Christmas Traditions – Somewhere Between the Old and the New

Gabby, a Grown and Flown Writer, sent us this post as she prepares for the holidays: My youngest child complained recently that we don’t make as big a deal of Christmas traditions and celebrations as we did when her older brother and sister lived at home. Ironically, it was just about the time I had decided to skip decorating the house for Thanksgiving, something I have always done. And since we planned to be away for Christmas, I was also entertaining the notion of a “quieter” version of Christmas lights and decor.

I’ve written before about all the advantages my third child has in terms of my experienced and wiser approach to parenting, but I have not often considered the downside.

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade spider man balloon, parade balloon, Macy's parade, Christmas traditions

I vaguely recall my youngest sister complaining that the focus of our family always seemed to be directed at the lives of her two older sisters.  Whether conversations were about college, first jobs or partners, she was always in an earlier stage and her life was never the topic of family discussions.

There are several precipitating occurrences which have inspired my “toned down” approach to our Christmas traditions. If I am honest with myself, weariness, boredom, and a little bit of cynicism are among the darker factors. However, at the same time, I am working hard within this second phase of life (along with my family) to remake myself so that I can shed certain outdated personas and make room for more originality, purpose and depth…..and isn’t that the point of these holidays to begin with? Finally, there is no denying that we have been forced to shift things around, both to adapt to our children’s new lives as they enter adulthood and also because of  the aging of the generation ahead of us.inflatable balloon, family trip to parade, Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, Kermit the frog, Kermit balloon

As an example, this was the first time in 20 years that I did not have a household of extended family for Thanksgiving.  Instead, I hosted an early celebration with my husband, our three children, friends, significant others and some extended family before all but four of us traveled in different directions.

Yet in what might become a new tradition, I did something I have wanted to do since I was a little girl….my husband, two of my children and I went to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

During past years when I flew around the house cooking up multiple meals for multiple days of visitors, I wistfully watched the TV’s rendition. This Thanksgiving there was room for a new (perhaps one-time) holiday tradition and I was mindfully present holding my youngest child’s hand as we watched those magical balloons drift by.

Don’t worry….right after my daughter complained, I pulled out the pilgrim candles and went out and bought my kids and my nieces and nephews chocolate advent calendars. However, with the run up to Christmas, I ask fellow bloggers and readers this question.  How do you keep the magic in your Christmas traditions…..while mixing the old with the new?

“Your concern  is not so much to have what you love anymore but to love what you have-right now.” Richard Rohr

Thanksgiving traditions, watching the Macy's parade, Christmas traditions,Thanksgiving in New York City, watching the parade




  1. says

    I’m slowly weaning myself from being the center of gravity, so to speak, with holidays. I have one married daughter who lives about 10 miles from our home here in Colorado and a few times, our other daughter, who is still single and lives in LA, has stayed with her rather than here at the house. No feelings hurt, I told myself, no feelings hurt. Of course, they all come here on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, etc., but I understand (and celebrate, really) that, as sisters, they like to “hang out.” Siblings, are, after all, such a gift we give our children – especially when they get along as adults.

    • says

      We love the fact that our children are friends and, given the chance, they may someday opt to stay with each other rather than at our house, too. We will try to remember not to have hurt feelings, either.

  2. happyoutlook says

    Gabby, thanks so much for your wonderful post. It made me think that sometimes it’s time to let certain traditions go to make room for new ones. This year we didn’t carve pumpkins at Halloween because none of the kids were home to do it but we’re already planning a full schedule of things to do when the kids are home for their holiday break. Like your visit to the Thanksgiving Day parade, maybe some of these new things that we’ll try will become new traditions.

    • says

      Flexibility is a great personal quality and I think these years will put us all to the test. There is always room in our lives to begin new, especially if they become ones we learn to love.

  3. says

    I think the most important part of the holidays isn’t keeping the traditions, it’s making your children feel special and loved. And I’m sure you accomplished that with the parade.

    • says

      Making our children feel loved and special are, indeed, the most important parts of the holidays, and always.

  4. says

    I hear ya. It’s such a chore to pull out all the stops to provide that same holiday ambiance, but our grown up kids come home for that reason! I made the suggestion this year about maybe going to a restaurant, and you should have seen the sadness and outraged look on his face! So, I did everything he expected because who wants to disappoint their babies?

    • says

      We know that look of shock on our kids’ faces when we suggest something new. Hope you are able to have fun with the preparations without feeling exhausted by the time your kids come to visit. It needs to be fun for us, too, doesn’t it?

