Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Family Tradition Origins

Welcome to the December Carnival of Natural Parenting: Let's Talk Traditions

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama.

Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Where do our traditions originate? I have some odd Giftmas traditions that originated out of a sort of necessity / convenience when I was a child of a single mother. My parents divorced before I can remember and my father managed to make more "happen" on Giftmas morning (read: Santa was very good to us), so I almost always spent that holiday with him. Because of that, we opened gifts at my mom's place the day before the day before Christmas (December 23rd). During my last marraige, we actually started opening gifts between the adults a day earlier than that, then let the kids open on the 23rd. That left Christmas Eve open for all the family visiting and other gifts. We both had divorced parents, so this convenience / necessity was just expanded. Now I'm remarried and my husband loves opening pressies early!

Even living close together, I only see most of my family for special occasions. So there I was... Thanksgiving day, chatting with my brother at the family gathering. I was trying to explain why I wasn't going to see our mother when I was clearly at our father's. After I stumbled through the topic, I finally settled upon the real reason. I was at my dad's because I felt like I was supposed to be there. He completely related with me on that point! Now mind you, I don't mean I felt like I "belonged" there but quite literally like I was supposed to be there. This may be one of those misplaced obligations I've been trying to unlearn as of late. So when we are living on the road, perhaps I won't come home for Thanksgiving after all. My mother was very understanding that it is an important gathering to my dad. My stepmother has family come in from all over the central United States for Thanksgiving these days! My mom usually goes to her sister's house. I haven't gotten together with my maternal extended family since... well, since I was old enough to decide where I was going. I guess they just didn't manage to instill in me a sense of obligation. Good for them!

Birthdays, however, are a fairly big deal. Misplaced obligation or not, I just cannot be the reason for a child's birthday to not be special. I don't always want to go, but I usually do if at all possible. I may not spend much, but I love finding the perfect gift. I gave my 14yo niece a hand-me-down Elvis blanket. She flipped out! It was obviously the favorite gift of the day! I beamed, I was so excited to have done so well. I was broke, so it was even better that I figured out something I had that she would love.

Family Eastermy sister and niece with EGGS
For me, I feel like the most important extended-family tradition is Easter. Every year we gather at my dad's place the night before Easter and dye eggs. This particular tradition has become more important to me since my oldest sister passed. I would always help her get the dye ready for the little ones. The first Easter after, no one helped me at all. I didn't ask, but... I don't think it occurred to anyone. My remaining older sister helped me last year. We set all the grandkids up around the dining room table and Grandma has at least 1 dozen eggs for each of them (5 or so usually make it these days). There was even a dozen there for Sasha last year! (She was only 7 months old.)

I would like holidays to feel less... forced. There have been many times I've been too broke to really be doing Giftmas and even went further into debt to do it. These days I make a lot of my presents and I'm proud of that fact. (My ex-husband was patently against handmade gifts.)

I've seen families that camp together and take family vacations. I kind of envied that. Heck, I've envied anyone that goes camping on their own. I only go to Girl Scout camp. We'll be living it once we get our RV, though. I hope to do some campfire cooking and everything!

I don't know that my new little family has created any holiday traditions of our own... oh wait, there is one! Elmo and I pick out an ornament each year. It is generally one of those flat brass ones from Walmart, but we choose based on what is going on in our lives. This will only be our third Giftmas together. Our first year, we chose one with a cat. (He had 2 cats then.) Our second year, we got one with a baby (since it was Sasha's first Giftmas). We haven't chosen yet this year, but it has been on my mind each time we go for a grocery run.

We've only been married for 1 year and for our first anniversary we chose to go with the traditional list. (First year is paper.) We will likely stick with those traditions now and I think it makes for a fun challenge.

Mostly, I hope that our children love our family traditions and never (or at the very least rarely) feel obligated to participate.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


  1. It's so difficult when a tradition means a lot to one person in the family, but other family members no longer want to participate. I wish my family were more open and honest with each other about the assumed obligations; when we are, everyone is much more understanding (dare I say happier?).

  2. We, too, have felt the "need" to go into debt to celebrate the holidays the way we're "supposed" to. In the last few years, we've really changed that and made gifts or bought small things.

  3. I get so excited for you when I read about your plans for living in an RV! Hopefully you will be able to keep up with blogging.

    It is so much fun to try and meld parents' traditions with new traditions for our children. And to see what the kids like and what means something to them. I very much agree that it is nice to have things over the holidays feel less forced. That's the thing I dislike about traditions, feeling like you are forced to do them even if you don't really want to.

  4. I think it's great you like to make home made gifts. They are the best ones I think. I used to make my own gifts but ever since the kids were born I never seem to find the time - at least to make anything more than our wrapping paper or some paper craft for the grandparents.

  5. I love your idea of making homemade gifts - the best kind, in my opinion! And I enjoyed reading about your early holiday celebrations. I think it's great when you can truly find what works for you and your family - without feeling forced to follow family traditions.

  6. I love your perspective on not forcing obligations. It's been important for us to let go of some things, too, but it's also hard. I love that you've found ways to make and regift presents in a meaningful way; I love receiving presents like that!

    I am envying your future in the RV. It sounds so cool. You'll have to keep writing about the journey!

  7. The obligation thing is something we rarely talk about, yet it's usually present, somewhere! I like your perspective on making traditions enjoyable and welcoming rather than something we HAVE to do.


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