During the season from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years we have worked to create traditions for ourselves and our children. In the process we have created a number of traditions associated with our children and our extended families. As our lives moved along and our family situation changed, some of those traditions had to change as well. In our BC years (before children), we traveled from Illinois to Ohio for Christmas Eve and the days following. When the children started to arrive, we changed to spending Christmas Eve and day at home, to make our own family traditions, then traveled to spend time with extended family in the week after. Eventually our children started to leave home, first to college, then to build their own families. At that point we stopped traveling altogether, during this season, so that they could be with us.
In recent years, as our children have had families, the holidays have become more fluid, with the specifics changing from year to year as they tried to be with us and their siblings, but also to spend time with their spouses’ families. For some time, we have traveled to be with our daughter and her husband’s family for Thanksgiving, most years. Some years some of the other kids joined us there. On Christmas day we have had some of our children with us, but not all, and different families in different years. We have, each year, managed to get everyone home together during part of the week after Christmas. These times have been great and this has become our most stable and cherished tradition. Imagine a party lasting from 4 to 6 days, with as many as 17 people living in the same house. Many years Rita’s niece and other friends joined us as well. Consider the logistics of preparing meals and cleaning up. Several years ago Rita let us know that since she was also working full time the burden of being the “cruise” director was becoming overwhelming. At that time we started to split the responsibility for preparing and cleaning up after meals. Each day, one family takes responsibility for dinner. We are blessed with several good cooks and they usually make one of their favorite meals, so we eat very well. A few years ago we started Soup and Pie night. Different cooks make 3 or 4 soups and Rita, the consummate pie, baker makes several pies. Everybody looks forward to it. The meals are a great time to be together and enjoy being family. It’s a great party! Some are beginning to become pie makers as well and just may make some of their own this year. The grandkids love being sous-chiefs.
The house is cluttered, the washer and dryer run continuously. The grandkids enjoy playing with their cousins. It can be chaotic at times. We usually have to mail boxes of things left behind, after everybody leaves.
This year is a special one for us – for the first time in many (12?) years all of our children and their families will be with us on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. We are very much looking forward to this, but we are also aware of some extra logistics to be concerned about. On Christmas Eve we will go to Mass, but have to work that out between grandchildrens’ naps and getting dinner in time to put smaller children to bed. On Christmas morning, we will have 3 families with children and some Christmas traditions unique to each, so we are having a discussion about whether we do everything as a single group or arrange some opportunities for families to have a little time to themselves. Needless to say there are some different thoughts on that but one of the things we see reflected back from our children is the joy of being together, not how everything works out. It is wonderful to see the things we thought we were teaching them when they were young come to life in them as adults.
Most of the time the family doing the cooking runs out to pick up the items they need for the meal they are preparing, but on Christmas Eve and Christmas day we need to know what we are having and the materials on hand as well as who is cooking, since stores will be closed.
Bob has resorted to working out a more detailed schedule for the week than we have had in the past, in the hope of keeping things running more smoothly. In spite of the bustle and noise and chaos, we look forward to this season. We are very blessed to enjoy our children and grandchildren and to see them enjoy each other. The house will seem very quiet when the last group leaves. Oh, but not for long, at that point our son’s wedding will be only 2 weeks away. Does anybody know a nice warm place where we can relax on the beach in February?
It was easier for us to maintain holiday traditions from year to year when the children were growing up, but the situation has been more fluid as the kids have become adults and have their own lives. This is a normal part of the cycle of life which we have embraced and enjoy. We will try to get our whole family together for the holidays as long as we can, but our oldest grandchild is 16 and that family’s situation will be changing in just a couple of years. The times, they are a changing.
We wish you thankfulness, blessings and good times with family and friends as these days of Thanksgiving and the Holy season of Christmas are upon us.
Bob & Rita’s book: Forever and Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage That Lasts a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com or by contacting us. Also available for Kindle and Nook. Make a retreat with your spouse, at home, on your time. Readings, relationship tips, questions for discussion.