We live far away from our biological families, and have for our entire marriage. At first we felt it was our obligation to ‘go home’ for the holidays, but the problem was that our families live about a thousand miles away from each other, and we were roughly the same distance from each. So we started the pattern of traveling to one state for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas, then switching it the next year. This worked for a while; we would drive through the night with babies sleeping, arrive exhausted and worry about how our children would act away from home. Presents were schlepped from our house to Grandma’s house back to our house again, with us driving back home through the night, only to arrive exhausted once again. And most years it felt like we still hadn’t done enough; someone was usually unhappy with how our time was spent, no matter how hard we tried. As the kids got older, Santa somehow found us, no matter where we were on Christmas morning, but it became harder and harder to convince them that this was the way Christmas worked for our family. It also became hard for us to convince ourselves.
When our children were school aged and we were getting more pressed for time off, we made a decision to have Christmas at our home. No more traveling. We told both our families that they were welcome to join us for Christmas, or any other time near the day to celebrate, but we would no longer spend the holidays on the road. Our announcement wasn’t received with cheers, but with eventual understanding and maybe a sprinkling of guilt each year, but the relief it brought to us made it worth it. Our children woke up on Christmas morning in their own house and played with the toys they received with no need to pack up and drive home. Another by-product of this decision was that we started our own Christmas traditions, small rituals that were important just to us, and we still perform years later.
When you think about it, we are told to do this very thing in scripture. We are to leave and cleave. Leaving our parents home and their traditions doesn’t have to mean turning our backs to them, but starting our own and inviting our extended family into it is a beautiful thing. I would like to encourage you to really think about how your family celebrates the season, is it what you want for your family? It is my hope that you are spending the holidays in the way that you choose, not in the way that you feel expected.
The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:23-24