One of my wise grandma friends told me we need to get over yearning for the holiday traditions of the past and just accept what is. She’s absolutely right. Our traditions do change and we need to adapt.
If you stop and think about it, tradition is more fluid than we realize. We may tweak a tradition when we’re inspired with a new idea or we may have to completely eliminate a tradition when a more dramatic change occurs like a divorce in the family.
Families move, relationships change, beliefs change, our loved ones pass on and we have to learn to be flexible. When we let go of needing to do things a certain way, we can better appreciate the new opportunities we do have.
But change can be complicated. Many of us feel pressure to maintain family holiday traditions because holidays are infused with expectations. Trying to please everyone can create a stressful holiday season for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a clear understanding of how families can easily transition from one phase to the next?
Tips for Navigating Change
Since that is not the case, here are some tips for navigating change and experiencing a special holiday season from First Things First, a non-profit organization that helps families build healthy relationships:
- Instead of pressuring your grown children to keep things the way they have always been, give them the flexibility they need.
- Communication is key. Many misunderstandings surrounding the holidays happen because family members base their decisions on assumptions. Instead of being silent, request a family conference call or send out an email telling family members that you can adapt or adjust if necessary.
- Take responsibility for your own emotions. Change is often difficult. The older you get, the more you realize you have limited time on earth. Although you want to spend more time with family members, they often have busy lives of their own. Acknowledging these feelings is important, and connecting with friends in a similar situation can help.
- If you are the younger generation, recognize that holiday celebrations/traditions tend to be filled with emotion for everyone. In the midst of trying to juggle everything, be patient with your extended family.
- Even if being there on the actual holiday isn’t possible, make it a point to celebrate at a different time.
GaGa Sisterhood Traditions
At our recent GaGa Sisterhood annual holiday celebration, we discussed how our holiday traditions have changed.
- Irene told us her daughter recently divorced and she’s learning to let go of expectations and just go with the flow.
- Carol is starting a new tradition with her 5-year old granddaughter. They are going to buy some toys to donate to Toys for Tots; buy some pet food to donate to their local animal shelter; and buy a turkey to donate to Second Harvest. They will visit the places together so that her granddaughter can hand the gifts to the people at the organizations. She wants to teach her granddaughter that the true spirit of the holidays is to give to others.
- Sandi lost her husband two years ago and decided to travel during the holidays. She and her son and 13 other travelers celebrated Thanksgiving in Nepal.
- Dee and her husband are moving from the home where they lived for 50 years to a retirement community. Her son asked: “Where will be celebrate Christmas?” They may have to improvise!
- Martha used to split her holidays between her two long-distance families. A few years ago she booked a cruise by herself to Mexico for Thanksgiving. She made new friends and had such a good time she went back the following year with her daughter. Then the next year she invited the grandchildren. Now they have a new tradition.
In the throes of preparing for the holidays, it can be easy to get all worked up about what everyone expects from you. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that family members are probably not intentionally seeking to complicate your life. Take some time to talk with your spouse and/or family to brainstorm possibilities. Then build a plan that works best, knowing that everybody may not be 100 percent pleased with the end result.
If you’ve recently lost a loved one, begin some new traditions. But remember to eave some wonderful memories into the way going forward.
Remember that resistance to change is normal, but the ability to be flexible and resilient can help keep families in the holiday spirit. Instead of focusing on traditions being changed or eliminated, take time to be grateful for being together and having the chance to connect.