Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Sharing Holiday Traditions December 17, 2010

Today is Friday, December 17 and no matter how in denial you’ve been up until now, it’s time to face the fact that we are in full-blown holiday mode. I still have cards to write and mail, gifts to buy, and a naked, but beautiful tree that could use some decorations, and I am slowly acknowledging that Christmas is going to happen with or without me.

J and I have been married for almost seven years now and yet we haven’t really established any holiday traditions. When his mother was alive, we often hosted Christmas dinner at our house, but since she passed away two years ago his family has become fractured and they don’t spend the holidays together so much. My family is half way around the world, so we go there about every third year, and in between we kind of ping around like lost pinballs, with no set program for the holidays. If we had kids, I know it would be different.

Growing up, our family Christmas was the same every year. We’d usually go out Christmas Eve to a party at the local social club. There’d be dancing, my parents could have a drink, and it was a 10-15 minute walk home. We often walked home after midnight, so I would look for Father Christmas (Santa) in the sky. I’d hang out my pillowcase (not stocking) at the end of my bed and somehow Father Christmas would always manage to fill it without waking me up.

Being the youngest of three, I’d be the first up on Christmas morning, and usually get sent back to bed at least twice for getting up too early. My parents would bring up tea and cookies and we’d all pile into their bed to open the gifts. No matter what else we got, we always got pajamas, a sweater, and chocolate.

We’d often go out for a walk on Christmas morning while the turkey was cooking, especially if it was one of those crisp, sunny days, and sometimes we’d go over to my Grandma’s for a short visit, but we’d always get on the phone to all the relatives to wish them a Merry Christmas and thank them for our gifts.

It was usually just the five of us for Christmas dinner. I don’t remember having relatives join us. We’d have the traditional Christmas dinner – turkey, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, etc., followed by sherry trifle and/or Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. We’d pull Christmas crackers, tell the jokes, and wear the paper hats all through dinner. Then we’d do the dishes and be all done in time for the Queen’s speech at 3:00. After that, there’d be a family movie (this was pre-video, and when the UK still only had three TV channels), something big like The Wizard of Oz, or new, such as Superman.

In the evening we’d play a game – cards or whichever board game was hot that year – and snack on cheese and crackers and all the goodies we only ever got at Christmas. My parents would have a beer or two and make me a shandy (a mix of beer and 7Up) and we’d watch our favorite Christmas specials until it was bedtime. So, for me, Christmas was always a quiet family time spent at home.

Why am I droning on about this? Because if I had children, I would pass these traditions on to them. I’d want to create the kind of Christmas memories for them that I have from my childhood. As it’s just the two of us, we have the freedom to spend Christmas however we choose, but without traditions of our own, it doesn’t feel as special.

So, I’m looking for some new traditions to start that fit our life now. I’d love it if you’d share some of yours – old family ones, and new ones that you’ve adopted as an adult. How do you make the holidays special and family-orientated when your family is just one or two?

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7 Responses to “Sharing Holiday Traditions”

  1. Kathryn Says:

    I’ve struggled with this. I think that we are going to make a big deal about opening Christmas cards together as gifts between the two of us don’t amount to much (we don’t need much if anything & so don’t usually exchange gifts the two of us).

    We spend Christmas Eve with my hubby’s family, but Christmas Day is reserved for the two of us, however we choose. Sometimes with friends, sometimes the two of us.

  2. beenybaby Says:

    well, we have always exchanged an ornament for the tree. we put the year on it, and while we’re putting up the ornaments, we talk about each year and try to think of something lovely that happened that year. this could bring up sad emotions for many of you, thinking how many years have gone by with no baby, but for me, it reminds me how many wonderful things i have in my life anyway.
    we try to be with family in one way or another. it is just the two of us everyday, at least at the holidays we want to be with other people… one year, my aunt and cousin and sister-in-law were with us. we each took a turn making a meal over the few days, we exchanged silly gifts from the $1 store on christmas morning, and we each bought one $25 gift that we exchanged on christmas eve. it was one of the nicest christmases i’ve ever had, yet the most non-traditional. it was so lovely, that on christmas eve, a group of carolers even came by to sing to us. i was so glad i had made cookies to give to them!
    so, basically, for me, i try to remember the traditions that made me happy as a kid, and share them with whomever i’m with at christmas. i look at the fireplace and am grateful for heat, i look at the table and am grateful for food, and i look at my body and even though i have a tinge of resentment towards it for being infertile, i thank it for getting me through everyday.

