What We Give Up For Traditions
What makes a family tradition something worth holding on to? This question has weighed heavily on me for years. When I was 17 years old, I left home. I used college as an excuse to get out of an overwhelmingly negative situation. I wanted to be myself, to be safe and encouraged, and I knew that would not happen at home. I hoped that I would find it somewhere else.
At 20, I met my husband. We got married only 5 months after meeting. We needed each other and understood that God had put us together for a reason. The reason has not always been clear or easy, but we could never deny we needed one another.
Part of me hoped his family would become the “home” I had hoped for when I left my own behind. But instead I found a whole new set of oppression and baggage.
For the first five years of our marriage, we lived in the oppression of family dynamics and church rule, unhappy, but unable to figure out how to change it. When my husband and I found the courage to let go of this life, we ran, not completely away, but out from under the expectations and despotism. This was the moment I knew we were ready to set our own course, we just didn’t know exactly what that course should be. We didn’t know how to build what we wanted in our own family. What traditions were worth passing on to our children?
Growing up, my family had a few traditions, mostly focused around the holidays. When I got married, I realized those traditions are set in stone and they became an impenetrable force keeping me from being a part of these family memories. My family’s Christmas celebration has to be on Christmas morning, we could just exchange gifts whenever we could make it to town, if the rest of the family could take the time to come over when we visited. Holidays became difficult because I had to choose between families. My husband’s family also has hard set holiday traditions. Their Christmas morning is spent with my mother-in-law’s extended family, sharing breakfast and a game of dirty Santa.
What I realized after several years of stress and frustration was: it didn’t matter if my family, my husband, children and I, made it to any of these activities. We weren’t missed. All that mattered to these families was the tradition itself. It did not matter who was there as long as the activity happened in the time frame set up in the original tradition. Coming to this realization has changed how I view traditions and the holidays.
My husband and I began seeing traditions in a new light, with a much more relaxed perspective. We now make our traditions anything we want them to be, especially at the holidays. We try to enjoy time with our extended family whenever it works, but we no longer stress about other’s traditions. We have realized what matters most is enjoying the time with our children, doing whatever each year offers. Our tradition is to be together and to enjoy that time no matter when it is or what changes we’ve had to make. One day, as my children begin to build families of their own, I look forward to integrating them into our lives and being open to their traditions, as well. I hope to continue to focus our traditions on the people we love rather than the things we do. Holding on to a tradition will never be worth losing time spent loving my family.