Monday, November 19, 2012

Making Married Traditions

What I'm going to write about isn't new and isn't rocket science. Some of you may have never had to deal with this, some may currently be, and some may know it's coming in the future. I'm talking about giving up some of the traditions of childhood and ushering in traditions of marriage. Obviously I'm writing about this because of Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up! Let me walk you through how I've spent the vast amount of my years celebrating Thanksgiving, for example...

My parents at Thanksgiving 2007. It's just the 3 of us, no need for fancy serving dishes :P! 

Thanksgiving: Some of this has been more of a half decade to decade-long tradition, as it is generally just my parents and myself at Thanksgiving. Don't feel sorry for us; we have a blast! In my family of origin, we take ANY excuse to eat. So we celebrate holiday 'eves'. This means that on Thanksgiving Eve (lol!) we have lots of tasty snacks set out buffet style and usually put a movie on. Thanksgiving morning my mom gets the turkey all situated in the oven and is working on delicious sides. We turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and watch it while we talk, mom bakes, and I pour through the Black Friday ads, knowing full well I have no interest in Black Friday shopping! Next up is the dog show! We have turned this into a contest in my family. We sit and watch the dog show together, and vote on which dog we think will win from each category. You get a point if your dog wins, and most points wins. My mom somehow wins this almost every single year! There is no prize; we just do it for fun! Later that afternoon we have our big meal around 2 or 3pm, and then just lounge around until dessert time. We don't believe in anything but stretchy pants and tshirts, even at the table. It's blissful. Honestly, I don't even care that much about the food at Thanksgiving. It's all the rest that I love so much! The day after Thanksgiving, we decorate for Christmas.

My dad sets up an antique train every year (the cat helps). It belonged to my mom's brother, who died when she was 4. The metallic smell is one of my favorites because of all the memories of playing with the train! 

Now that I'm married, Steven and I have decided to do whatever we need to in order to spend the actual holiday together (which we've never done and you'll see why!). My parents live 4 hours away, and Steven generally works until 3 or 4pm on Thanksgiving day. He can usually have either Thanksgiving day OR Christmas Eve off, though this year he will most likely be working both. Anyway, we decided, at least for the short term, to split holidays between parents- Thanksgiving with his parents, Christmas with mine, and vice versa the next year. So if you have put two and two together, you will realize that not only am I not spending Thanksgiving day with my parents this year... but I'm spending it pretty much alone! Ok, that's not entirely true. He'll get off late afternoon, come home to change, and then we'll head to his parents' house (about 75-90 minutes away) for Thanksgiving dinner. In our house, the entire day is pretty much over by then and sloth-dom has set in. This year, the day will just be starting! I already have visions of me sitting on the couch with snotty kleenex, watching the parade and dog show alone. I'M SO DRAMATIC! But this whole 'married holidays' thing is really going to take some getting used to! I'm excited to be with my in laws on a real holiday, and thrilled to spend Thanksgiving with my husband!, but you know what they say: There's no place like home. What IS exciting is that Steven has black Friday off, so we can stay at his parents' as late as we want without worrying about him needing to go to bed. And since we haven't been off on a day together in quite a while, we've already decided that we are going to have a totally loungey day Friday, and end it by going to the movies! I'm soooo excited!

I force games. Everyone pretends to hate me for it. (Do you see Christmas decorations oozing from every household orifice? Ahhhhh, home!)

All that long winded-ness leads up to a point. I told Steven earlier this week that I'm excited for when we can make some of our own married traditions. When he is trying to adapt to my family's traditions, and I'm trying to adapt to his, there is a sense of loss because we are giving up, at least for that holiday, what we know as tradition. And I'm letting myself recognize that and be ok with it. But when we create traditions together, the sense of loss isn't there because we're so excited to be making something new together for our little family. Until we have children of our own that aren't infants, we'll continue to go to our parents' houses for holidays and do the vice versa set up. That will probably *just* start feeling like tradition and then we'll have a child/children old enough that we decide what works for us, and make that our tradition. For now, we're focusing on making some little traditions to develop a sense of 'us' in holidays, versus it being a my family or his family type thing. Here are some little things we have started of our own for various holidays:

