A Love Letter to the Joyfully Traditionless During the Holidays
December, 2021 - Issue #206
courtesy of Shutterstock
courtesy of Shutterstock

Our holiday tradition is that we don't have one.
There's always a tree, sometimes fresh and sometimes not, and it's never without presents beneath. There's always food, and plenty of it. We're blessed with abundance, if not consistency.
But my kids will never have a, "every year we did this same special thing," story when they're older. They won't remember a family ornament that was hung every year because sometimes that box was in storage and sometimes we just couldn't find it and the last time a vindictive someone left it out in the rain to rot.
And this time of year, when I'm again thinking, "What should we do for the holidays?" I'm a wee bit jealous of the people who already know that answer, even though "doing it because it's always been done this way" hasn't really been my thing.
My adult life has been marked by many moments where I willingly and joyfully bucked tradition. I've gone no-contact with a toxic parent. I left an abusive relationship. I've taught my children bodily autonomy and embraced it - yes, even when my purple-haired tween shaved off half her eyebrow because it was a makeup trend on TikTok.
But bucking the system - no matter how flawed that system is - can still feel isolating. Protecting myself and my kids from some people meant that we lost most of our Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions in exchange for gaining peace and safety.
It was a winning trade and one I'd make again.
But "starting fresh" is not easy during a season steeped in tradition. There are blogs and magazine articles and TV specials that show us plenty of parents who are using the same Christmas cookie cutters their great-grandma used, gathering in generational family homes in front of a quintessential fireplace and helping the littlest child place a tree topper that their great uncle crafted when he was 9.
We don't see many parents who are really happy that they secured their next rental house in time to put up a tree they scored for 50 percent off at Home Depot.
We need more stories about those parents because those stories are just as valid and just as worthy of celebration.
So hi, I'm that mom and my story is that our holiday story
"But 'starting fresh' is not easy during a season steeped in tradition."
changes nearly every year.
And I'm here to tell you that if the only tradition you have for the holidays is that it changes every year, too, you're a great parent. And if sometimes Christmas Eve dinner is Taco Bell because you didn't have the energy to make something fancy, y'all still feasted - congrats! And if your stockings don't match or you forgot to hang them or you never even bothered, I promise that your kids didn't notice or care nearly as much as you may have.
Because really... we're not as traditionless as we seem, you and me. Our stories are just different from what's elevated and amplified this time of year.
My children's holiday traditions cannot be crafted by places or things and if you can relate, I hope you know that there's no shame in it and a lot of joy can come from it.
My kids' traditions, when they recount them years from now, will sound like this: "Sometimes Mom got us a fun hotel and we took a trip, and sometimes Mom would let us each order whatever we wanted from whatever restaurant we wanted, and sometimes our gifts would be toys but other times Mom would plan really fun experiences as our gifts and sometimes we played games and other times she'd pile all of us in the car with hot chocolate and we'd drive through neighborhoods looking at lights and when Mom married Adam we sometimes went to his mom's house for Christmas morning but other times we went to a resort in Arizona with a lazy river."
Sounds like a blast to me!
When people ask my future-adult children, "What do you do for Christmas?" they'll say, "Hang out with my family." Now is that really so bad? Nope!
My family has one holiday tradition that isn't going anywhere and it's that we can joyfully celebrate everywhere - as long as we're all together. "Us" is our family holiday tradition and if it's yours, too, I hope you know that it's more than enough. Happy holidays!
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