Did you hear that collective gasp out there in cyberland? Am I slamming the traditions of Christmas? Do I dare to dis the holiday customs of our forefathers? Um. For the sake of peace and joy and goodwill, yep.
ALL Christmas traditions are not suitable or enjoyable for everyone. Traditions are very individualized, based on history and culture and personal preference.
And in reality, traditions are only good for certain seasons of our lives. Traditions have a shelf life. They expire. But instead of tossing them, we haul them out of the Christmas box and get out the defibrillators.
A dead tradition has lost its meaning and purpose. It no longer brings life. Where there was once anticipation, now there is dread. Laughter and love are replaced by irritation and strife. Don’t tell me this doesn’t happen to everyone. Dead traditions, and the heroic attempt to keep them alive, are the stuff of every holiday movie comedy!
For me, the annual Christmas tree-cutting excursion was a living nightmare that involved cross-country skis, blue lips, the very real possibility of being lost in the forest, and the trauma of tromping helplessly from tree to tree while my artistic mother hemmed and hawed over which one was the “right” one. Invariably we ended up with a tree that was too big, had weird, scrawny limbs, and never looked as good in the living room as it looked in the woods.
But a real tree was TRADITION. All else was null and void, so I extended the misery well into adulthood. The last real tree I had was a beautiful pinyon pine. I mourned that tree’s death for weeks. (Granted, I was two weeks away from delivering my fourth baby and a bit emotional.) The next year we bought an artificial tree. I remember feeling like I’d done something sacrilegious. But I was astonished by the reduction in stress. No needles on the floor to kill the vacuum, no pine sap in the carpet, no cat drinking the water and shredding the couch in a sugar-induced frenzy. Last year I took it one step further. I bought a pre-lit tree, because I’m the one who puts on the lights, and I’m tired of it.
If there’s a good time to shake things up in your life, this is the season. When Jesus came to earth as a baby in a manger, he instituted a whole new way of living for a people so embedded in their traditions they’d forgotten the very reason they had them. (Every time I type “tradition” I want to break into the Fiddler on the Roof song.)
Here’s your tradition check-up… you may want to do this as a couple, as a family, or just by yourself. Examine each tradition. Hold it up to the light, check your motives, ask yourself, “do I love doing this?” If you can answer “yes” that’s a keeper!
What traditions engender feelings of obligation, resentment, pain, grief, or frustration? If getting out the box of “grandma’s special ornaments” throws you into a week-long depression, DON’T TOUCH THE BOX! Go get some ornaments that make you happy!
Once you’ve pruned out the dead stuff, you’ll have the time and the energy to try new things. What traditions would you like to implement? What things have you always dreamed of doing during Christmas? Maybe tickets to The Nutcracker, making and decorating a gingerbread house, going ice skating on Christmas eve, caroling, or watching the entire Home Alone series the Saturday before Christmas. You know, those things “other” people do but you’ve never done because you were too busy making your husband’s great-great-granny’s fruitcake, because “that’s just the way we do things,” even though everyone, including your husband, hates fruitcake.
(Well, I like fruitcake, but that’s just me. If you’ve got one and you want to send it my way, I’ll take it.)
Somehow, I don’t think Jesus appreciates the season we’re supposed to celebrate his birth turned into a frenetic, distracting, high-pressure month of extreme anxiety and stress. Instead, lay aside those dead weights and do the things that bring you joy and peace.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” ~Jesus