How a Missed Holiday Tradition Reminded Me of What’s Truly Important


holiday traditionsTraditions.

The holiday season is absolutely teeming with traditions.

Traditions that have stood the test of time.

You know, the ones that you enjoyed as a child and were bound and determined to carry on with your own children. Or maybe the ones that you didn’t experience but only heard about, resolving that once you had a family of your own, you would ensure your children knew that special joy.

A Missed Tradition

For our family, a local Christmas tree lighting is one of those traditions. The year that I was eight months pregnant with our oldest son, my husband and I joined some friends for the fun. 

That’s when I fell in love. It was absolutely magical, everything I love about the holidays and more, and I knew right then and there that a family tradition had been born. 

This year would have been our fourth year attending, but due to a planned getaway in the mountains, we weren’t able to make it. And when I first realized that we would be out of town the same evening as the tree lighting, I was devastated. I mean, genuinely distraught. I even asked my husband if maybe we could change plans and wait to leave for the mountains that evening once the tree lighting was over instead of earlier in the day.

But that’s when it hit me. As those words rolled off my lips, as I attempted to shift our long-standing, marvelous plans simply in order to maintain a tradition, I realized the absurd amount of power that I was giving a single holiday event.

My concern with a tradition, with not missing this event that we were supposed to attend every year of my children’s childhood, was stealing my joy.

It’s the Most (Stressful) Time of the Year

And I know that people talk about this around the holidays.

They talk about how busy life becomes. They talk about how much there is to do, how stressful it all is, and the absolute chaos that is the holiday season. They talk about how it’s meant to be such a joyful time of the year, yet there’s so much that distracts from the joy. 

But I never understood it. Until now.

Because I was allowing my joy to be stolen.

It wasn’t the holidays’ fault, though. This magnificent season wasn’t causing me to feel tied down to a tradition. This time of year wasn’t to blame for my fear that I wouldn’t be able to provide an adequate amount of “holiday magic”—whatever that even means—for my children.

It’s clear the holidays aren’t the problem here: I am.

I’ve completely fallen prey to the lie that I am the master of my children’s happiness, and in order for them to be happy, I must be perfect. And that feeling is only exacerbated by the holiday season, the pressure that my life from Thanksgiving ’til Christmas must play out like a Hallmark movie. Those stinking addictive Hallmark movies.

What Really Matters

So this year, I’m grateful for a missed tradition, because that missed tradition reminded me that the holidays don’t need to look a certain way.

We don’t have to attend the tree lighting, bake the Christmas cookies, watch the heartwarming movies, sing the carols around the piano, skate around the rink, construct the perfect gingerbread houses, wear the matching jammies, build the cutest snowman, or seek out the most magical Christmas lights display in town in order to have a holiday season worth remembering. 

All we really need is one another. Our perfectly imperfect little family, celebrating together, whatever that may look like. And this year will undoubtedly look different than the next, and the one after that, but that’s okay. It’s beautiful, in fact, because each year will hold the entirely unique memories that only that year could.

So here’s to letting go of expectations. Here’s to trusting that whatever this season looks like, it’s good enough. Here’s to believing that the little things are creating lasting memories.

And here’s to missed traditions that remind us of what’s truly important.