New Holiday Traditions for New Family Dynamics

Our family dynamics are changing as our kids get married, move out of state, and as we have grandkids born into the family and lose loved ones. These changes make holidays look much different and sometimes the changes are difficult, even the good ones, as family traditions also need to change with the times.

I’ve been thinking about these differences lately – I think partly because we lost my dad a little over a year ago, and partly because we’re not all able to get together this year. I worry about my mom who has been spending holidays alone and miss my daughter who is in Iowa. It was making me lose track of the actual reason for the holiday. I was losing the WONDER of Christmas.

Has that ever happened to you?

I knew I needed to take some time in prayer so I settled in with a notebook and opened my bible to read the Christmas Story. That always helps with perspective, doesn’t it? I mean, a story of a tiny baby, born in less than perfect conditions, who was born helpless yet somehow able to save all of mankind. Talk about Wonder! Somehow just reading the Christmas Story straight from the Word always brings things into perspective.

So, with that mindset shift, I have been able to look forward to Christmas and embrace the changes, doing what I can to make the holiday special for all of my loved ones. I’m learning to trust that the One we celebrate this season loves my people even more than I do and that when He is the focus of our celebration, it helps me to make changes and navigate new family dynamics.

SOME TRADITIONS STICK

Picking out a Christmas tree
Here is the Christmas tree we picked out last year. (Even Myrtle, our St. Bernard, joined in.)

We have a family tradition of snowshoeing out behind our property to find a perfect Christmas tree that we have held since we bought the place over 20 years ago. As kids have grown and times have changed, we’ve kept this tradition alive, and I anticipate we will for as long as we live here.

However, some of the family traditions that we used to enjoy just don’t fit now that we are down to a family of three living at home. At first, I was so sad about the changes because I dearly loved our traditions, but then I started looking for an opportunity to make new traditions and that has led to some really neat opportunities in the way our family celebrates all holidays, not just Christmas.

FLEXIBLE DATES

When I got married, my mom told me that she was going to start a new tradition. She opted to do the holidays on an “off day.” For instance, Thanksgiving was celebrated the Saturday following the holiday with my side of the family, so we never had to decide where to spend the day. Christmas was similar, she had me ask my in-laws if they preferred Christmas day or Christmas Eve, and she would adjust accordingly.

I thanked my mom for this several times, but she always said she did it selfishly because she wanted to be able to spend every single holiday with us and not have to rotate. I love her outlook! I have carried that tradition forward to my married kids – I hope it’s as big of a blessing to them as it was to me.

CHRISTMAS ADVENT ACROSS THE STATES

We have a daughter that lives in Iowa who can’t make the trip home for Christmas this year.  Our sons also work long hours with their businesses, so I had to lower my “get together” expectations, and this year, for some reason it felt a little harder not to be able to get everyone together for things like cookie baking, sledding, and making ornaments.

Because I was feeling a bit melancholy about not seeing my crew as much as I’d like to, I decided to get proactive and start a new tradition. I found a Lego advent train and I bought one for each family, including ours. I sent one to my daughter in Iowa and gave my local kids theirs at Thanksgiving. Then I created a group chat where we each post pictures of our project from day 1-24. It has been so fun to get photos every day from each of the kids working on their projects and doing one for our home as well!

Hint: I started the group chat and named it Christmas 2023 so it’s easy to find. Next year, I’ll start a new one and name it Christmas 2024 so our memories are recorded on our phones from year to year.

New holiday traditions: Christmas family group chat

ADDING FAMILY MEMBERS

As your family grows up and you add family members like in-laws and grandkids, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your traditions, determine what works best for everyone, and embrace the changes with anticipation!

Here are some more ideas of ways to embrace the wonder of Christmas as your situation changes:

Make ornaments together for your trees so everyone has a yearly ornament. If you’re not able to get together between Thanksgiving and Christmas, make ornaments when you get together for Thanksgiving!

Incorporate some of the favorite foods of the new family members so they feel more included with your family.

