Too Much Tradition?

I’ve been reading articles and stories about how other women minimize the stress of the holidays. Even television shows hit on this, with simple timesaving tips and ideas. Wrapped up in all of the hub-bub of the holidays, yet trying to keep things simple, I find one hitch as to why we women get hung up: Too much tradition.

Tradition is a beautiful thing if it doesn’t overwhelm you. With traditions come a lot of expectations. And with failed expectations come a lot of stress and guilt.

Whenever you feel the, “We have to do it this way because we always have,” syndrome, stop and re-evaluate and ask yourself this question: “When is it okay for me to change the course of this tradition, or even stop it?”

Knowing that I no longer want to be rigid and make my family suffer during the holidays for traditions that are important to me, but not really valued by them, I’ve come up with these simple guidelines that work for our family.

* Think of a new “twist” that you can put on your tradition. If the old way is not working, but it’s important to you to not lose it, be open to change! Be flexible and even ask your family for their ideas. As your kids grow and change, so will the needs of the family. When I found a great deal on a “fake” Christmas tree, I made sure the whole family was okay with the notion of giving up our traditional “going to the lot in the rain” experience, and dragging a soggy tree into the house. We all agreed it was a “go” as long as the tree looked real!

* How does the tradition affect my whole family? I’ve always loved to Christmas carol, but with the ages of my kids right now, they do not value it as I do. We’ve always tried to cram it in, a few days before Christmas, when everyone is stressed and tired. It seemed to be a “flop” the last few years, so I’ve given up on that tradition, at least for now. We can always resume in the future if we want to.

* “We have to do it because it’s what I did as a kid!” I’ve told my kids that over and over when it comes to making rolled-out frosted cookies. But come to find out, those sugary cookies make my family feel sick! The last 2 years I did very little holiday baking. It was good to let the “idea” of “having to do it” go, and actually live a little healthier! We did make our yummy Toffee Candy though.

* How can you simplify the tradition? From the beginning of our marriage, one of our Coughlin traditions has been my husband’s “famous Christmas letter.” Paul’s gift of sarcasm, along with his sense of humor, has had people waiting all year long for this letter. Last year after the whole family worked together to get almost 300 letters/photos in the mail – we were pooped! This year we plan to simplify the process by sending it out through the cyber-world. We’re a little behind times with this idea, but at least we’ve come up with a new plan that will be easier on the family. (Be watching for the Annual Coughlin Christmas letter to be posted here on my blog!)

* Be open to changing your tradition of giving at Christmas time. We all know that giving is more important than receiving. Getting our minds off of ourselves is the key. Every year is different with our finances and what we can give, but our family still talks about the one year we decided to anonymously bless a needy family instead of giving to an organization. The father of this family was blind, so that was very impacting to our children at the time. The gift of time is also precious! One year we delivered gifts to “Project Angel Tree” families. We have to be open to where the “spirit” leads us and open to new ideas.

What tradition is honing in on your life, weighing you down, and stealing your joy?

Should traditions be a burden or a pure joy? Is it something we have to do, or want to do? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.

I’m open to change this year. How about you?

(Photo: Abby’s first Christmas 1996, with big brothers Elliot and Garrett. After years of trying to get the perfect picture, I learned to give it up and enjoy the moment; Coughlin tree)

22 comments on “Too Much Tradition?”

  1. This was such a great blog and so helpful as a new mom and wife. I have been stressing over cramming in all my husband’s family traditions and my own. Plus we are doing an early Christmas with his family then flying to the east coast to spend Christmas day with mine and planning a day to do our own little one… it’s enough to make you cry! I am seriously going to go through those questions you posed and come up with our own unique less stressful holiday plan. Great post. Blessings!

  2. What a perfect post! Traditions can be fabulous things when done in the right spirit and for the right reasons. And never be scared to change the traditions around or give some of them up.

  3. This really resonats for me today. I’m giving up my tradition of making holidays cards and just ordering up a photo card with kodak. Everyone is shocked at my decision but I feel great about it. I needed to not be stressed out about the cards this year. I want to be focused on my family’s advent tradition beginning. I feel good and maybe, in a few years, I’ll pick it up again.

    Cheers! LA

  4. I am going to have to blog about this too, if you don’t mind. Today after 31 years of fresh cut trees, I bought a Costco pre lit tree…….. I hope I can not be grumpy about it. I am so bad when it comes to traditions. I have cut back, but still the tree, this one it tough. Hope I don’t change my mind and return it…

  5. I just happened upon your blog and I LOVED this post! What great advice.

  6. Very true! Sometimes husbands and wives try to keep doing the same traditions their families did, instead of creating their own. I just have to say, – that room your tree is in – beautiful. I love rooms with big windows, and you have it decorated so nice.

  7. What excellent points you make here! Being one that didn’t even decorate for Chrismtas last year due to life issues, I couldn’t agree more!

    Traditions are not meant to make life more stressful… but more memory filled and enjoyable!

    Do you mind if I link to this post in the near future??

