Reinventing Family Holiday Time

Every family is unique in its traditions and preferences. How we define family may be different too. 

For me, family is a fellowship—a group of people living together communicating meaningfully, and building trust

So when it comes to the holidays and how our family celebrates, it’s been an ongoing discussion. Our preferences change as we grow and the world around us changes. We enjoy being around each other—regardless of what we are doing.

Rarely is our holiday time spent sitting around the dinner table. It didn’t start out with the intention of not having a sit-down dinner. It came about because no one was enjoying the sit-down meal given the constraints of our different pallets. Our kid is a picky eater, and my husband and I weren’t into cooking all day for a 20-minute sit-down dinner. 

When my mind starts to wonder why we aren’t all around the dinner table, I ask myself: am I projecting what I think we should find fun and enjoyable? Or am I doing what matters most to our family? 

When I reflect on my childhood, I have mixed feelings. 

My mom and dad were always exhausted every holiday. After working long hours leading up to their time off, they laboured over several late nights to prepare our holiday dinner and surprises for us kids. 

As much as the meals were yummy and the activities were fun, we’d be holding our breath as we waited for one of our family members to have an outburst that impacted the rest of the day. 

These memories helped me to reinvent what our holidays look like for our family. 

We ask each other what we enjoy most about the holiday and what we’d like to do. It is fascinating to see how our preferences are so different.

Our kid enjoys the excitement and surprise when he wakes up, and the free-flowing playtime with his parents without time restrictions. 

My husband and I enjoy ordering in from one of our favourite restaurants and watching a movie. We have very fond memories of that when we were both kids growing up. 

Being open to doing fun and extraordinary things has helped us find joy in the little things. We can then impulsively take advantage of the unexpected. 

For example, our favourite memories of a holiday are when the doorbell rings and it’s a friend or family member stopping by for a porch visit. 

Just this afternoon, I was filled with joy after my sister-in-law and her partner surprised us with a visit. They were peaking over the porch railing with a bucket of treats for their nephew. 

It was so lovely to see them and I asked, “Want to go for a walk altogether?” Everyone agreed, and this mama was very happy. Off we went! 

We talked, played, and enjoyed each other’s company around the neighbourhood. 

If it was all orchestrated it wouldn’t have been as magical or fun.

If I was preoccupied with something roasting in the oven I may not have suggested the walk. 

Could it be that I’m getting to experience more in life without conforming to “what we’re supposed to do?”

I love this quote—it helps me feel guilt-free when I read this. How about you?

“To attempt to  perfect holiday is really an exercise in mental cruelty there really is no such thing as a perfect, so what you’ve got to do is make it your holiday” — Georgia Witkin

Are you ready to talk about this with your family? Here are a couple of discussion starters to consider:

  • What does everyone in your family enjoy most together? 
  • What’s a recent happy memory?
  • How does each of you like to spend the holiday time together?

I hope your holiday traditions bring joy to everyone in your family.