Growing up there are a few holiday traditions that I remember and hold dear to my heart: Christmas Eve with the Italian side of my family; eating Chex Mix; playing with the nativity set at my grandma’s.
The traditions of my childhood were set in place before my birth, growing in the childhoods of my parents. Now that I have a family of my own I want my daughter to have traditions that she will hold close to her own heart when she grows up and has a family of her own. I struggled the first couple holiday seasons of her life, trying to make everything happen: baking cookies, making Chex Mix, creating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts that would feed an army. Inviting our chosen family to share our meals. Making sure all the decorations were just right. I focused on detail after detail trying to create perfect holidays filled with magic.
What I didn’t understand those first few years of my daughter’s life is that magic can’t be made by hyper-focusing on every detail. Magic happens when we let go of control and let it flow. Traditions are created over time – they are the beautiful things that occur every year because we want to do them, not out of obligation, rather, out of love and joy.
The last couple years I have been letting go of control and letting our holiday traditions manifest and grow. After years of creating the “perfect” Christmas Feast with friends, last year Nick requested we have a quiet Christmas Dinner, just the three of us. We compromised – Christmas Dinner just the three of us and a Boxing Day Feast with our friends. As fate would have it, we lost power at our house on Christmas Day and couldn’t cook at home. So, ala a Christmas Story, we went out to Chinese food. It was packed, and it took forever for the food to come. Still, it was fun and nice and something totally different from what we had done for years (including the years we were together before our daughter was born).
This year we asked our daughter what she wanted for Christmas Dinner. I had let go of controlling the Holiday Feast, having the same thing year in and year out. Our daughter said she wanted Chinese food. And so, we went to Chinese food again this year. It wasn’t as crowded as last year, we got our food in a timely manner. It was beautiful spending the time with my family, sharing our entrees, talking and laughing.
I don’t know if we’ll go to Chinese food next Christmas. I’m letting this tradition grow as it will. I’m opening our life to the possibilities that life has to offer, letting go of control and letting beauty and joy manifest into my life. It’s both freeing and scary, exhilarating and terrifying and I can’t wait to watch our family traditions grow over the year to come.