  3. Mali Says:

    Although like you I have lovely Christmas memories, my traditions now are simple and revolve around food!

    I always put the tree up. I don’t do other decorations. Figure if there are no kids, we can keep things the way we want them.

    I make mini mince pies, and enjoy them with a glass of something in the late evenings.

    We buy croissants for our Christmas breakfast, no matter what we’re doing for the rest of the day. (It’s a once a year thing – all that butter!)

    Spend the money I save on Christmas presents for kids on good champagne.

    Definitely don’t have traditional Christmas food other than a ham (love ham and eggs for breakfast on Boxing Day), and keep it as simple /elegant as possible. There’s no way I’m slaving over a hot stove on Christmas Day.

    We often have no-kids Christmases, either travelling overseas or in NZ, or simply visiting my mother. If we’re away, it doesn’t bother us at all. I love Christmas traditions when I’m all together with my family – which like you is about once every two or three years – but the fact we’ll be eating rice this year for Christmas dinner doesn’t bother me in the least.

  4. happynenes Says:

    Well, I enjoyed your Christmas memories! Very sweet. I want to go curl up in front of the fire with some cookies and tea and watch the BBC.

    My husband’s family is agnostic. And this year, for the first time, I’m giving up on Christmas and celebrating Solstice. We’re still having a tree and all that, but it’s the Solstice tree. I’ve been looking for some other Solstice traditions to add in to make the holiday ours. My favorite one so far is the Icelandic tradition of the Yule Cat!

  5. Kathleen Guthrie Says:

    “Yule Cat”? Please explain.

    I am admitting to being very un-merry this year. My siblings and all the nieces and nephews are traveling to my parents’, so there is no magic to behold. We bought a tree a few days ago, but it has yet to be decorated. My fiance and his mother (it’s just the three of us) don’t like turkey, so I’m making (sit down for this) pork chops for Christmas Eve dinner. I’m terribly sad that I don’t have anyone to whom I can pass down my family’s traditions, such as my Gram’s coffee cake recipe (every Christmas morning, served with an egg and sausage casserole and 1/2 a grapefruit). I miss sitting around and singing and playing charades with everyone young and old. This past week, I’ve skidded from total hum-bug (cried when I saw a woman unpack her guitar along with her luggage when she arrived at a neighbor’s home) to “HAUL OUT THE HOLLY!” and am settling somewhere, still on the verge of depression, in the middle.

    So. I’m making my grandmother’s coffee cake, if only so the house will smell like Christmas. I’m playing my holiday CDs while baking pumpkin bread as gifts for the neighbors. And I’m planning a sit-down with my fiance for next week to discuss how we can introduce our own traditions next year.

    Thank you all for providing a safe place to share this stuff. I wish you all some magic and joy this holiday season.

  6. […] Start a new family tradition of your own (I highly recommend this one.) Here are some fun ideas on that front. […]

  7. ktgirl30 Says:

    In past years, when we were living abroad and not seeing family at all, we’d have a fancy Christmas Eve dinner, dressed up with lovely wine and adult food, followed by Christmas day bicycling to friend’s houses, celebrating until evening with copious amounts of bubbles. Very fun. And then I’d watch “Sound of Music” and my husband would mock me.

    It was easier to simply enjoy the day when we were outside both of our traditional family lives. It was just our day to spend however we wanted to, and we were fortunate to live in a city with lots of child-free expats who were all about having fun. Now that we are back in the USA, it is more of an effort to capture that feeling. But we are trying!

    On Christmas Eve we are going to the MoMA to see the De Kooning show, followed champagne in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel and then home to Brooklyn for our fancy pants dinner. Christmas Day we will head up to my husband’s family celebration. I am planning on spending the days leading up to Christmas baking cookies to take with me — this will keep me from feeling the pangs of emptiness that sometimes take hold and will create some new memories with my second family (no one in his family bakes very well, so I plan to become a cookie hero of sorts).

    Good luck!


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