Christmas is a time that comes with a lot of baggage. Good and bad, we all have some.
For me and many others, the holidays come with a cheery rose-gold tint, filled with fond memories of family, fun gatherings, and spending time with loved ones. I can name so many Christmas memories that filled my heart with such warmth and connection. I’m lucky, and I know it.
Traditions have played a major role in preserving the magic of Christmas, though they haven’t all lasted. In some situations, it has been better that they’ve been left behind (see, for example, Midnight Mass). My celebration this year looks nothing like I’ve ever done before, as my husband and I have packed our bags and are enjoying Santa Fe with my parents, many hours away from our usual Colorado digs.
I’ve found that while I can admire and appreciate old traditions, they are nothing to get too attached to. Their inevitable likelihood of changing should bring soft and kind reflection, rather than harsh and bitter resentment. Things don’t always go as planned, and I don’t want to feel hand cuffed to the old ways, especially when they are showing signs of extinction.
That goes for many things: stuff. Comparison. Expectations. This holiday season, I’m leaving behind my attachments to all of the things that are wearing me down, starting with a firm grasp on Christmas traditions.
However, I’ll still honor them, and how they have shaped my experience. And who knows; each year brings the possibility of starting a new one—as long as I accept that it doesn’t have to be permanent.
My favorite Christmas traditions
Everyone’s family handles stockings and what’s stuffed inside a little differently. Chad’s parents have always dished out toothbrushes. (I get it—practical, necessary, affordable.) While I don’t necessarily look forward to those bad boys, I always wanted to open my stocking at home, which was sure to include a lottery scratch ticket.
I don’t think I ever won anything more than a dollar or two, but it was so fun to all scratch those tickets together. Even as a little kid, I got to play a game with my parents and older brothers and feel very much apart of the fun. When Chad joined us for gift-giving, he got to participate too, which felt nice to share in something interactive and rewarding. Even though we haven’t done this in a while, I think that this tradition has potential to be included in future stocking stuffers.
When Chad talks about his childhood Christmas day celebrations, they always start with getting up early to enjoy their favorite cereal. For him, he grew up eating very healthy foods; so his sugary favorite, Captain Crunch, was reserved for one day only: Christmas.
Last year, I was able to join in the fun. And though I don’t have the same sentimental connection, it was nice to see Chad’s face light up when bowl was packed full, or when he got to ask me which cereal I wanted (it was Reese’s Puffs, by the way).
Christmas Lights Drive
One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to get in the car and go for a drive, looking for Christmas Lights displays. Sometimes homes are lit up so grandly, it feels so nice to admire their hard work and showmanship. The quality varies, though, especially since Chad and I grew up in a small town, and are currently living in one. There aren’t always consistent neighborhoods.
I also like this tradition because it’s pretty low-key and flexible. It doesn’t have to happen on Christmas, but sometime during the season. It’s also adaptive; this year in Santa Fe, it will likely be modified to luminaria (small lanterns with a candle inside), which will be just as special, if not more.
Going to a Movie
Sometimes on Christmas afternoon, after a big dinner and lull, we would drive a few hours away and go to a movie (Gunnison, our small town, did not have a movie theater) (terrible, I know). Alternatively, we’d go the day after Christmas. Either way, we loved picking out a movie and spending time together seeing it. It was a little unconventional and capitalistic, but it got us experiencing something new and exciting.
Christmas Eve Present Opening
Back in the day, our Christmas Eve followed a pretty similar pattern: we would go to church, a fancy dinner at the nicest restaurant in town, and then come home to open “one” gift. My dad in particular would always pretend to be a stickler, but would cave very easily when we wanted to open more.
Most times we’d get in our jammies, separate the presents into piles, and take turns by age to open up each gift. I liked doing it on Christmas Eve. Sometimes the “Santa” gifts would be waiting in the morning, along with the stockings, to make it pretty even. I liked staying up late together, feeling happy and full.
Hot Springs Soak
Though this was reserved for New Year’s Day, my ultimate favorite holiday tradition was getting into our car and driving three hours to Ouray Hot Springs. This was my very first introduction to hot springs soaking, starting about 5 or 6 years ago, and was so special; it would usual snow and be freezing, and paired so nicely with the geothermal waters.
I haven’t been back since their big remodel in 2016, but would love to go again. Swimming, laughing, and saying hello to the new year has been something I’ve always appreciated, especially being able to share it with my parents, Chad, and a brother here and there.
This year, I wish you happiness, love, and the ability to adjust with the times. May all your traditions fit your life, and new or old, make the season feel complete. Cheers!
Merry Christmas and happy holidays.