The Family Traditions

When I was a child, in my family churches were for baptizing, confirmation and funerals. Everything in between were worldly matters handled without interference by or blessing from any god. There was no church on Sundays, no church weddings and no church in connection with Easter or Christmas.

For us Christmas was not about religion but about tradition, and we had quite strong traditions.

The traditions

My parents had six children, and even when we were grownups, all of us always came together at our parent’s home for Christmas, every year – except our oldest brother, who was a bit of a black sheep.

Every year, when we arrived, everything was done already – the Christmas tree was bought and mounted on a foot, the house was clean and decorated, the food was prepared except for the potatoes for Christmas eve dinner and for first Christmas day, which my dad pealed in the early morning of Christmas day, before he took in the Christmas tree and began to decorate it. In the early years, he did it all by himself and in the later years my younger brother helped him. Everybody else had to stay out of the room, and it took hours and hours before the tree was ready and the gifts were placed under it and/or on top of various tables in the room.

Some time after dark we got together in front of the door, behind which the Christmas tree was waiting. We would stand in line, the smallest person first and the tallest last – I remember the year, when I was eight or nine and went from being the smallest to being the next smallest person in the family, because I had become taller than my grandmother. My dad would light the tree, the door would open and we would all stand and admire the beautiful tree, and talk about the various pieces of Christmas decoration, that had been with us forever and which we had inherited from our great grandparents.

Finally, we would open the presents – not one by one, but all at the same time, because there were so many.

Then we had dinner which was either goose or duck and lots of it, and we would praise it, because my mom was a really good cook and her Christmas dinner was an absolute highlight every year. After that we just sat and talked for hours before going to bed and during the next few days our rhythm became eating, dishwashing, talking, eating, dishwashing, talking, eating…

After 45 years I was ready for change

Thinking back, it was really great, actually. We had more food than we could wish for, great company, lots of fun and lots of gifts. The kids loved it and so did I, but then again.

I was a grown up with children of my own and had my own home, and every year there were things we would have liked to do at Christmas, but we never came around to actually doing it, because we had to leave home and drive hundreds of miles in all kinds of weather, to get to a place where we had no influence on how Christmas was celebrated.  Until I was about 45 years old my only Christmas tradition was to drive from one country to another and back again.

Then life happened and things changed

My children became grownups and wanted to have their own Christmas traditions, and I got married again and moved to yet another country, and even so my siblings still went to our parent’s home every Christmas, all the sudden we were out of the loop.

Since then we’ve celebrated Christmas in many different ways – in different countries, together, apart, with different friends, with the girls’ dad – my former husband – and his wife, and with my siblings. We never returned to my parent’s home for Christmas though. Once it was over, it was over for good.

We never created strong Christmas traditions of our own either – everything is debatable, and I for one think that is a good thing.

Loosen up and take responsibility

My parent’s Christmas traditions were important for them, and especially for my dad, and when I was younger I never really thought of discussing how I wanted Christmas to be. I accepted it the way it was, and yes, I enjoyed some of it, until the day I didn’t enjoy it any more.

I should have questioned the traditions, had more influence, taken more responsibility, softened it all up with a new dish, drink, game, anything. Maybe I should have insisted on staying at home with my children every other year, doing the things we wanted to do that year. But it’s too late now, because even so I wish I could have another Christmas with my parents, they both past away years ago.

The take away

So this is what I would like you to take away from my story:  Traditions are a fine thing as long as they are flexible.  If you want to celebrate with others, don’t try to run the whole show on your own. Share the responsibility with others, don’t be a tyrant, don’t be a martyr. Tell others if they are draining the Christmas joy out of you. Take responsibility for your own happiness and let go of the rest.

What are your thoughts about traditions and Christmas? Are you celebrating it, and if yes, then how? Please tell us about it in the lines below.

We wish you a merry Christmas with your favorite people, exciting gifts, delicious food and lots of joy.

With love,

Cirsten

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