One Holiday at a Time

While millions of Americans are traveling on this the busiest travel day of the year, my family and I have arrived back home from our pre-holiday travels.  I must say that it’s kind of refreshing to have the stress of travel behind us while we enjoy our Thanksgiving at home with friends.  Less refreshing has been trying to fight the urge to listen to Christmas music and get a head start on our myriad of Christmas traditions.  I know there are more and more people out there that have all but brushed Thanksgiving aside, but I will hold on to my belief that we should celebrate one holiday at a time.

It seems a little sad to me that the one holiday that seems to get the short end of the stick is one centered around having thankful hearts.  I get that listening to Christmas music, starting your shopping, and decorating your home beforehand does not mean that you are not grateful. But it still seems a shame that we give it less and less of our focus. I actually love Christmas music and have often wondered why we don’t listen to it year round.  But I think the special feelings I feel about Christmas music, and all things Christmas, are that they are held aside for a special time of year.  My problem with all the Christmas activity before Thanksgiving is that I don’t feel like it is done to lengthen the experience of the Joy of Christmas but rather to lengthen the ability to “get it all done.”

Black Friday Shopping is the biggest culprit of Thanksgiving being robbed of it’s own separate day.  While I never participated in Black Friday shopping when it was actually on Friday, I could at least respect it’s placement AFTER Thanksgiving.  Now I can’t even do that.  It starts earlier and earlier every year.  Early enough now that it’s becoming known as “gray Thursday.”  I know several people that dislike the stores opening on Thanksgiving, but that’s still not deterring their Black “Friday” shopping experience from happening.  My concern, and history proves this, is that as long as you give a retailer a customer then most retailers are going to take advantage of that opportunity to have their doors open earlier and longer.

There is the argument that we do the shopping out of the need for a good deal, but I can’t imagine that our need is so great that it means robbing workers of their holiday time with family.  My husband is in the medical field and, as a result, we fight to spend our holidays together.  I respect that my husband is needed at the hospital, but are we losing sight when we believe that retailers are needed earlier and earlier for us to snag the best deal?

For many, Black Friday Shopping is also a tradition.  And a rather fun one, I’m told.  I hear people-watching alone is epic.  But I imagine you can still line up outside of the retailers that are making a point to give their workers Thanksgiving off and stay true to Black Friday.  What a wonderful tradition it would be to carry as it was intended on Friday and allow the workers to carry on their traditions of a Thanksgiving meal with their loved ones.

The beauty of Thanksgiving is that it’s one of the few holidays where there are no obligations to give gifts.  The only obligation is to eat, enjoy yourself, have a grateful heart, and spend time with loved ones.  The irony of Black Friday and it’s focus on materialism immediately following, and now infringing on, Thanksgiving is a little disheartening to me.

I suppose it’s easy for me to have my opinion since I have yet to take part in Black Friday Shopping.  Although, as a lover of Christmas music, I can say that I do not listen to the radio stations playing Christmas music prior to Thanksgiving.  It’s no easy task, but I do it in my effort to celebrate one holiday at a time.  I may be one girl with little impact, but I feel better knowing that I believe in this principle enough that I won’t allow myself to be a contributor in Thanksgiving becoming a minor holiday.

To each of you, regardless of your Thanksgiving plans, may you have grateful hearts tomorrow and everyday.  There is always, always, always something to be thankful for in our lives.

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Meaningful Traditions

I am a big supporter of traditions.  My Mom did an amazing job of having all sorts of fun things to look forward to at various times of year.  One of my favorites was our first day of school tradition.  When our first day ended, we would return home to the delicious smell of homemade chocolate chip cookies straight from the oven.  Those chocolate chip cookies were amazing.  My Mom used the Nestle Toll House recipe.  However, she must have added a heavy dose of Love in there, as they never taste as good when I try to replicate them.  Regardless of my abilities, I make chocolate chip cookies for my girls every year for their first day of school.

Another tradition that has been carried on in our home due to it’s memorable role in my childhood is my Mom’s Halloween Sugar Cookies.  I still have the cookie cutter she used.  It’s such a pain to use since it’s not just an outline cut-out.  It’s a cookie cutter that pushes in a darling little pumpkin face, which then gets covered up by frosting.  It’s such a shame that nobody can see the detail of the cutout, but I still use it because my Mom did.  I also still use raisins to make the Jack-o-Lantern face since that’s what my Mom used.  Even though most people prefer and suggest that I use chocolate chips instead, I stick with tradition.  I really am painfully loyal to the tradition.

That all being said, I think it’s important that we reevaluate the traditions we carry on in our lives.  I make my Mom’s sugar cookies using her cutout for half of the batch and then finish the dough off making cookies that are smaller and easier to produce.  I honor the tradition but I also strive to prevent the tradition from overwhelming me to the point of unnecessary stress.
Sometimes we risk traditions losing their meaning when we get carried away with them.  I’m not sure who is to blame for this epidemic of quantity and perfection over meaning and reflection when it comes to traditions.  My guess would be that Pinterest had a hand in it.  While I am a supporter of Pinterest, I fear many women feel this need to do every tradition, craft, and holiday treat posted on there.  I often become a victim myself.  I almost have to avoid Pinterest completely during the holidays to protect myself from feeling like a failure of a Mom for not doing Elf on a Shelf, the Advent Calendar, Gingerbread Houses, homemade Christmas ornaments, Secret Santa, Caroling, the 12 Days of Christmas, and the like in the course of 25 days.  I love traditions, especially the Christmas ones, but sometimes I feel like we overdo it and lose the spirit of the season or tradition.
Let me reiterate that I truly cherish traditions.  I baked the Halloween cookies, we took the kids to a real Pumpkin Patch (a first for me), we carved pumpkins, and we’ll be dining on chili, cornbread, and hot dogs tomorrow evening, per tradition.  I love providing meaningful traditions for my children.


But I wanted to remind readers, and myself, that we don’t have to do it all to prove ourselves in anyway.  Sometimes beginning involves minimizing and being okay with ourselves for knowing our limits.  I think Elf on a Shelf is a darling idea, but if I add that to my list of traditions, my children are going to wake up to one angry elf everyday in December.
As we continue through this fun holiday season, remember it’s okay to have your child come home with 20+ holiday goodie bags that other Moms made for the class when your accomplishment for the day consisted of getting your child to school with a warm jacket on.  Embrace the traditions that have real meaning to you and your family.  Begin letting go of the excess and treasure the simple traditions that beget warm memories rather than stress.
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