Traditions: When is it Time to Change?

I’ve been reading articles and stories about how other women minimize the stress of the holidays. Even television shows hit on this, sharing simple timesaving tips and ideas. Wrapped up in all of the hub-bub of the holidays, yet trying to keep things simple, I’ve 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. But 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?”

The last 3 years for Thanksgiving we went away and enjoyed a quiet, intimate Thanksgiving with just our family. It was relaxing and rejuvenating.

This year, with our son home for the holiday, we chose to stay home and invite others in. It was one of our best Thanksgivings ever, I must say.

One thing I’ve learned is that I don’t want to be rigid and make my family suffer during the holidays for traditions that are only important to me but not really valued by them.

I came up with these simple guidelines that work for our family:

1. Think of a new “twist” that you can put on your tradition.

2. If the old way is not working, but it’s important to you to not lose it, be open to change!

3. 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. 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?
Do you feel like you have to do it all by yourself? Ask the family for help, change it up and have your guests bring half of the meal. Let your friends or family help you out in the kitchen. Simplify the process of cooking, entertaining, gift-wrapping, decorating … you name it!

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.

Should traditions be a burden or a pure joy? Is it something we have to do, or want to do? Is it something that adds to our faith and family life or destracts from it? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate. I’m open to change this year. How about you?

What traditions are weighing you down, or stealing your joy? And are you flexible when it comes to change?

(Photos from last week on Thanksgiving Day.)

44 comments on “Traditions: When is it Time to Change?”

  1. Pingback: Traditions « The Politics of Life

  2. I followed the link from

    Thank you! We are changing thing traditions this year after years of, this is the way we do it. Christmas eve is at great-grandma’s, the Christmas morning is at MIL’s, then the extended family comes over for dinner, so we’ll be there all day. oh. My family is in another state, so at least we don’t have to cram two Christmas’ together, like his sister. Last year Christmas morning didn’t work. I was tired and frustrated living off someone else’s schedule. Esp to be told they do it this way because when my husband was a child it was more relaxing to be at home in the morning. Wait, but now we are at MIL’s and MY kids are NOT at home relaxing.

    So we told them now that not that great-grandma hasn’t hosted Christmas Eve in years, my in-laws and sis-in-law’s fam are invited to my house. My parents will be in town, we’ll go to an early church service, have dinner and time to chat. Christmas morning we will be at home, relaxing. I was surprised sis-in-law even agreed to drop some of her hubby’s traditions to start something new. I’ll remind myself it might be different next year, we’ll keep what works, and be flexible. But this year we are making new tracks in the snow.

  3. Pingback: Take Note ~ Fabulous Links to Love

  4. Whoops, I meant to respond to the story from Deb Meyers. :)

  5. I love that story! It’s so true about time passing changing perspective. Thanks goodness children always remember the good!

  6. All traditions had to start somewhere, yeah?

    Happy Holidays!

  7. We are having a simple Christmas Eve this year…no big dinner with many courses and a tableful of desserts. I asked the kids what they wanted and was surprised by their request – a very simple dinner and dessert that leave plenty of time for me to relax and enjoy the day also. I will still bake for the church’s Cookie Walk but will only make a few quick breads for the family to enjoy. We have also cut back on decorating every room of the house to achieve the “perfect home” captured only in the movies and in magazines. There will be more decoration boxes staying in the basement then come upstairs. Everyone seems fine with this plan and I can’t wait to see how it works out!

  8. Great post! My husband and I worked hard to include traditions from both of our families as we created our own traditions with our girls. Now that they are 21 and 18, we, too, have let go of some of those traditions. The funny thing is, I’m the one that’s most open to changing or letting go of them.

    This year we will have to adjust our traditional Christmas Eve fare, as my oldest daughter has become a vegetarian. I’m looking forward to the challenge of adjusting/creating a new tradition that will fit in with the old.

    Happy Holidays!

  9. Hi Sandy, I’ve just come across your blog and love it. I’ve really enjoyed spending some time reading your wonderful advice & reading all these great comments and interaction. I look forward to getting to read more and connecting through the blogosphere :)
    Cheers Chef Anna

  10. Awesome Post Sandy!!! I was hit with the “tradition” thing shortly after we were married. My family always had certain traditions that we kept and I just always thought we’d do the same things especially when it came to spending time with family. We finally realized as our family grew that we needed to do what was best for us. Not so much has changed as far as TG goes. Sometimes my MIL and I will swap who hosts. We stick with much of the same traditional foods but honestly I’ve lost the taste for the traditional desserts. Christmas is where many of the changes happened

    Here are a few things we’ve changed.