  8. I’ve been contemplating this a lot lately. We actually don’t have a lot of traditions, since we’re fairly newly married and have a young son. However, I’ve always dreamed about having traditions and I’ve kind of been shoving ideas down my husband’s throat. He’s happy just being together. We didn’t have a lot of traditions surrounding Christmas growing up, but I still have fond memories. And, to echo your post below, the details aren’t as important as the people anyway. Great reminder.

  9. Great reminders. I’m guilty of getting hung up on tradition of my childhood. I’m trying to make an effort to build traditions that fit my family now…not my childhood nostalgia. Thanks for letting me know it’s ok!!

  10. We are so “non-traditional” these days. It seems we have changed a lot of the traditions that were done in our family. Do you mind if I link to your blog and do a post related to yours, if I have time??? It ties in to what I’ve been thinking about posting and some of your questions or points fit well into what I was considering sharing. Of course, I’d link up and give credit to your questions/thoughts. Please let me know if that would be okay.

  11. Well I hate change as a rule. But this year I kept saying I wanted a new look as far as the decorations go. Not completely new, mind you. But I wanted pretty…not cluttered. So rather than put out every Christmas decoration I own, I simplified. Changed a few things. Spent a total of $30 dollars on materials to make new decorations and I’m thrilled. Nostalgia used to set in and I would HAVE to put that out because, well I have for every year. My son reminded me that I don’t HAVE to keep the santa and sleigh on my mantle just because I always have (and consequently always hated it there.) So…if changing your decorating theme constitutes a change in tradition, then I’m with ya babe!


  12. Amen! Sandy, this is the truth that I’ve been learning over the past couple of years too. If it isn’t something that everyone values, it’s probably time to let it go. ESPECIALLY when it’s dear old Mom doing all the work! I’m looking forward to a fun Christmas doing things that are meaningul to us. I wish the same for you, too!

  13. Oh Sandy, you have no idea how much I NEEDED to hear this post!!! I have been majorly stressing!
    I’m serious, you have given me permission to let go of some traditions and I’m feeling so OK with it!
    And I’m the QUEEN of traditions! So this is BIG!
    Thanks you, thank you, soooo much Sandy!

  14. Terrific post and boy did you nail it on the head! What happens so often is that we are so busy on auto pilot trying to get everything done that we don’t stop to evaluate WHY we are doing the things we are doing. It’s so important not to beat ourselves up and know that it is OKAY to change things up if we need to each year. Tradition is great but at what cost?

  15. I just came accross your post and love it. We too love to enterain, though right now we are living with someone else while building a home, so entertaining the past 1 1/2 years hasn’t happened as it has in the past. Soon, though, soon!

    We too had to tweak traditions after we got married..and I’m from a very “tradition” oriented family. But it has been fun to create our own traditions as a family. Clam chowder in bread bowls on Christmas Eve, then driving to look at lights. Fresh cinnamon rolls Christmas morning. Not feeling like we have to be obligated to go anywhere on Christmas.

    Can’t wait to peruse your site more.


  16. Great post! I know sometimes we mothers hang on to traditions that are precious to us but the rest of the family dreads. It’s hard to let them go…but sometimes needed!! :)

  17. You are so right. And that is why everyone enjoys the holidays at first but is bah hum bug by the 15th….I totally agree with you. I enjoy reading with you….I value your opinion.

  18. Oh, I’m glad to hear the Christmas letter will appear here! As soon as you mentioned it, I was going to email you and ask you to send it to me!! I love your writing and Paul’s a great author as well — sarcasm is exactly my kind of humour!!

    I think for me the hardest thing about Christmas has become the scheduling. We don’t live close to our families anymore, so juggling gatherings with our extended families as well as personal schedules is just becoming such a chore. I can’t imagine Christmas without seeing all my cousins and uncles and aunts whom I only see once or twice a year, but it might be time to just be okay with giving that up. You know, before I start hating Christmas!

  19. It took me years to learn this truth. And I’m still filtering traditions and seeking a balance.

    Great post. It’s all about freedom.

  20. This is valuable advice your giving. I will keep it in mind this year as I go through the holidays.

  21. good post-

    we had to evaluate some traditions lately also. my family has ‘always’ gone to downtown seattle the day after christmas to shop, eat a fancy dinner, and see the tree lighting. since my husband and i met, he has also. well, last year my 2 year old fell asleep at the table during dinner midway thru a bite. it was rainy and difficult to push a stroller through the crowds. this year with another baby we knew we had to say NO when the plans were being made by extended family. i couldn’t even imagine manuvering a double stroller!

    itwas a great decision, instead we went to a tree farm and chopped down a tree, my toddler brought his own tools from his tool bench to help daddy. and we spent the afternoon resting from thanksgiving and putting up decorations. such a better fit for a young family!

    at first i was really bummed- i loved our old tradition, but instead my husband and i are going to hand the babes to the grandparents for a day and shop together in the city. much better plan!

  22. That picture is precious just the way it is! lol

    I think if a tradition makes you happy then go with it! On the other hand, if it doesn’t, why bother continuing it? New traditions can turn out to be the very best ones because they can be tailored to your indiviual family’s needs and wants. :)

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