Ask your kids if they have ideas of some new traditions they would like to have – that makes it special for them, too! I asked my 13 year old this year if she had any family traditions she wanted to start and she was immediately bubbling over with ideas. She made a notebook of all sorts of creativity that she wanted to implement. It was just so fun hearing her enthusiasm and wonder as she shared her ideas. Of course we are incorporating ((most)) of them!

One way to keep things special is to explain to new family members the “why” of certain traditions. For instance, we do a thing called Mother Midnight on New Year’s Eve. Mother Midnight dates way back to when my Grannie was little. Every person puts a paper plate on the table with their name on it. Then Mother Midnight would put some fruit, some nuts, and some leftover Christmas candy on the plate plus a tiny trinket type of gift. It could be a pair of gloves, batteries for a new toy, a mug with hot chocolate mix, a pair of earrings, always small, simple things. I love keeping this tradition alive in my family, and it makes new family members feel much more part of things when they realize how old this tradition is and why we do it.

EMPTY NESTERS

Although we have a 13-year-old still living at home, we are finding ourselves on our own more and more. This feels strange but I’m finding it to be a very neat time as well. Renewing our relationship has been such a special time, but we certainly have to find ways to keep the holidays special, even if it’s just the two of us. Here are a few ideas I’ve been pondering:

Take a drive to look at Christmas lights. Pack a thermos of your old favorite hot chocolate, crank up the Christmas carols, and reminisce about the younger days.

Put together surprise packages for your grown kids. Include things like the stuff to make homemade ornaments for the grandkids, cookie baking ingredients, and an advent calendar. Drop it off Secret Santa style, so they never know where it came from.

Take a vacation! If you don’t have family near you, either go visit them or go on a vacation that you have always wanted to take! Enjoy Christmas in a new state or even a different country! What an adventure!

Snuggle up and enjoy Christmas movies without interruption! Remember when your kids were young and you just wished for quiet long enough to watch just one show? Now is the time, and you’ve earned it!

On the flip side, take the grandkids and give your grown kids the chance to go do their Christmas shopping and enjoy a movie uninterrupted.

Take the grandkids shopping for their parents gifts – OR have them over to make gifts for their loved ones. What a great way to make memories while giving your grown kids a bit of a break.

MY FINAL THOUGHT

It can be hard to change traditions, especially when they are special or when it’s just something we’re used to doing. However, change is inevitable and it isn’t always bad! We get to choose our own attitude over the holiday. We can either be resistant, or we can choose to joyfully and gracefully make changes to include loved ones, new and old.

Afterall, do we really want to lose the WONDER of what the season is all about? I know I sure don’t.

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Sherry
Sherry
2 months ago

Love this article
Reading it now 5:16 mountain time

And do ironic as I was just talking about this exact subject this afternoon

I and my family moved to a new state almost three very bad decision
I have lost a best friend to covid
Had a heart attack and another major medical issue
Dad is now hospice
And Christmas and holidays are meaning less to me

I want to feel like a kid again with the holidays the joy the excitement etc

So making lots of decisions including moving
And rethinking how we enjoy one another and the magic spark of the holidays

Melinda
Melinda
2 months ago

Thank you, Tandy. That was all so beautifully said, and exactly what I needed to hear. Such a blessing … and such wonder~full healthy perspective. Wishing you and your family a magical holiday season and joy in the coming year.

Gene Saville
Gene Saville
2 months ago

Great Comments! Great thoughts. Need positive for these troubled times. Like your ideas to keep traditions alive, especially as we all seem to disperse further and further from home, and all with increasing responsibilities to current family, life, job and community. Merry Christmas and the best of the Holidays to you, family and staff

Janice Sullivan
Janice Sullivan
2 months ago

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Holidays can be hard as we loose family members and children start lives of their own. Allot of good advice here. Thanks for sharing

Lisa Bagley
Lisa Bagley
2 months ago

New to Lehmans this year! This is my new tradition! A new idea from Lehmsns every year from now on!
This was so beautiful! Someone needs to publish your story for the whole world to see!!
Merry Christmas!
The Bagleys

Chris
Chris
2 months ago

Beautifully written and so appropriate for so many. As the grandkids get older, we find they definitely insist on some family traditions but aren’t interested in others so we adapt. We’re just thankful and blessed that we can all get together for Christmas.

