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New traditions are important when your family dynamics changes.
Traditions are the backbone of family celebrations and get-togethers. Dyeing Easter eggs to hide in the lawn; Carving pumpkins and greeting trick or treaters at the door; Carefully hanging stockings on the mantel and baking together through the holidays.
But what happens when the family is no longer able to spend the holidays together? How can you recapture the mood of those perfect traditions, or create new ones altogether?
College kids spend their spring break in tropical locales instead of dyeing eggs and arrive mere days before Christmas. They drop their bags and want to go right out to visit their friends or binge watch The Walking Dead episodes.
What happens to tradition when children don’t come home at all?
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Traditions are sometimes handed down in the family, but sometimes we create our traditions as we create and blend our families. When family changes, we need to look at traditions and see which make sense and which need to be changed.
Every empty nester family is different. With some, the children still return for summers and major holidays. In other families, grown children may live far from home and rarely make visits.
When it’s just the two of you, holidays can seem daunting and bring on depression as your favorite traditions let you down.
Life can feel fresh and special again if you decide together to make new traditions.
Traditions that will reflect your new independence and lifestyle.
When I was growing up, we opened all of our presents on Christmas morning. My sister’s husband grew up opening one present on Christmas eve and the others in the morning. Over time, that became one of their holiday traditions.
When my children were young, I would buy them all matching pajamas and have them pose on the stairs wearing them on Christmas Eve. The matching pajamas tradition is gone, but we still pose on the stairs.
Our younger, college-aged, children still come home for the holidays but the older, married kids have their own celebrations and visit only sporadically.
There will come a time when all of our children are settled with their own families. In anticipation, we are talking about ways to make the holidays more about us as a couple.
Some of the ideas we are entertaining are:
- Renting a cabin in the mountains and enjoying a romantic snowy Christmas.
- Escaping to some rural quiet area for the 4th of July (the 4th is a horror in our neighborhood with fireworks shelling our house and terrifying the dogs).
- Taking a trip to somewhere we’ve always wanted to visit, but during the off-season – something we could never do before with school and sports schedules. While everyone is home getting kids off to a new school year, we could be sunning in Maui.
- Paying a neighborhood teen to stand outside our front door on Halloween and hand out candy while we cuddle in and watch a movie. No barking dogs, no sudden drafts, no having to be dressed on a weeknight!
- Visiting far-flung family over the holidays. My family is scattered across the globe and it would be fun to celebrate Christmas in Canada, France and Italy.
Traditions are living things.
They should not be set in stone. They are something we create with the people we love.
Some will last a lifetime and be passed on to the next generation.
Some will be adapted to our changing families.
Traditions should bring us joy and a sense of belonging.
Rather than mourn your ability to observe traditions that have been meaningful, create new ones that will fit your new life.
You might revisit them when grandchildren enter the family or if your children want to come home to them, but personal couple traditions will bring you closer and give you a renewed appreciation for the holidays.
Have you made new traditions to bring the holiday joy back? Share them and your thoughts on the Plotting A New Course Facebook page!
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