Contemplating Christmas traditions can make everyone empathize with Tim Allen’s character in Christmas with the Kranks! The holidays often bring out the worst in families who all want or demand their extended families to spend it with them. Of course, spending the holidays with one set and not the other can hurt feelings and cause resentment. Unfortunately, there often isn’t an easy way to make the divisions of time equal so that grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles can all share the celebration with your family.
Young families need to ensure that they embark on the creation of new family traditions that are all their own. Coming up with a way to celebrate the holidays, as a singular family unit is important for you and your children to see. At some point, the time will come when you and your family will be the elders and having some special traditions of your own to pass down to the children is important.
The celebration of Christmas originated centuries ago. As the Roman Catholic Church celebrated the birth of Christ in December, the Pagans engaged in the festival of Yule. Over the years, the two holidays have blended into one and many of the common symbols of Christmas are actually Pagan leftovers. Theory suggests that the Romans used December 25th as Christ’s birthday in order to compete with Pagan celebrations and discourage Christians from joining in. Christmas trees, holly, wreaths and mistletoe are all descendants of Yule. The Pagans would use the greenery in their homes as a way to welcome the end of winter, ward of evil spirits and improve their chances at luck during the New Year’s upcoming harvest. The same is true with the lights. Pagans kept lights on in their home in order to welcome Angels of wealth and they believed that lit up homes would welcome her more readily. Even the baking of Christmas cookies comes from Roman times when common folk would routinely bake cookies for the Roman Senate.
Other Pagan traditions that have influenced modern Christmas traditions are the carols of music so often sung and heard on the radio. Yule, also called the Winter Solstice was a loud celebration where people dressed up, exchanged gifts and sung festive songs for 12 days. No work took place during this time and lavish meals were prepared from the foods that had been harvested. Together, neighbors shared their goods and foods remaining optimistic that more would come easily in the New Year.
While the ancient traditions are still with us, it doesn’t mean that you and your family can’t start some of your own. Some people use the time to travel to warm beach resorts, escaping the season altogether. Others spend hours in the kitchen baking treats and cookies to give to others. Even if you find that you don’t spend the bulk of Christmas day at home, try to do things before and afterward that will leave an impression on your children. Visiting a soup kitchen with your family and serving to others is a nice break from routine. Adopting some children every year and playing secret Santa, driving around on Christmas Eve looking at lights and listening to carols or even seeing a holiday movie together on Christmas Day can be simple ideas to make traditions of your own.
Remember during the holidays that just because you are now a blended family doesn’t mean you have to follow rules of Christmas’s past and while your entire family, on both sides- may want you around, sometimes it wont be possible to do that and enjoy the holiday with your own family like you deserve. Talk with your family and try to come up with ways that will mutually benefit all involved and remember that your children are only little once. Soon, they will want to be with their friends on Christmas days and Christmas traditions will become unmeaningful for a while.
An easy way to not feel rushed and hurried over the holidays is to agree to rotate whom you visit each year. The in laws this year and your parents the next. Alternatively, you can trade off spending Thanksgiving and Christmas with one or the other. There is also nothing wrong with creating a Christmas celebration all your own. Instead of feeling forced to spend the 24th or 25th with family, decide that your extended family Christmas will be the Sunday before Christmas every year. This way you will still have a full-fledged celebration with family and are able to have private family time as well.
In some ways, it is too bad that the Romans didn’t extend the celebration of Christmas for 12 days like the Pagans did. Had they done that, there would be plenty of time to spread yourself around without wearing thin or weary. The kids would have plenty of time to play with their toys and enjoy the season and mom and dad wouldn’t feel like they had to cram a weeks worth of visiting into one or two days. Maybe this year your family could initiate a Winter Solstice celebration all their own. The point is that the holidays are about family and togetherness and that shouldn’t be threatened by feelings of remorse, resentment or of being overwhelmed. Christmas traditions can be anything you want them to be and should reflect the love and passion of your family in the hopes that your children will want to carry it through the rest of their lives. If the Romans and Pagans were able to collaborate and blend their traditions, every day families should be able to do the same.