Annie
Annie
2 months ago

Thanks for sharing, life does change over the years and I appreciate your thoughtfulness. When my children were young we made Christmas ornaments as well and had a wonderful time doing it. I still have these precious articles for the tree today. we are scattered across the US and do not get to spend much time with each other, but we do talk and share memories. I Am wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and Happy New year.
One of the traditions we had in our family was on Christmas eve for dinner we had Chestnuts, my father was from Austria and that was one of their traditions, to this day I still have them, Moms family was from Norway so we had Lutefisk, Always a bowl of nuts to crack before bed while waiting for Santa Claus to come. God Bless your family and all Gods families across the planet. may we have peace Joy and love now and in the future.

Dave Baugh
Dave Baugh
2 months ago

Thank you Tandy for sharing this beautiful story with us. This Christmas will be different for my wife and I. We both lost our fathers this year. They both loved Christmas, especially my father-in-law. Then again it’s going to be as it always was as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Ann
Ann
2 months ago

I almost didn’t read this but I am so glad I did. It is full of wonderful ideas to keep family close even if they are not.

Emma Schaffer
Emma Schaffer
2 months ago

I think I was born sad. Have always had depression/anxiety. Didn’t grow up with a loving mother and then married an abuser. I live alone now, but I’m never alone. Christ is always with me and I can honestly say, I couldn’t make it without Him. I rely on him every day. Takes a huge weight off my shoulders because I realize I’m not ultimately in control of my life. And that’s okay with me. Because, you see, God sees the whole picture. We do not. So I let Him guide my life and have just learned ‘to go with the flow’. God’s flow. If He closes a window, He always opens a door. He loves me and I trust Him. If you don’t know the Lord’s Prayer, I suggest you read it. It starts like this: ‘Our Father who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; THY will be done’. We live in precarious times. Stay close to our Saviour. Say your prayers every day. Talk to Him. But firstly, thank Him for everything you have; then talk to Him about your problems and ask Him for His help. He’s always there for you. All you gotta do is ask. Bless each and every one of you. I’m just amazed how many good people there are in the world!

Cyndi
Cyndi
2 months ago

I love these ideas and we incorporate what we can as our sons both live away from us but still in our state. So we travel on days to see them during the Christmas season. My favorite breed of dog is St Bernard and Myrtle is a beauty. Wonderful to see your picture.

DownChild
DownChild
2 months ago

This Christmas My Lionel Steam Engine Will Be 70 Years Old[1953] That I Gots When I Was In Grade 8. It Still Runs, Although It Got Abused When I Went To College, Upon Which I Restored It And Is Now In Working Order. A Local Train Seller Gave Me A Another 2046 Hudson Lionel Steamer, Which Was In Terrible Shape. It Looked Like It Was Hit By A Mack Truck And Somebody Set It In A Chicken Coop For 10 Years. I Fixed That One Up And That Was My Christmas Present About 16 Years Ago. So As The Saying Goes:: “Yes, Get Christmas Presents For Love Ones And Friends But Treat Yourself To Something You Always Wanted…You Deserve It!” Cheers:: Merry Christmas And Happy Holidays…May God Bless All Your Intentions, Projects And The Roads/Trails You Travel.

Linda Talen
Linda Talen
2 months ago

I love your ideas for changing traditions. I wish I’d known about revising traditions many years ago as having 3 Christmases in one day was really hard and you couldn’t enjoy any of them. I lost my husband 2 weeks before Christmas in 2022 and am making new traditions this year for me and our son, who luckily lives in the same town as I do.

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2 months ago

[…] in trying to do so many things efficiently, I’m losing the WONDER that this season is supposed to be all […]

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