We're ditching a tradition this year.
We're adding another.
To be honest we hung on to the old one too long. It hasn't worked for our family for several years, but I think because we'd labeled it a "tradition" it felt wrong to stop.
I adore traditions. They're part of a family's identity. Little or big, in doing them year after year, they help to say 'this is us.' The family looks forward to them. We bond over them. We look back and smile over their memories.
When we first started a family, I had this realization that now we get to CHOOSE which traditions would be ours. Some I'd carry over from my family, some from my husband's family, and some new that we'd start together. And from birthdays, to holidays, to new school years, to dinner time, and on... we've got to pick what makes us, us.
Early on a friend suggested the Christmas pickle tradition. A pickle ornament gets hidden within the camouflage of the green Christmas tree branches. Then the kids go to work finding it. The winner receives a special little gift - something that's really for all to enjoy, a puzzle or a game usually, but the winner receives and opens it. It was good fun. Until it wasn't. The truth is it's been a headache for a number of years. It turns out my daughter has an eagle eye and has won just about every time. That hasn't gone over well with her siblings, and we've managed to turn this Christmas "fun" into tears, frustration, and bickering. The magic has been long gone from the pickle. But we held on to the whole charade.
This year though, I wanted to add a new tradition. And finally realized maybe it's okay, maybe it's time, to kick the pickle to the curb.
That maybe some traditions aren't meant to be forever. And that most importantly, I needed to go back to that early motherhood mindset of being excited to "choose" what traditions we'd take on. And the choice is we'll do what works for us, and what brings out the best in us.
Buh bye pickle.
This year each member of the family will pick a name. They'll buy a book for that person and on the inside cover leave a note. They'll explain why they chose the book - what was it about the book, and what is it about the person that led their choice. And they'll sign it with love. The books will each get wrapped and they'll be given when we arrive home from the Christmas Eve service. Honestly, I'm so excited for this new tradition. I can't stop picturing a special bookshelf full of these special keepsakes with special notes within each one.
My kids are no longer the toddlers and preschoolers that enjoyed the Christmas pickle hunt. They're getting older, and one of the most beautiful things about bigger kids is realizing they're truly thoughtful, insightful, and capable. And I think this new tradition is going to bring out all of that. I think my heart is going to melt a little as we read the notes and let our fingers flip through the pages. I hope their hearts melt a little too. And I think it's a tradition that really matches where we are right NOW as a family.
Here's to letting go of what doesn't work. Moving in what does. And to keeping traditions as they should be, happy.
***Editing to add that a friend so sweetly shared with me about Jolabokaflod (meaning Christmas Book Flood in English), the Icelandic tradition of gifting and reading books on Christmas Eve. She included a link to an article about it in the comments below if you're interested!