  5. says

    i think keeping the tradition alive is the one constant as our children grow in to their adult lives. we both still have the same Christmas’s that we did when the kids were small. while we are now better cooks, my Christmas Eve dinner is always the same and Denise’s family always has eggnog and plays games. There is no doubt that a lot of things are different but the setting is the same and i think that’s what the kids want as well. those moments where all the Christmas’s past are there with us in the present. it is tempting to tone it down but we think its worth it.

    • says

      I think you may be right about the role that family traditions play in our children’s lives. We all hold onto those to keep our connections strong with family. We wish we could be at your Christmas Eve Dinner, btw!

  6. says

    My kids say the same thing. I think they miss all the hoopla that surrounded them for so many years. Seeing Santa, going to light shows and seeing Christmas plays. Maybe it’s the realization that they are approaching adulthood, I don’t know. This year we are going to try to gather the troops and spend some much needed time together…oh, we’re going to the light show! Looks like Mrs. Clause is going to come out of retirement for a brief appearance.

    • says

      Happy to hear that Mrs. Claus is working again – bet you find just the right mix of the old and the new to make your family feel truly at home while not exhausting yourself.

  7. says

    We used to decorate more with my older son! I think the most important thing is that they feel loved and special

  8. Angela says

    There are a few traditions that will always stay the same, but as the kids in my family get older and family members relocate across the country some of our traditions are changing.

    • says

      I remember when we were little and decided that it was time for our grandparents to visit us at Christmas and not the other way around. It was significant but, in a year or two, it felt just as authentic a tradition as the other way. the important thing was, of course, being together.

  9. says

    We’ve toned it down a lot too as our children have grown up and out – but we celebrate Hanukkah, so there are different changes. Where I used to agonize over the 8 nights of gifts, ranging from the itty bitty to the big and expensive, I now give each child one big gift. We sometimes skip lighting the menorah if we’re going out that evening, and there are no decorations. I remain committed to the messy, oily business of making latkes, thought…that’s a family mandate!

    • Gabby McCree says

      I think you never know what everyone will remember….but I suspect it is what you (the mom) enjoys the most.

  10. says

    I haven’t hit that stage yet…and I’m not sure how I will handle it. My oldest is only 12…so we will see as he grows older and begins to grow up..and out! :)

  11. says

    It can be a weird adjustment once “kids” move out and get independent. I feel a lot of pressure during the holidays since branching out on my own. I’m 21 and have been with my boyfriend for over 5 years now but we still feel uncomfortable most holidays because my parents are divorced and remarried and so are his. For christmas and thanksgiving, my moms siblings do a BIG get together and so does my dads side so that makes six different “Events” to go to. So we feel like we have to go six places for each of the big holidays and because my boyfriends dad lives about an hour away it just ends up being an all day thing and we end up so exhausted and we usually feel like we didn’t stay “long enough” at any given place. Our families make offhanded comments about it when we leave too so it just makes it even harder. We’re still at least a few years away from wanting to have kids but I can’t imagine doing holidays like this with a baby or little kid being drug along so I really dread how we will manage to transition our holidays once we have kids.

    • Gabby McCree says

      That sounds hard and I am mindful that bigger changes in family dynamics feature into people’s experience during the holidays and are often difficult. At some point you may have to decide that you can’t please everyone and explain that deep relationships and meaningful time together happens throughout the year and not just on a specific holiday. Could you try to talk with the most understanding member of your family and share your feelings? If not seek out others who have encountered these situations and brainstorm a bit.

  12. says

    It’s rather hard to find the motivation to decorate and fill the house with Christmas spirit when for most of the season, it’s just my husband and me here. But then there’s the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day visitors, aka my two daughters who are still local, and it matters so much to them that it’s worth the hassle. And nothing beats a response of “That’s my favorite Christmas thing at your house, it makes it seem like the Christmas House” from my youngest when I put a photo on of holiday decor on Facebook. Great post.

    • Gabby McCree says

      One thing I’m working on is putting some of the “decorations” that my children love away for each of them to have….even if they can’t take them now I can tell them it’s there for their home some day and don’t have to go hog wild myself. At the same time I am practicing decorating with a new spirit. What I do choose to do in the way of decorations I do with a slower, more meditative spirit….enjoying the task and thinking about each of my loved ones and happy memories. I feel so much lighter than when I was in a rush and felt resentful.

  13. Jane de Beneducci says

    I love all our silly special traditions, and strangely my 4 grown up boys aged between 23 and 16, are still very willing to do them too, in fact some they won’t let us drop. Now they are bigger they can do some of the chores, get the tree, help dress the house, write Xmas card envelopes, do some shopping and cook, in fact it has got a lot easier. I am cherishing them being with us until girlfriends/wives mean these days will have to be shared fairly with other families. But for now I am off to hide today’s advent treat for my teenagers!

    • Gabby McCree says

      I love that they are participating and being helpful….I need them to do a workshop for my kids!!!