  • Opening stockings on St. Nicholas Day and decorating for Christmas on the first day of Advent (this will be the first year but we want to make it a tradition). In my family, you decorate the day after Thanksgiving by covering the house in Christmas related festiveness and open stockings Christmas morning. Steven's family does a little decorating but it isn't the national holiday that I'm used to, haha!, and I think his mom does it by herself, and stockings are also opened on Christmas.
  • Resurrection Rolls on Easter morning. (And of course baskets, but we both got baskets growing up, too.)
  • Donuts on the 4th of July. We tried to carry my parents' tradition of donuts on Halloween over but found it doesn't work for us since we eat half of the candy we are supposed to give out. Too. Much. Sugar. But I still need my yearly Krispy Kreme fix, so we decided to pick a holiday that didn't have so much sugar. 4th of July it is!
  • Advent calendar of activities. We had an advent calendar growing up where you put a magnetic ornament on a 'tree' each day to count down. I wanted to use an advent calendar, but make our own tradition so I ordered one last year with drawers. I'm sure they are for candy, but we put slips of paper in with activities ranging from simple to elaborate, and did whatever the paper said each day. It's one of the things I'm most excited about doing again for Advent this year! 
  • One we are starting this year is cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving breakfast. This is more so I will be in a sugar coma while the parade and dog show are on, and may not even realize I'm alone. I'm guessing we will do it yearly as an excuse for the chemically goodness of the rolls. 
And I'm happy to announce that writing this out made me feel really excited for the traditions to come, and way less sad about the ones I'll be leaving behind. *Mission accomplished* 

Were your first few married holidays a struggle for you? What ended up working or not working? Do you have any special traditions that you started for your family after marriage? 


  1. I'm sad for you! I mean, yes, marriage is compromise and you'll make your own traditions, but your Thanksgiving with your parents sounds so wonderful and special!

    I am sort of in the same boat with my husband's family being local and mine being far away. Just this week I came right out and said it: if my family is in town for any holiday, they take precedence. And, even if they're not, I am claiming Christmas Eve as our own day to be together, just our family, not with extended family. We end up spending Wed-Sun with his family over Thanksgiving and then the 24th-28th of December together again. I am putting my foot down, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I want my kids to have the same sense of tradition as I did growing up, and bouncing from place to place is not doing it. (Doesn't help that my husband's parents are divorced and remarried so we have even more families we're supposed to make time for.)

    Anyway, this is super long, but I just want to say I totally agree with you for wanting to start your own married/family traditions. Even though you'll be missing your own family (I do), you will be so happy to finally eat that Thanksgiving dinner with your husband after waiting for it all day!

    1. I feel for you Marie. A girl I worked with her husband parents were divorced and remarried uh several times and many of the family members don't get along. One year I think they literally went to 5 different houses on Christmas Day. At the time she had a 4 yr old and all he wanted to do was play with his new toys not go from house to house (which gets soooo exhausting)!

  2. Decorating traditions my wife and I have adopted: My wife and I don't want Advent to be drowned out by Christmas, so we put out a few Christmas decorations along with our Advent wreath. The Christmas tree doesn't go up until the weekend of Gaudete Sunday.

  3. I found the anticipation of the loss to be much harder than the day itself. I also found it to be helpful to start the day out as "our" holiday before including others. I guess that is similar to making new traditions. For instance, I think waking up in HER parents' house instead of MY parents' house on Christmas morning would have been extremely difficult - but waking up together in OUR house and having our own little morning traditions before heading over to her parents gave me so much joy and fulfillment that I didn't feel the loss nearly as much.

  4. I am also struggling with compromising on the holidays. Thanks for the honest post! It is hard to not be with your own family on Thanksgiving. That is so cute that you all celebrate the eve of Thanksgiving! I really love the traditions you and Steven came up with! That is really special. :) I hope you have a great Thanksgiving Stacey!

  5. We split holidays with my family (Thanksgiving) and his (Christmas, Easter, Father/Mother's Day ususally) so we haven't had a chance for our own traditions yet. I am looking forwad (3. yrs married) to starting our own.