As we head into the final months of the year that carry all the excitement of the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in all the traditions and habits and customs many of us have kept year after year. But what happens when your holidays are full of change? Maybe you’re a new empty nester or you’ve recently gotten married or had a baby. Maybe you’ve had your first grandchild or this is your first year celebrating the holidays hundreds of miles away from your loved ones. You’re probably asking yourself, “What do I do now?” It may be time for new traditions and new ways of celebrating in this season of life.
We asked some of the ladies on our LifeWay Women team for their input and encouragement.
Betsy Langmade, Event Coordinator
Being on the parent side of much change from year to year, I’m thinking of a million little things that I’ve done to make the adjustments in the holiday gatherings. It’s a balance of letting go of certain things and working hard on others.
A couple of my girls, when single, would move in for a couple of days before Christmas and leave a day or two after. They enjoyed the pre-holiday cooking prep, movie-watching, last-minute wrapping, and my husband and I did, too. As my girls married and had their own families, there were many things I had to let go. I’ve learned to not miss that time as much as I did before. With the marriages came the great delight of welcoming the sons-in-law to our family mix. I focused my energy on doing everything I could to make them feel welcomed and integrated into our traditional gatherings. I would be sure to ask them what favorite dish or tradition they’d like to add to ours. I found monogrammed glasses to add to the others at the table. And I was intentional about asking about their families and traditions as well. My husband and I were careful to give them space and encouragement to attend their family’s functions, even if it meant they would be missed at our house. I did whatever I could to make them know we loved them.
When the grandkids came along, I encouraged the couples to have their own Christmas Eve traditions and take their time in the morning before landing at my house for the big Christmas Day hoopla. This took the pressure off of them and let them know they wouldn’t hurt my feelings.
It’s really fun to have all the annual traditions, and while they remain the same at the core, they also change from year to year with the additions of children, sons-in-law, and life’s struggles like illnesses, divorce, and loss. We choose each year to fully embrace each person at the table, intentionally expressing our gratefulness, knowing that next year may look very different. There’s a huge amount of appreciation at my house for the stability and excitement that family gathering and celebrating brings. I’m grateful for that.
Kelly King, Manager of Magazines/Devotional Publishing and Women’s Ministry Training
We moved to Nashville three years ago, away from our entire family in Oklahoma. For the first Christmas, our children came and visited, and we spent the week exploring the city and being tourists in our new place.
Now we have a new son-in-law! I’ve learned that Christmas Day won’t look the same as it did when our children were younger. This means being flexible with schedules and sharing family time with others. As I’m often reminded, “I didn’t lose a daughter; I gained a son.” Sometimes this also means trying to keep my mouth shut and not making my children feel guilty when they can’t cater to my expectations of them.
Emily Chadwell, Production Editor/Content Editor
When we had our first baby in October 2018, my husband and I decided that we would alternate holidays between my family and his, but also set boundaries around our time as a family, especially during Christmas. Those boundaries included always spending Christmas Eve at our own house so we could wake up and open presents together as a family. In addition, because our families are both local, we both had to say “no” to traditions that we had grown up with, or else we would be doing ten things the week of Christmas. Saying “no” went over well (most of the time) with our respective families, but we stuck to our guns because it was important for us to be able to create our own traditions as a family.
To prevent a total onslaught of gifts from grandparents and family, we do the four Christmas gift rule: “Something You Want, Something You Need, Something to Wear, Something to Read.” We can give our families a list of those things and get what we actually need. There are always a few surprises thrown in, of course, but that’s to be expected!
If you’re in a season of change, how are you celebrating the holidays this year? Share your ideas and encouragement in the comments below!