to my family-of-origin’s Chaldean culture called Dolma (stuffed grapeleaves). We’ll have an appetizer popular in my husband’s family, pickle rollups.
- We will open one present Christmas Eve, and the rest Christmas Day.
- We will attend Mass on Saturday afternoon to avoid the Christmas Day Mass finding-a-spot-in-a-pew craziness (and going to vigil Mass won’t work with a 7-month old too well, as much as I would LOVE to go).
- We will call family to wish them a very Merry Christmas.
- We will have a greater emphasis on prayer.
- We will try to lay the foundations for making Christmas a religious and less secular celebration in our family by emphasizing Christ’s birth and not emphasizing Santa (but this is more for the future when our little one is old enough to understand these things).
- We will [really try to] not be online so as to be optimally plugged into our family life rather than the interwebs.
- We will cuddle our baby girl and enjoy her very first Christmas, even if all she understands right now is that there is shiny stuff that she would like to put in her mouth/knock over/ pull down/ otherwise destroy/play with.
All these things might not be *huge,* but they are the foundation for our own traditions. We are a new family, developing new traditions, and a new home—in the “home is where the heart is” sense of the word. So, in that way, we’ll be home for Christmas.
What family traditions have you and your family developed to celebrate Christmas? What ones would you like to start in the future, especially as little ones grow older and expand their understanding of the meaning and purpose of Christmas?