Traditions and the Baby Family

So, I’m trying to find the right words to intro this post, and I feel compelled to tell you that when I had it in draft form, the only note I had on it was, “LISA!” Which sort of sums things up. Lisa was a wedding grad last winter, and she remains one of the only snowy or LDS weddings we have on the site (so other winter and/or LDS brides, get on it!) Lisa’s blogs at Random Giggles, and is always saying really smart feisty things in the comments with her sunflower gravitar. She’s been around APW for a long time, and I adore her. I think I mostly adore the fact that we have really different perspectives, and still grapple with similar things in really similar ways. So, when Lisa offered to write something about negotiating the holidays as newlyweds, I was all over it. I think you’ll find her wise. And today, the last day before the holiday season is upon us, I could not think of a better thing to talk about than creating and owning new baby family traditions (even when that means standing up to your family of origin a bit).

Traditions, whatever they are, be they how we fix a meal to how we decorate our lives to how we celebrate special events, are what tie us to our homes, our families, our pasts. They connect generations across time and space. They help define who we are and where we came from. However, over time, over years or generations, they will do one of two things: they will change or they will die.

In the wedding planning world we talk about taking traditions and making them your own. The dress, flowers, ceremony, decorations, activities (such as bouquet/garter toss or games of softball and frisbee) are all things that in some way have a tie to a tradition, but are modified and made personal and meaningful by each couple getting married (or not used if they have no meaning to the couple). And this is not a bad thing at all. Recognizing the meaning of the traditions helps keep us sane and helps us recognize that it’s two people getting married, not two stereotypes.

This same principle applies to the baby family as well.

Each of us has our own traditions that we grew up with. We all have them. Holidays are generally full of them. They are the things you do year after year that come to define the event, yet I have seen how these constants in our life aren’t always as constant as we believe them to be. They change or die.

We have holiday traditions in my family that in some form date back to when my grandparents were children while some started with my parents and so only go back one generation from me. Some have been modified more than others. Some haven’t changed that much. We now make Grandma’s traditional frozen salad with miniature marshmallows rather than cutting up big ones with scissors. We no longer include bananas in it since my mom is allergic to them. As my family has lived in different places over the years, going to see the lights at Christmas time has definitely changed as we’ve had to fit the community we lived in. My Grandpa always got a wind-up toy on his plate at Christmas dinner when he was a child. His were intricate and made of metal. Ours are simple and generally made of plastic.

And now we’re creating a baby family. This is an opportunity to evaluate our traditions and find the ones that really mean something to us and really tie us to others. What’s more, there are two whole sets of traditions to merge together.

It’s been a tradition in my family since 1982 to open a music box on Christmas Eve. When I moved out I started my own collection and threw a holiday party for my friends (which became a tradition for some of them) each year and would ask a special friend from the year to open it for me. Now that I’m married it’s moved back to Christmas Eve and we opened our first music box as a family last year.

We also made our own stockings last year. My husband is studying ancient Hebrew and Greek so he can read the Bible in its original languages. So when he got to pick what he put on his stocking he chose the aleph and tav. It really fits him perfectly. I decided to do silver snowflakes instead. My goal this year is to get our names on them.

Getting married at the beginning of November allowed us to jump right into the holiday season and its traditions as we started our family. Here are a few things we did that helped us.

1. Actually talk about traditions. Ask about them. What did your spouse’s family do for the holidays? How did they celebrate birthdays? Are there any foods they associate with anything? Decorations? Activities? It is a really fun way to get to know your spouse and their family even better.

2. Find the meaning in the traditions. What traditions do you particularly enjoy? What traditions mean something to you? Why do you enjoy them? What do they mean?

3. Find ways to merge the two sets of traditions. You might not keep all of both sets, but if you know what ones have meaning to you, you’ll end up finding ways to keep those, even if they do have to change some to fit your new situation. More traditions just means more ties to people and places. The traditions might even complement each other rather than conflict with each other so it won’t end up an either/or situation.

4. One of the things we did that helped the most, we spent our first holiday season alone with just our new family. That forced us to create our own ways to celebrate. Living in different states made that easy for us. If you live close to family, maybe set aside part of the day just for your new family while still spending time with your larger family. We did use web cams to spend time with our families, so we could watch his family play pinochle and my nephew open his presents.

5. Start your own traditions. What has meaning in your relationship that you want to celebrate? How are you going to enhance your life together? These can be big or small. It can be the way you say good-bye to each other in the morning or celebrating the day you met or declaring Monday to be taco day.

Slowly we are moving away from my traditions and his traditions and towards our traditions. We’re tying ourselves to both of our families, while still creating our own.

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