See our Christmas wreath? It’s the same one I’ve pulled out of the cupboard since before my man and I had our kids. And the Christmas lilies? Every year they stand happily in the same vase in the hallway. I remember one year, after I was a little tardy in my Christmas lily buying, my boy saying ‘ah, now it smells like Christmas!’ when they finally made their appearance. Traditions are important, right? They bind us to our family. They bind us to our culture. But I have a question. Well, two. What do you do when traditions start feeling routine? Are you allowed to tweak them?
Here’s our situation. We have a small family. There’s me, my man and our now-grown-up boy and girl. My man and I each have one un-partnered sibling, and then there’s my parents and my man’s mum and her husband. My mother-in-law’s family is all in the UK. With such a little bunch of us, and with no-one having to juggle competing family demands, it makes sense for us to all do Christmas together. And since our family of four sits in the centre of both extended families, and our house has the most suitable space – and a pool – we host the day. When the kids were younger this was great – no need to ferry between different houses and they didn’t need to be parted from their pressies. The day has a routine. Everyone arrives, drinks are poured, the usual seats are plonked down into, presents are distributed and opened. ‘Thank yous’ and nods are shared around the room and the nibblies I’ve prepared are eaten before we sit down at our thoughtfully arranged places *wink*, crack open the Christmas bonbons and try to get the streamers from the poppers to drape from the light fitting that hangs above the table. There’s seafood for entree, ham and turkey with roast potatoes, various salads then plum pudding studded with the old thr’pences and shillings that belonged to my nanna. By 4pm everyone is ‘full to pussy’s bow’ and the male members of the family seem to have flaked out around various rooms in the house (not quite sure why this is when it is my mum and me doing the food prep!). But after eighteen years of doing the hosting bit, with the same crowd, I’m starting to feel like some of the excitement has gone from the day. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and I feel blessed that I have been able to spend every Christmas Day with my parents and my brother for so many years. And my man has been able to spend it with his brother and mum, and each set of grandparents has been able to spend it with their only grandchildren. How fortunate are we? But now that we don’t have the Christmas energy of little people infusing our day, I feel like we need to do something different to give the day a bit of a rev up. But how far can you break with tradition without ruining the day?
Could I throw some snags and chicken on the barbie, and as long as there are pressies and bonbons would that be enough to make it feel like Christmas? Could I change it from lunch to dinner? Could we all go to a restaurant for lunch?
Last year, I decided to scrap the entree and just go for more substantial pre-lunch nibbles. I thought this might leave a little more room in our tums so that we could actually enjoy eating some pudding! My mum seemed a little hesitant when I suggested this but I think it worked okay! This year I’m adding an ice-cream plum pudding to the dessert menu after my boy said that he finds the traditional one a little filling at the end of the meal. My mum suggested we could ditch the pudding for something like a lemon tart (we’re not a pav family) but I think for my brother and my English mother-in-law, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a pud! We only ever have turkey at Christmas so it wouldn’t feel quite the same without that on the table.
And that would be the worst thing. To have a Christmas Day that doesn’t feel like Christmas – even if the day isn’t as thrilling or exciting as I remember it as a child, or when own boy and girl were little. Maybe it’s not the traditions I need to tweak, but the way I think about it. This is what Christmas is for us and this is what holds us together as a family. One day, I assume, I’ll have to share my kids – and grandkids! – with other families on Christmas Day so perhaps it’s best that I not tamper with our traditions too much in the meantime. Maybe some extra baubles hanging around the house, an updated Christmas playlist and that ice cream plum pudding are all we need.
Have you ever changed your traditions? Did it work? Or did it make you yearn for the way it was?
I hope you have a happy Christmas Day however you celebrate.