    On Christmas Eve my mom always made Oyster stew, clams, scallops and deep fried veggies. Hubby didn’t care for Oyster stew and I was only good with one helping. I began making Clam Chowder on Christmas Eve in sourdough bread bowls. We’d eat and then drive around looking at Christmas lights.

    On Christmas morning I make homemade cinnamon rolls (this is something everyone looks forward too especially my FIL…along with the clam chowder so I don’t think those will go away anytime soon)

    We gave up feeling pressured to “HAVE” to spend the holidays with both sides of the family (and since my mom passed away I can’t seem to get my side together unless I go there), or even celebrating on the actual holiday (our families lived a few hours away for several years). When our girls were little we wanted them to enjoy Christmas morning at our own house. Sometimes we strayed from that, but not often.

    Sometimes I bake and sometimes I don’t. I gave up on the “I have to” bake all the things my mom used to make. I’ve found some new fun recipes and kept some of the old ones.

    We let our girls open one present on Christmas Eve from a grandparent.

    I’m a strong believer in creating your own memories and deciding which old ones to keep. There are so many awesome ideas out there!!

    One year we decided not to do a turkey and I made chicken cordon bleu.

    We also decided that we just didn’t need to feel like anyone “had to” buy gifts for everyone. We draw names, and if for some reason someone can’t buy for people we just don’t buy gifts for other family members. Holy smokes….that can get expensive. I listen to what some people do and I think “if we did that, we wouldn’t be able to buy gifts for our own kids”.

  11. I found a recipe last year in an eating well magazine for a “better for you”, less processed version of the green bean casserole. It was really good! I think it would take a few times before people got used to it, but everyone liked it. Go to their site and type in Green bean casserole, it should come up.

  12. Although we have tradtions for holidays in our family, we try to be flexible. With everyone working and not everyone having the holiday off. We try to accomodate everyone but you cannot always do that. But with both of our parents getting older, it just makes sense to have our dinner earlier, around 1 pm, so the parents can come out, have dinner, have some time for visiting and then get back on the road to their respective homes before it gets dark. We live in an area freezes quite frequently, so we try to make sure that our guests have time to get home before night fall. And for Christmas, since our kids have married, and we have always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, we have just set aside that evening for our family get together. And if it gets to late both of the guest rooms are made up and there is plenty of sleeping space in the house so they can just stay over and leave the next day. We make no plans for Christmas day, in fact last year for the first time EVER , Sherrie and I went to the movies on Christmas day. I have to say it felt weird and we both said that we will NOT be doing that again… so traditions yes, being flexible yes, and enjoying family yes. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!!!
    Blessings to you and yours
    Curtis & Sherrie

  13. What a super post! I’ve given a few ‘traditions’ away as well and the funny thing is, they really arent’ missed. Of course, I’ve held on to the ones that are important, but otherwise, the time I spend with my family is so much more enjoyable as I am not nearly as stressed as in the past.

    Great post as always — LOVE your blog!

  14. Thank you so much for this well-written, helpful post. As a fairly newly-married person, I’m finding it overwhelming each year to hold on to old traditions and create new ones. My sweet mother-in-law wants to badly for everything to be “the same,” which I admire, but find difficult since we love far from them. The holidays might be so much more pleasant if some traditions were kept, but some new, more appropriate traditions were made with adult children in mind.

  15. This is a great post. I struggle with this a lot because I am the only sibling married with a family. Our family still tries to hold onto those traditions and I feel bad for not being there for some of them, but I am busy making my own traditions!

  16. As very recent newlyweds, we’ve been discussing how to go about celebrating the holidays this year. Both of our families are local, and celebrating is a huge deal to both sides. Eeek! Haha. I have to say, my favorite decision we made for Thanksgiving was having a leisurely morning to ourselves. DH made me a cup of coffee and a batch of GF waffles at our tiny apartment while the parade played on the TV in the background. We got plenty of extended family time later in the day and well into the night!

    Also, I “made” DH and I get our Christmas tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We turned down shopping with the extended fam, and spent the afternoon and evening cooking dinner and getting our apartment ready for the holidays. We even lit the first candle to our home-made Advent wreath before our dinner-for-two (a tradition from my side). It was a great day!

  17. No real point, but a story:

    Last year we dramatically changed our Christmas tradition: the whole midwest family came east to spend the holiday with us at a ski lodge.

