Creating Christmas at Every Stage

December 2020 | by rebecca stewart

Though Christmas is steeped in tradition, those holiday mainstays tend to get some kind of a revamp at every stage of life. As time marches on and there are changes in family makeup and circumstances, some things might remain the same, but more often than not, life demands adaptability. Something we’ve definitely learned about in 2020.  

We place such immense value (and pressure) on tradition and making the holiday season a magical experience that it can end up being more stressful than special. That’s not to say that we should throw tradition out the window and stop shooting for magic, but we do need to temper our expectations, perhaps especially in this dumpster fire of a year. Just trying to keep it real for us here.  

So, let’s journey our way through a few of life’s stages and look at how to create – not perfect – but memorable, perfectly imperfect Christmas experiences at every stage along the way.  

Families Far Away 

Or, as the case may be, not far away but separated because of life during a pandemic…Good times.  

Whether you find yourself across the country, states away, or separated by circumstance this holiday season, this is an opportunity to define what the holiday season means to you while also figuring out how to stay connected to the various branches of your family tree.  

  • Zoom, Zoom- If 2020 has gifted us anything, it has brought us to Level: Expert at Zoom/video calls of your choosing. PLUS, the background options allow you to go next level with the whole video call experience. If you’ve done the long-distance gift exchange, then for sure, be intentional about when you schedule that call.  
  • Heart Pieces- When thinking about the gift exchange with relatives far away, some absolute gems include gifts of the heart. Things like homemade ornaments, digital picture frames that you can load from anywhere at any time, memory lane DVD slideshows set to your family member’s favorite tunes, photo blankets… 
  • Endless Possibilities- While it's no secret that family time is my favorite time, there is also something freeing about being able to set your own holiday pace. It's totally okay if traveling over the holidays is not the vibe you're going for – who doesn't love extending celebrations? So, maybe you (or they) travel to celebrate the holidays with extended family after the holidays, and that becomes a new tradition. Especially if you are a family with littles, it’s also completely understandable if you want to minimize schedule disruptions, which leads us to… 

Young Families 

From your first Christmas as an adult on your own to those first Christmases as a growing family with littles, there will inevitably be changes to the way you celebrate the holidays (you’ve now got a whole ‘nother side of a family to consider, amongst other things). Just remember, though change can be hard, it doesn’t have to be bad.  

  • To the Guilt-Ridden- If you want to break tradition with your extended family for your new immediate family, please hear us when we say: That is okay
  • Reality Check- What we know: Babies and littles thrive on schedules, and the holiday season is infamous for turning routines upside down. You eat at weird times, church is later than usual (in fancier clothes), naptime is hard to come by, it’s a late-night followed by a long day, and maybe you’re adding travel into the whole mix. It all adds up to sensory overload for the tiny humans.  
  • Finding Joy- So, all of that ^^ totally true, but here’s the other reality: Christmas is made for these precious beings. As the adults in their lives, we live to see their faces and experience their wonder. It all just comes down to managing expectations and adapting the festivities to their limitations. It's not pandering, dear ones; it’s setting yourselves up for success versus stress and meltdowns. You all deserve to experience the joy of the holidays, too, even if traditions have to shift gears for a few years.  

Teenaged Transitions 

I am going to go on record to say that the best part of transitioning to the teen years with the holidays is their willingness/ability to sleep in past 5 o’clock on Christmas morning. The trickiest part of this stage? Finding time in their busy schedules to connect and, frankly, shopping for them.  

  • Holiday Reboot- Sometimes, we cling to our traditions simply because it's what we've always done. Like we did for our littles, we might need to give our traditions a refresh. Whether it’s letting them take the lead and putting their spin on things – from the decorating to the activities – or simply not letting the magic slip away because we think it might not matter as much to them. (Consider taking advantage of their late sleeping to start a fun, new Christmas morning breakfast/brunch tradition).    
  • Deck the Halls- Let the festivities flow through the house, including letting them string up lights in their bedroom and/or putting up their own mini tree. Give them the space to go wild with all the decorations; who knows what they might come up with.  
  • Never too Old- We are never too old to be invited into the kitchen to bake, frost, sprinkle (however heavy-handedly), or add the red hots to the beloved Christmas cornflake Wreaths. It might be more challenging to instigate the baking days from their childhood but make a whole production of it when you can steal the time together. (Music, aprons, and magic, oh my!)  

Empty Nesters 

My nest is not yet empty, though, as the baby of the family, I’m the one who ultimately left my parents’ nest vacant. I remember that first Christmas out of their home, how utterly bereft I felt about them being alone on Christmas Eve. It was super hard for me, so I can only imagine how it felt for them, but our traditions needed to evolve, so we let go of our fives’ Eve traditions in exchange for new Day festivities. It’s this stage, I think, that forces the greatest call for adaptability and grace.  

  • Embracing Change- On Marie Bostwick’s blog, Fiercely Marie: Live every minute. Love every moment, she reflects on these changing seasons, saying, “If we fail to adapt to those changes and cling stubbornly to the past, we are bound to become disappointed, sad, or even bitter. And that is no way to spend Christmas!” Agreed! So, whatever that looks like for you is okay – even if your adult children try to guilt-trip you for planning an escape to warmer spaces…  
  • https://mariebostwick.com/empty-nest-christmas-traditions/ (a great read!)  
  • Pass it On- This could apply to passing along the hosting duties to the next generation. It could be the way you’re living the Christmas spirit and how you’re connecting with your community. It could mean the way you are encompassing joy with the changes you’ve made to your holiday celebrations – perhaps hosting a party with friends or accepting the joy of eating out and starting new traditions.  

At the end of the day, this holiday season is meant to be one filled with joy. Perhaps joy means giving yourself permission to create new traditions within your family. Maybe instead of going to ALL OF THE PLACES, it means opening your home and inviting those who want to experience the holidays with you in. Whatever it looks like to you, if it’s sparking joy, then you know you’re on the right path.  

Originally printed in the December 2020 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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