What do you do about blending christmas traditions?
When my husband and I first married, this was an easier question to answer. But, now that we have kids who are old enough to remember Christmas, this question has become a little more complicated. That’s why my husband is joining us at Happily Ever Mom today because blending christmas traditions has brought up loads and loads of interesting conversations between us…take it away, babe!
I’m Katie’s husband, Michael. I guess that means you can call me “Happily Ever Dad.” (You don’t know how long I’ve waited to write that.)
Katie and I were planning our annual Christmas trip to the grandparents (my parents this year) when we started talking about how we’ve blended family traditions. Like most families, we each grew up with a different set of traditions. When we got married, we had to make certain decisions, like where to spend the holidays. It’s wasn’t that bad, but then we had kids! Now we had to think about Santa traditions. To make matters even more complicated, Katie has one brother and I have two. We have two nephews, two nieces, and likely more to come. (No rush baby brother.) We all have to be on the same page, right? Hence the necessity to blend Christmas traditions.
Some of these decisions were logistical. For instance, Where is Christmas? I spent twenty-some-odd years in Texas for Christmas with both sets of grandparents, who fortunately lived lived within five minutes of each other. Katie spent Christmas in her hometown in California, where her entire extended family fortunatley lives within fives minutes. Katie and I decided for the time being to alternate Christmas with each family. (We’d spend Thanksgiving with the family who had the “off” year for Christmas.) Now that we have kids (and just bought a house!) we are thinking about spending Christmas at home, but so far we like spending Christmas with the entire family.
Other decisions were tougher. Christmas traditions can be sacred (literally!) and some of the most important to a family culture and a child’s memories. For us, the hardest decisions were about the big man himself–Santa Claus–as well as what we did with what he brought (opening gifts!).
So, here are five blended Christmas decisions Katie and I (and our parents, brothers, and sister-in-laws had to make):
1) When does Santa come?
Easy. Christmas eve.
Our Compromise: Start the compromises off with an easy decision!
2) Does Santa wrap presents?
This immediately gets difficult. See, I grew up with no wrapping. We’d bound into the living room and jump into Christmas morning. My Playmobile Pirate Ship was setup and ready to go. (“Thanks, Santa,” I’d say as I barely acknowledged my Dad holding the camcorder.) Katie’s Santa wrapped the gifts like you’d see in the movies. A bit different. More different? My sister-in-law’s Santa used special wrapping paper each year so each child’s gifts matched. Lot’s of differences here.
Our Compromise: let’s make it easy for ourselves… no wrapping.
3) Who fills the stockings?
I grew up with a very generous Santa who stuffed stockings full of small gifts, candy, and a bright red apple that ended up as homemade applesauce that evening. Katie grew up with stockings filled by everyone in the family. Each small gift was thoughtful and fully wrapped. (Even tic-tac boxes, a Happily Ever Grandpa favorite!) After spending a couple Christmases with Katie’s family, I fell in love with this tradition. It’s fun! I like picking out small gifts and opening the annual foot powder from my father-in-law. (Seriously?)
Our Compromise: This tradition is still confined to Katie’s side of the family, but I hope it’s adopted by mine soon.
4) Does Santa or an Elf or someone bring gifts on Christmas eve?
Me: no; Katie: yes. Her mom always gave them fun pajamas. (For my cousin: an elf delivers the gift early. I always wondered why the elf never showed up at our place…)
Our Compromise: sure, who doesn’t like a gift to open the night before? We’ve gone the pajama route so far with our kids, too.
5) How do you open presents?
Think this one is easy, huh? (You rip…) Not so fast. This was the most difficult decision of them all. In my family, opening gifts Christmas morning was controlled chaos, a free-for-all rip-fest. But, then again, we had three christmases each Christmas day. We started at one grandparents house. Then we’d go to my other grandparents house. And, lastly, we’d end up at my uncle’s parent’s ranch outside of town. That’s a lot for one day, so we had to get moving. Katie’s family, on the other hand, is in noooo rush. Each person takes a turn to open a gift. If it’s clothing, that person tries it on. (That jacket fits great!) If it’s something usable, that person tries it. (This soldering iron is sweet!) We take a break for breakfast; we finish at lunchtime. This speed is also really fun, but at the other extreme.
Our Compromise: we slow down at my house and try to savor it more. My mom loves the rip-fest atmosphere and, with a house full of kids, it still happens, but we’ve learned to watch a bit more, too. Why rush a day that only comes around once a year!
What We’ve Learned from Blending Christmas Traditions
Ultimately, Katie and I pinpointed one tradition that we each loved about Christmas growing up. She loved stockings and cherishing the moment when she sees someone open a gift. I will forever remember running into a room with gifts from Santa sitting there fully assembled and ready to be played with. We’ve taken those memories to create, well… OUR Christmas tradition. We hope that our kids will look back on Christmas with the same nostalgia that Katie and I do with ours, and when it’s time for them to start a family, we hope that they see that blending christmas traditions only adds to the magic of Christmas instead of taking it away.
The holidays isn’t about doing it ONE way for ONE person, but rather about finding joy in creating meaningful traditions together.
Has your family had to blend Christmas traditions? Which ones have been the toughest?
Head over to the Happily Ever Mom Facebook page and tell us how you’ve made it work!