    Every tradition on its’ head…we got on each other’s last nerve; the lodge had a bare minimum of white Corelle dishes and we were scrambling every meal to find enough service dishes, even going so far as to use the pyrex measuring cup…so NOTHING was festive looking; we decided not to go to the hassle of a Christmas tree and instead strung lights on the fake ficus … Charlie Brown sad … then, with a huge storm brewing, the whole gang left right after Christmas breakfast (cancelling the highlight: a gorgeous, festive supper in a mountain inn I had spent weeks researching).

    On the way home from that week the kids vowed “We don’t EVER want to do that again!”

    Then? just yesterday, my daughter was reminiscing about the “AWESOME CHRISTMAS at the ski resort we had last year!” LOL! Time passing changes perspective, right?


  18. Great thoughts. Newlywed with a new house I’ve been thinking about this a lot. What about starting our own traditions? What are family members going to say when we don’t travel to 3 houses on Christmas Day? Should we go along with what’s been done for 42 years (as was pointed out on Thanksgiving Day)?

    I’m glad I have the opportunity to do new things and pave our own way and I hope people respect that.

    • Respect goes a long way. You can’t “make” people respect your changes, but you can only hope that they will :)

  19. LOVE this post. I am going to make a point to watch for the “traditions” that really “steal my/our holiday joy.”

    In recent years, when my husband’s family traditions changed, it left Christmas Eve WIDE open for our family of 4. My sister immediately invited us to their home to enjoy a Christmas eve buffet & carol singing. It was lovely – but didn’t really feel like our thing (since we see my family on Christmas day anyway!) Last year, our family of 4 went ice skating at a local outdoor skating rink. In the evening, we went to church & came home to make & enjoy homemade pretzels. It was really special to just be the four of us! I think THIS may be our new tradition.

  20. Thanks! Um, yes, because of tradition my hubby and I ended up with almost an ENITRE 9×13 pan of green bean casserole leftover to split between the two of us! Oooops :) (Can you say “tired of green bean casserole”??!!?!) I definitely needed this thought-provoking post. Much appreciated! :)

  21. I am definitely going to tweet this article, because it speaks to me in a huge way.

    My husband gently brought my dependence on tradition to my attention when we were at the grocery store, picking up food for Thanksgiving. I kept tossing items into the cart based upon my menu, which was based upon my aunt’s menu for the past 30+ years. This was my first year hosting and although I had a few dishes of my own to add, the bulk of the meal was based upon what I’ve been eating my entire life. My husband finally asked, “what do YOU do for Thanksgiving?”. Which made me think. And then I just went on my way because I didn’t want to rock the boat too much.

    We’re also hosting Christmas, and my family is WAY into their traditional Christmas meal – Polish food like kielbasa and pierogies (handmade by me, of course!) and other things we’ve been eating for generations. Hubs is making lasgana or ziti to go with it, as a shout-out to his own roots. Baby steps, right? :-)

    • Yes, baby steps. It’s funny that we don’t even entertain a “new” idea because we’re so used to doing it the same way. I love how your hubby is adding his own background … so important for your kids to see and be a part of (if you have kiddos).

  22. I like keeping the same traditions every year, we changed it up last year and it didn’t work, so i personally like keeping it the same way, it works for us :)

  23. I couldn’t agree more. Some traditions are worth keeping, some not so much. I remember when my girls were little rolling out the endless cookie dough and decorating them, only to not be eaten…one, because THEY didn’t like them and two, no one else was going to eat them after their little hands had been all over them! So, several years back I decided to make a change. Now the girls each decorate 2 pre-assembled gingerbread houses. They love the new tradition, even at 17 and almost 21!

  24. Oh for as long as I can remember we always ate Thanksgiving dinner around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. I carried this tradition as long as I could when I took over hosting it. But there came a time when running around in the morning and not being able to sit a little and watch the Macy’s parade while everyone else was, got to me and I changed the time to around 5:30-6:00. The only person who had a problem with it was my Dad and I’d hear about it ALL day, but I wasn’t stressed in the kitchen and I was able to relax with the family off and on. The best thing I ever did!
    Have a fabulous day my friend.

    • We had a later TG dinner this year, too, and it was wonderful! :) I was relaxed and had the best day ever!

  25. Yes! Sometimes the tradition continues but not so in-depth depending on circumstances, if that makes sense (we were to move at Christmas last year, had orders cancelled 3 days prior to packing and were diverted to a different overseas location so we did what we could on short notice and yet kept it simple for logistical reasons!). What I have found somewhat difficult is when we let go of a tradition my parents had while I was growing up and they have a hard time understanding why we don’t continue it.

    • I hope I will be able to respect my children’s decisions if they choose to do things differently. I will have to cross that bridge one day. You guys are always changing things up! It’s fun to read about … :)

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