“What’s a Bauble Exchange?” shouted my husband from the living room as our (still relatively unsuccessful) shared calendar alerted him to my scheduled escapade for the following day.
“You know” I said “It’s when my book group get together and we swap a Christmas bauble.”
None the wiser, he took the easy route and ceased asking questions.
Swapping a bauble at Christmas time has become my book group’s* Christmas traditions over the last seven years or so. Although we’ve seen a fair few people come and go over the years and those that remain only meet once a month now, this tradition has become a much anticipated ‘thing’.
Christmas traditions were made for me and my personality type. I love everything about them: the nostalgia, the comfort of knowing I am part of a memory that will live on and the routine.
Oh how I adore routine!
I know that for many people routine spells dull and boring (sometimes even for me that’s the case) but with traditions it’s different – traditions were created with fun in mind.
Growing up, we would spend every Christmas at my granny and grandad’s house. I never wanted that to change. If anyone dared suggest an alternative, it was met with absolute outrage! I was fortunate to have my maternal grandparents around for the whole of my childhood and beyond. Over the years we created many traditions: church on Christmas morning, a brisk but refreshing walk along the promenade on Boxing Day and a big party with friends and neighbours the day after.
Looking back, the thing I loved most about those Christmas traditions was the safety in knowing what was coming next and the memory of so many good times already had. The combination brought about a comforting expectation that it will be that way again.
Traditions are incredibly comforting.
Have I ever told you about my obsession with parenting books and courses? Based on the number I’ve read and attended over the years, I should be a parenting expert. In reality? I think they taught me more about being an expert in mummy guilt.
Never mind what I didn’t learn, what I did learn, is the value in creating family traditions. Put simply, traditions make people feel safe, give everyone a sense of belonging and create ties that bind a family together.
But what about when you don’t really feel much like participating in those traditions, or your family dynamics change for whatever reason? What happens when your child refuses to join in with the traditions you’ve worked so hard on creating?
1. Traditions help to make life feel normal even when it isn’t
When life goes a little wonky, traditions can be overlooked; often we just don’t feel like doing them. Actually? This is when traditions are vital, there is huge value in drawing collectively on past memories and traditions are great for making life feel as normal as possible despite the circumstances.
2. It’s okay to say goodbye to traditions that no longer serve the purpose
Just as family life changes (either through children morphing into moody teenagers or the make up of the family unit altering) traditions need to do the same. I got a little sentimental last year when I noticed that my children no longer wanted to participate in the Christmas traditions that I had spent years nurturing. This year, I realised that instead of getting upset every time someone refused to indulge me, it would be better to start some new (more grown up) ones. Putting the tree up whilst sipping on a glass of Prosecco and sharing a take away afterwards, seems to be a winner!
3. Your traditions don’t need to be the same as everyone else’s
The beautiful thing about traditions, is that they should be unique to you and your family. Obviously we might find that some are similar to other people’s but we shouldn’t pick them up simply because everyone else is doing them (I’m looking at you, Elf on the Shelfers ?). I firmly believe that the traditions we look back on fondly and remember the best, are the ones that were not born out of obligation or peer pressure.
4. It’s never too late to start
This probably doesn’t need much of an explanation but sometimes people don’t have the best start in life, meaning that traditions haven’t really been established. Or maybe a family breaks down and a new family is created (be that smaller or sometimes bigger!) – why not start a new tradition in your current situation?
5. It’s okay to question traditions
As with anything in life, I don’t think that we should follow traditions just for the sake of it – Christmas cards** being a prime example! I attend church at Christmas time and love it. I don’t do it out of tradition or because my parents did it, I go because I want to worship God on the day (or thereabouts ?) that Jesus, the saviour of the world, was born. Obviously I’m not wanting to discourage anyone from going to church this Christmas but if you’re just going out of tradition, why not make this year the one when you really consider why you’re going – what is Christmas all about?
I’m not entirely sure of my original point here but today was our momentous ‘Bauble Exchange’ and it got me thinking about traditions and why they are so important to me.
