“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.