Holiday Traditions

I wish I could say that every Christmas Eve, my family gathers around the big Christmas tree to sing carols and drink eggnog. We don’t do anything worthy of the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. In fact, my children and grandchildren seldom figure into my Christmas plans.

When my adult children married and inherited in-laws and other family relations, our holiday issues became algebraically more complicated. Instead of adding stress, my husband and I chose to not put any stress on the kids regarding holiday plans. Because of this laissez faire attitude toward family togetherness on Christmas, our kids have chosen to simplify their lives by either doing their own family Christmases, or joining their in-law families. We seldom see our kids or grands at Christmas.

My husband and I have shared a few quiet holidays and although they are rewarding, it’s not the same as being surrounded by family. I come from a very big family.  Our holidays were akin to spending hours in Grand Central Station–with all the brothers and sisters coming and going, dragging their kids and pets with them. On my eighteenth Christmas, my mother announced to the gathered hoard that she was no longer hostessing a family Christmas and the next year, she and my father would be out of the country for the holidays. They did and we were all on our own.

The next year, we didn’t pack up our kids and make a trek across the state to spend time with my folks.  Instead, we woke up with our babies, oohed and ahhed over Santa’s presents and had our first nuclear family Christmas.  I came to appreciate the gift my parents gave us by removing the expectation from our holidays.  It allowed us to make our own holiday traditions.

I’ve decided that we need some new holiday traditions in my house. I’ve accepted that I’m not going to get all my kids and grands gathered for a big family feast. If you drew a triangle in the middle of the US, my three kids and their families reside at the three points of that triangle. Far, far apart. And I don’t like making choices.

So this year, instead of sadly facing a day with just my DH and myself, we’re trying something different. We’re volunteering for the USO. Over the Christmas holidays, we’ll be serving young servicemen and women who are far, far away from their families for the holiday season.

I may not be cooking up a meal for my kids and grands, but whatever goodies I bake will be going to someone who craves some home cooking. Maybe by spending time with folks who are parted from loved ones this holiday season, I can treasure my own quiet evening with DH.  If I spend a little time ‘giving back’ my own season won’t seem so sad and lonely.  So, wish me luck.  Or maybe, wish the USO some luck!

–Sandee Wagner

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9 thoughts on “Holiday Traditions

  1. Sandee, I think that volunteering at the USO is one of the most wonderful gifts I can think of giving our servicemen and women. Many of then are very young and this may be their first Christmas away from home. Just you and your husband’s warm smiles and bubbling personalities will make their day. Your homebaked goodies will be the cherry on top! And I’ll bet that your generous gift will boomerang and come right back at the two of you.
    God bless both of you!

    • Jackie,

      It was an EXPERIENCE. Over a thousand sailors off a big aircraft carrier and all of them wanted to phone home! The USO provides cell phones for free, the darlings just have to buy AT&T phone cards to pay the long distance. For the first hour and a half we were there, the network was down. It was all sad, long faces. But they loved the cookies. When the network was back up, it was a madhouse! I know they appreciate it. But boy, do they look young!! spw

  2. Sandee,
    Y’all done good. First, you let your children create their own Christmas traditions without having to pack up the kiddo’s to go to grandma’s house. Now you’re serving at the USO. I second all of Jackie’s comments.,,I couldn’t have said it better.

    Well done Wagner household!

    • Thanks Linda. I am trying to put it all in perspective. We don’t pressure the kids. We make our own new memories. It’s all good. The USO was great fun. I think this may become my new favorite thing!! spw

  3. Good for you, Sandee. You found the true spirit of giving.
    Where did you go to volunteer? (You’re still “over there, somewhere, aren’t you?)
    I try not to pressure my kids at Christmas, but I get pressured BY my kids. Whoa. When everyone has another family to spend time with, it takes some fancy steppin’.
    Thanks for doing all you do, girlie.

    • Susan,

      We are still in Dubai. There’s a huge deep water port here where ships dock and give the crew shore leave.

      My kids seem to have mastered the art of doing it all in their own way, no pressure here!! spw

  4. Good for you and Bert, Sandee! I try not to pressure the kids about Christmas — “whenever” is fine with me, and so far it seems to be working.

    When my kiddo had his first Christmas in Europe, he and some of the NCOs fixed dinner for the younger guys who couldn’t go home. It wasn’t traditional (spaghetti, macaroni and cheese and whatever other easy stuff they could whip up), but they had a much better time than they would have alone. Giving is important.

  5. There hasn’t been much family Christmas for my family recently. In-laws, out-laws, work, etc. But next year, my DIL is planning on cooking for Thanksgiving and Christmas, come who will. It will be nice to have one place that stays the smae each year.

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