For the first year after moving from Chicago, my husband Tim, our daughter, our fur-baby dog, and I traveled back and forth for most holidays, major birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. I looked back at my calendar and we were in Chicago once, sometimes twice a month from September 2016 until July 2017. We spent that year making memories and traditions away from home. I enjoy road trips and I’m grateful that we live close enough to make visits simpler. But it did become, well, too much.
To me, it’s a life balance thing. I believe it’s natural to evolve into your own family unit after getting married and especially after having kids. This means your own schedules, family rules, expectations, and your own community involvement and social circle. We jumped into life here and, after even that first six months, had joined a few clubs, enrolled in classes and were pretty well entrenched in our new normal. Combine that with the fact that the majority of Tim’s immediate family had relocated from Chicago to different states by the end of 2017, and we decided it was time. At the age of 30, our parents could finally record “Baby’s 1st Holiday Hosting” in our respective baby books. We told our family that we would be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas here in Columbus beginning in 2018. Anyone who could and wanted to come was more than welcome!
Holiday planning was exhilarating for me. I put up the fall decor as soon as October hit. I invested in far too many scented candles. I started pinning recipes on my Pinterest board and maniacally practicing them. I was already looking forward to pulling out all the stops with the Christmas decorating and traditions. After all, we would be here to fully enjoy them. And…OMG! We got to pick out our very own Christmas stockings!!! (Sidenote: Why are stocking holders so expensive?) I started hiding Christmas gifts instead of planning which house to ship them to or figuring out how we were going to Tetris everything into our Sportage. Not to mention how my heart swelled thinking about being able to watch our daughter come down our own stairs on Christmas morning.
Additionally, we began debating what holiday traditions we’d like to keep from each side of our families. Which ones might we start? I have a feeling it’ll take some trial and error to settle on what works for us. I put together a handful of ideas from our family concerning Thanksgiving and Christmas in case you’re in the same boat or looking for a fresh new tradition or two to kick off.
- Turkey Bowl: I’m not talking American football. I mean book a lane or two with your family and friends at your locally owned bowling alley and set up a friendly competition between teams. Take it a step further, as my husband’s family did, and award the person with the highest combined score with the Annual Ball Award! (An old bowling ball signed with the names of past victors.)
- Watch Football: My husband is a born and raised Cowboys fan. His first-ever gift to me was a Witten jersey. So we watch the Boys play every Thanksgiving day. The Giants also play every year, so take a break between helping out in the kitchen if football is one of your favorite traditions too.
- Cooking: You might be thinking “obviously”. But I know a lot of families go out to eat or get Thanksgiving day catered. I adore the idea of not having to cook or clean up. But I thoroughly enjoy planning a menu, shopping, and organizing a cooking schedule for big parties. My husband and I gathered some family recipes from both sides, added a few of our own, and tackle the baking and cooking together. It’s like a challenge to get the timing right, and we honestly feel like our “team” wins when we’re able to get everything on the table hot and perfectly prepared. And don’t forget the wishbone! I have fond memories of breaking the wishbone from the turkey with my Grandpa after dessert. Somehow I’d always win. Somehow, our daughter always wins now too.
- Showing Gratitude: This is something both Tim and I did growing up. It was a no-brainer to keep the tradition of going around our table before we eat dinner and saying what we’re thankful for from that past year. I love hearing what everyone has to say. I tear up every time.
- Lazy Friday/Black Friday: Essentially, we do next to nothing the day after Turkey day. No cooking, no more cleaning, no schedule. Jammies are highly encouraged. Alternatively, I know lots of families who have so much fun together planning out which stores they want to hit up and what sales they want to take advantage of on Black Friday. Depending on what the stores’ hours are, some of my friends go out to breakfast after the shopping is complete!
- Elf Gifts: After dinner on Christmas Eve, everyone gets to open an Elf Gift. Usually, it’s PJ pants, slippers, socks, etc. Just something comfy to change into for an after-dinner game or movie.
- The Puzzle Table: Pick a new puzzle every year and set it up on a card table. My husband’s family did this, and we kept the idea. We enjoy doing a little bit here and there or coming back to it to see what someone else had pieced together until it’s complete.
- Early Dinner: When holidays rolled around, I knew that dinner meant what it used to mean back in the 16th century. We’d eat sometimes as early as 3 or 3:30 p.m. I’ve never asked why. But perhaps it was nice for my parents to be able to clean up and be done with the work for the day earlier than usual. They certainly deserved to put their feet up and enjoy themselves too!
- Christmas Eve Treats: Cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer! Nevermind that I eat the cookies and our dog gets the carrots after the kid has fallen asleep. We add a sooty boot print or two on the fireplace hearth to solidify the magic for the next morning.
- Gift Opening: While my husband’s family would tear into their presents on Christmas morning all at once, my side would take turns while everyone else watched. With three kids, my in-laws rightfully gave themselves a break from arguments for at least an hour one day a year. But both my siblings are 18 years older than I am, so my parents took the opportunity to teach me that it was just as much fun to see others smile and be excited about the gifts you gave them as it was to open your own presents. I do still enjoy waiting to open my packages until after I see everyone open theirs.
Some of these ideas my husband and I did growing up. Some we did last year at our house and hope to keep up. Check out our other contributor’s favorite holiday traditions, some tips for creating holiday traditions, or this family’s new Christmas tradition too! Maybe you’d even like to introduce a tradition from around the world! No matter the holiday being celebrated or the tradition being shared, if it’s practiced with family and loved ones, you certainly can’t go wrong. What traditions do you celebrate with your family or have started with your kids?