Holidays have been pretty easy over the past four years. We’ve kept things quiet at home, gone to a few parties thrown by family and friends, but we haven’t gone out of our way to really get into the spirit of things. A dash of holiday music here and there with some crisp sugar cookies and a Doctor Who marathon have sufficed. Now that we have a little Dinosaur to celebrate with, my husband and I are looking at the holidays a little differently than we used to. And I have a Pinterest addiction to deal with.
My boards are filled with new and interesting tradition ideas, fancy ceremonies and feasts, recipes to try, activities and crafts to do, and hundreds of ways to give back to the community during the holiday season. We’ve bought holiday pajamas, books, ornaments, and we even went out and cut down our own tree – a first for my husband, which was an experience in of itself (but that’s a different story altogether.) I keep getting this pang in my chest, poking at me, and reminding me that we still have so much left to finish. The house isn’t decorated. The tree isn’t trimmed. I haven’t figured out what we’re having for Solstice and Christmas dinner. I still have to finish addressing and mailing our cards. As the holidays draw ever closer, I’ve realized that I have been spending so much time planning and trying to “get things done” that I’m dangerously close to completely missing Alice’s very first Yulemas.
My husband’s family and mine each did things differently when it came to the holidays when we were young. Wayne came from a Catholic household. Christmas included church and craft fairs. They made multitudes of snacks and crunchy sugar cookies to give out to every friend and family member. Christmas music was piped in through the surround sound speakers set all over the house while his mother cooked and baked all month long. He was an only child with a multitude of people who showered him with love. They held the family Christmas party in this tiny house that we live in now. The walls were lined with chairs and every surface was covered with food or festive decorations. My husband had piles and piles of presents to open on Christmas morning, nearly dwarfing their tree. I’ve seen the pictures. It would take him weeks to finish opening every gift, as he would stop to play with things as each box was unwrapped.
My family has always had our big family Christmas the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Everyone would meet at one house or another, the schedule changing year to year, joining together to create a potluck celebration that we still continue to this day – now each of us bringing the next generation (my Mémère’s great-grandchildren) to enjoy staples such as Uncle Rick’s meatballs and Aunt Debbie’s minty brownies and cheesecake bites. My brother, sister, and I would listen to Burl Ives, Bing Crosby, and the Hanson Christmas album Snowed In (still a favorite of mine, don’t judge). We watched the same movies every year, woke up with stockings at the foot of our bed, and when we got older, alternated Christmases between my father and mother. Christmas Day was spent first opening presents and then traveling from one family member’s house to the other. It was a blur of activity and food. We got home late each Christmas and my brother, sister, and I were exhausted from traveling all day.
By the time I was seventeen, our family had grown to include a step-mother, my mother’s long-time boyfriend (and eventual husband), and four more siblings, bringing our family of five up to a family of 11, plus more grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins than I ever imagined to have. We found a way to blend and mix new traditions. I learned a bit about Hanukkah from my step-father. My step-mother and sister would go to Midnight Mass. I discovered Paganism and decided that I wanted to celebrate Yule, and so we found a way to accommodate everyone’s ideas and wishes. Meanwhile, as my family grew larger, my husband’s family became a little smaller. Wayne lost his grandmother, grandfather, and mother. The Christmas Eve party moved on to another family member’s house. He and his father kept their traditions alive by playing music and making cookies, but the holiday wasn’t as big as it used to be.
Now, with my family spread all throughout the United States and Canada, and Wayne’s family spread out as well, we’ve realized that we have the opportunity to make the holiday all our own. At first, I thought it was brilliant, but It isn’t easy deciding on traditions to fit our nerdy family. We have so many options and possibilities that we’re overwhelmed with “what could be.” And we both come from very different upbringings, each with unique and individual ideas of what the holiday season looks like.
This year I’ll be celebrating Winter Solstice with other people, rather than just silently observing it by myself. We’ll do the pajamas, books, and movies. Decorating will happen when we get around to it. I’ll figure out something special for dinner eventually. I know we want to play a board game or two, and if I have a chance, I might jump on to World of Warcraft and wish everyone a Happy Winter Veil. I’ve decided not to worry about it anymore, and maybe I’ll regret it later, but I know that if I keep building up our first Yulemas with expectations, I’m just setting myself up for disappointment. The list will never end and I will forget to be happy. I’ll be too busy and stressed out to see the magic. I’ll completely miss the Doctor Who marathon and Christmas Special. Basically, I’m choosing to remind myself that we have a whole holiday season to rediscover together as a family. So while it isn’t perfect yet, I’m going to stop fussing, sit back, and enjoy it, no matter how much or how little is “finished.” That’s the beauty of traditions. They’re never finished.
Merry Yulemas, everyone!
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Wayne Moulton Jr, Lindsey Castellon, Emily Reddy, Lauren Haffner, Daniela Freeman, Celosia Crane, Kasey Darnell, Kristi Fox, and Nancy Vawter.