Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Family Traditions

Because I did a lot of thinking about it last week, I'm going to be writing a bit more about being away from home. It's taken me a couple years to start to understand how I feel about it.

Maybe some of you didn't have the same reaction I did to moving away. I grew up in a family where almost everyone lives within 30 miles of each other. One of my cousins moved a couple hours away for college and stayed there, but I'm the only one of my family members to be a plane ride away from home. I can't make it to get-togethers, sports games, or special occasions. And I regularly feel guilty about it.


At the same time, in the three holiday seasons that E and I have been engaged or married, we've spent them all in Chicago with my family. Mostly because E's extended family isn't very close, emotionally or geographically, and my family is.

This year we booked a cruise for later in the winter, and knew there would be no way to also fly out to Chicago. Besides, E hasn't been home with his family for Christmas day in three years, and I never have celebrated Christmas day with them.

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I am already feeling sad over not going back home this year. My extended family also has a guilt-inducing tendency - even though it's all in jest. I always knew the day would come when new families would be established and the extended family would naturally start to drift apart. I just didn't think I'd be contributing to it! For some reason, it is just now (over two years after I moved) feeling like its time to stop worrying about being gone. There is a lot I'll miss, but also a lot to remember.

Plus, this is the perfect opportunity to start thinking about traditions we want for our family holidays. E had resisted a Christmas tree the last two years, with the excuse that we'll be out of town on Christmas this is my year to convince him. Last year we felt really overwhelmed at the prospect of buying each other gifts so we procrastinated and ended up with unwrapped Amazon packages and empty stockings. We decided that the next year would be different.
We'll make a big dinner together on Christmas Eve for just the two of us. We'll buy affordable, thoughtful gifts and spend lots of quality time together. We'll talk about new family traditions and maybe implement a few.

It will be different, but I'm actually really looking forward to our Christmas.

(ps. It feels a bit weird for me to be writing about Christmas today. It is 100 degrees!)


beka said...

100 degrees? Wow!

I know what you mean. S's family was really big on everyone being together on the actual day of the holiday, while my family was more willing to celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, for example, if that was the day we could all be together. I remember crying in S's room at his parents' house our first married Christmas because I missed being at my parents'. So it is sad and it can be really hard.

But it's also a great chance to start your own traditions, like you said, and also get to know your husband's background a little better. Learning how Christmas morning went at his parents', the traditions they've had since he was a little kid that aren't easily explained, the pictures of him as a very small boy hanging on the Christmas tree - it was fun, to experience Christmas as he knew it growing up.

And it's awesome to have your own Christmas together, with your own tree and your own ornaments - one of my favorite things about being married is having our own holidays! I think you have a great outlook on it!

Anonymous said...

Last year was the first Christmas I spent without my family. On Christmas morning, while ironing the top I planned to wear, I burned a hole it in. Then collapsed onto the bed in tears. Dramatic? Yes. There's just something about Christmas that turns adults into sentimental children, though it's not always a bad thing. M's family is Jewish and therefore doesn't celebrate Christmas, so I kind of had a bad attitude about the whole season. Didn't decorate or allow myself to look forward to the day at all. I'm starting to realize that this is an opportunity to start my own traditions, and I vow not to be such a Grinch this year.

Jessica Lynn said...

This will be my very first Christmas away from my family. I've lived in two states and now two countries and I've managed to make it home for every. single. Christmas. It's just not affordable to go home, especially since we just got here.

Like you, I'm already sad about it. We still haven't moved into our home and I'm praying our stuff arrives sometime in November so I can at least put up our tree and decorations. Also like you, we've been tossing around the idea of going on a cruise this Christmas.

Last year (our first year of marriage) my husband was short-noticed deployed, so we missed that, and we just found out that he will most likely miss the next three Christmases because of deployment schedules out here. So...this will most likely be our only Christmas together in about five years of marriage! We need to make it special :)

(so sorry for the novel. I think maybe i need to write a post on this since I clearly have a lot to say)

Kelly Loy Gilbert said...

I struggled with this so much, and I have it nowhere near as hard as you! It was hard when I was at school in San Diego (even though I was home for the holidays), and it's hard for me now that we have to split up the holidays.

On the plus side, though, we'll probably be in SD for Christmas--we should go thrifting or something! :)

Katie said...

It must be really hard being so far from home. I know before we got engaged I really freaked about dividing the time between his family and mine. It's not been as bad as I thought - since we live so close we go to both families events in the same day. It's a strain for us, but I think having to choose which family to spend the holidays with would be worse (hubby and I hate conflict), so we deal. I've been kind of hoping to move out of state next year, I'm not sure if it will be possible with Hubby's job, but I hadn't really given much thought to this aspect of it. Thanks for bringing the subject up. It's really interesting to get your perspective!

Katie said...

Figuring out holiday plans can be really difficult, especially when you add a significant other into the mix. Right now, we have to bounce around between two houses on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I know I'm terrible for saying this...but I hate it. I always feel like one family "wins" and the other "loses" because they have to work around our schedule. I'd much rather spend the entire day in one place, instead of spending some time in one family's house and then watching the clock to make sure we're out the door on time. Sigh. I love family, don't get me wrong, but sometimes it would be nice to just have US time on those days...kind of.

In 2009 we had to spend Christmas just the two of us because we were living in VA and couldn't make it home. I actually really enjoyed it. We slept in on Christmas day, I made pancakes and mimosas for breakfast, we opened presents...sat around and watched movies in our pjs all day, and then I made a really really nice dinner and dessert and we had a bottle of wine or two...haha. Although it was sad to not be with family, it was nice to have our own little routine ;)

Micah and Catherine said...

I'm sorry you are not going to be spending Christmas with your family. That would be hard for me. I'm in the same boat as you, my Most of my family loves within 20 miles of each other. I'm lucky because we celebrate on Christmas eve instead of on Christmas day. Now that my husband's family is in Santa Barbara, we can hop a quick flight on Christmas morning and be with his family by lunch.

I think it's important to have your own Christmas tradition. We always have a tree (even if it's a small fake one), buy each other stocking stuffers and open a few presents alone over Christmas breakfast. It doesn't always happen on the Christmas day, but it happens and it's important to us that we get a few moments alone together to celebrate.

I hope you come up with a tradition you both will love and can continue no matter where you are.

steph c said...

Adapting to and creating a new holiday "schedule" is something Scot and I are still struggling with. Having two sets of parents on my side, plus his, leaves us with three families and never enough time. Since we've lived together, we've done Thanksgiving with my mom, Christmas with his family (which my mom joined last year!), and New Year's with my dad. It's SO much travel and it really gets exhausting. This year, we're staying in DC for Thanksgiving, even though my mom will be coming down to see us, which is so wonderful. I hate that I haven't really spent a Christmas home in 3 years, but it is what it is. So, I hear you!

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