What are your non-negotiable Christmas traditions? Is it time to create some new ones?
*I’ve no idea why we still call it ‘book group’ – we haven’t read a book in years.
**If I hadn’t already bought my Christmas cards I might have just talked myself out of sending any this year.
Jenny5 years ago
We love a good tradition and I am a huge fan of making them as I grow my family or if one pops up I think would be a good one. Love your ideas here but I am a firm believer like you said above that they can be no longer needed or skipped and no worries about it life can get tricky. #wrc
Suzanne W5 years ago AUTHOR
Yes sometimes we can obsess about making everything memorable/perfect but it’s important to just enjoy and be in the moment, not putting massive expectations on ourselves and everyone else! I’ve let it go this year and am enjoying making some new ones now that the kids are older 🙂
Tricia Coopet5 years ago
One of my parents traditions that we carried on with was Gammon sandwiches for breakfast on Christmas morning and with a Sherry if you were old enough . One we started was the 4 o’clock service at The Kerith Centre on Christmas Eve with all the family. Special family time. Bot in UK or Cyprus this year but Turkey playing gold.
Sarah MumofThree World5 years ago
Love this! Traditions definitely evolve and change over time (we had to give up the Santa train!), but they do feel especially important at Christmas. I didn’t know your book group didn’t actually read books! ?
Tracey Williams5 years ago
Traditions definitely change as the kids get older, but even in years to come I can still see myself sprinkling reindeer dust on the garden and putting a carrot out for Rudolph. A few years ago we started a new tradition of going out for dinner on Christmas Eve which the kids seem to love. Then back home for their Christmas Eve bags (new PJS of course lol) and a family film. Love the idea of a bauble exchange tradition x
Sarah Christie5 years ago
I love this I do love a family tradition, we have peter the elf, he is not an elf on the shelf character we dont see him and even though beliefs and traditions have changed around here Peter i staying, he leaves pjs, hot chocolate and champagne of Christmas eve so I will never stop believing in him x I have so many happy memories of family traditions and even though we are in a time of change its time to make new ones x
Helen5 years ago
I love this post! I read this nodding my head in agreement the whole time. My husband is half Danish and so we have always tried to continue some traditions from that country – these mainly seem to revolve around food! But it wouldn’t be Christmas without Christmas lotto, table presents, a marzipan pig or the Danish parcel game. New traditions have evolved too such as a family sing along at full volume to Michael Bubly.
Caro | The Twinkle Diaries5 years ago
Non-negotiable traditions are the annual tree buying day — my boy and I have been buying a real tree every year since we’ve been together (22 years next year!!). And decorating the tree with Christmas Carols on loud too. I LOVE this time of year!!!! And all of the traditions!!!!
Jess Soothill5 years ago
So many lovely traditions, and it’s nice that everyone has their own. We LOVE this time of year and doing lots of family things. Love having Dave home too for the festive period xx
Plutonium Sox5 years ago
Haha that’s hilarious about your book group not reading books! I agree with you about traditions, they’re great for bringing families together, but sometimes we do need to let them go.
Morgana5 years ago
Oh I LOVE Christmas traditions! My husband and I have carried on two major ones from each of our childhoods. From mine I read The Night Before Christmas to my girls from the same copy of the book my mum read from to me and from my husband’s we all get new pajamas on Christmas Eve. I think family traditions help make this time of year even more special. xx
Chloe: Picture Taker Memory Maker5 years ago
I remember fondly Christmas traditions from my childhood and have tried to establish them with my own children – some more successfully than others! A Christmas bauble exchange is a new one on me though I have to say!
Heledd - Running in Lavender5 years ago
I’m a big one for routine and traditions too! I love a good Christmas tradition more than any but I must admit that I’ve let a few go this year because too – it was getting ridiculous to buy a new CK Christmas mug every year, just to get the ‘new’ one, when I have five or six in the cupboard. Having said that the Christmas Eve PJs and hamper will definitely be back this year ; )