Midway through autumn, fall produce fills counters, toy suppliers beef up their ads, retailers display winter parkas, and moms plan get-togethers with relatives. Families pack into cars and make annual pilgrimages to visit loved ones across town or across the country. These are the fun things we all look forward to – or are they?
For many, when children marry and start having children of their own, the dynamics of familiar holiday traditions are forever altered. Changes include in-laws who may interject different, or sometimes the same, traditions that are common to our status quo. What we once considered standard procedure might get turned on its head.
A friend recounted how her family had a clash of Christmas traditions with her son’s new in-laws. She felt devastated, and wrestled with the idea of keeping her decades-long family gatherings intact until she chose to pursue new, albeit different, traditions with her adult children and grandchildren. Her choice opened up delightful new ways of enjoying time with her expanded family. Rather than hosting her usual formal dinner, she opened her home to the gang the day after, when they were all eager to don jeans and chill out over brunch.
Another set of grandparents found themselves sitting alone on Thanksgiving Day. They decided to replace the traditional labor-intensive turkey dinner for a more elegant and easily prepared version built around cornish hens, dressing, and pumpkin pie. One year later, they welcomed a few single friends who were delighted to join them. It’s their new tradition, at least for now.
As believers in Christ, we are called to serve. That might look like helping out at a soup kitchen, or like a group of people coming together to cook dinners and distribute them to families whose financial resources leave no room for special feasts. One single grandfather who is known for his culinary skills found this to be an uplifting way to share his talent. The bonus is that he was invited to join some of the people he met. In the midst of serving others, he was blessed to become part of another family’s tradition.
Has it been your tradition to host a Thanksgiving dinner since your kids were toddlers? Guess what! When your kids are old enough to have toddlers of their own, they might start their own set of traditions. The same goes for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and on and on. This is where you get to decide if you’re going to pine away for what used to be or try something different.
Traditions do not need to mimic a Norman Rockwell painting where multiple generations in a family gather around a table while someone carves a turkey. As we approach the season when expectations lean toward perfection, I hope we remember to give thanks to the only perfect one: Jesus.
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful,” (Colossians 3:15).