Over the years holidays have become more and more important to me. As a child, I looked forward to Christmas with zeal and excitement. Hardly able to sleep the night before and the first down the stairs Christmas morning to see what Santa left for me. As I got older, the holidays became more about the excitement of finding the perfect gift for someone and watching them open it. And then I got married. That first Christmas together became something new. A time to focus on the family we had made, the new traditions we wanted to start, and how to merge not just families but our traditions from our childhood. When we had our son, Christmas took on a whole new meaning. Now we were the ones that were making the Christmas magic. It was our job to help him make memories and traditions that he would carry in his heart forever. It was so exciting!
And then we got the dreaded news of military families everywhere. Deployment.
I'd be lying if I said helping my husband pack for deployment on Christmas day was what I dreamed of for our first Christmas with kids. It was actually dead last. That Christmas was one of the hardest. But I have to say, we did it right. It was so hard to be happy and excited. But we did. And because of that, and the traditions that we have, it's also one of my favorite Christmases. We spent time with our whole family. We traveled to Michigan to spend time with my mother-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews; we went to Utah to be with my parents and siblings for Thanksgiving, and my parents came and spent an early Christmas with us. This was a great time for all. And it was a wonderful opportunity for our family to pour into my husband before he left.
But the real Christmas happened after they all left. We got to do our first year of Santa early. We were able to be the magic, the spirit, and the excitement for our little guy (who was 9 months old and doesn't remember a thing!). For us, it didn't matter that he was a baby and wouldn't remember. This was the year for us to cement our holiday traditions as a family.
We actually put a lot of thought into this. We wanted to incorporate our favorite things so that we would always look forward to the holiday. We are a religious family and celebrating what Christmas means for our faith plays a large part in our traditions. But a lot of our traditions are simply ways that we can be together as a family in a typically stressful time. As a culture, we have a tendency to try and do it all during the holidays. Go to all the tree lightings, send Christmas cards, make holiday cookies AND gingerbread houses- from scratch, go caroling, have a perfect light display on our house, create a Southern Living Christmas, etc. By doing this, we lose sight of what the holidays should mean and how we should celebrate them.
Knowing that I am prone to falling into the stressed category and trying to do it all. We came up with a few simple traditions that are our ride or die traditions for Christmas. Sure, if I can make my house look like it came out of Southern Living AND watch all of the Hallmark Christmas movies then I have arrived. But that honestly is not a reality for me. I'm not huge into horoscopes or Enneagram types, but in this instance, the Taurus and type 8 really come out. The more stressed I get, the more I dig my heels in and shut down. This ends up turning into an attitude of forgetting the decorations and just watch Hallmark!
Our traditions are simple. And they are things that we can do any time of year. As a military family, we never know when or how my husband will be called. We don't know what holidays, birthdays, or events he won't get to be here for. But we do make sure that no matter what time of year, we can celebrate our family and what is really important to us. Which is being together. Luckily, this will be the THIRD Christmas in a row that we get to spend together. And I am truly counting my blessings!
As you go through this holiday season, take a moment to treasure your traditions or think about what yours might be. The memories that are created out of these traditions are what you and your children will remember in years to come. You won't remember what was under the tree or what you received. You will remember how you gifted your time and the joy that this season can bring.