How Not to Get Caught in the Tradition Trap this Holiday Season

Christmas Tree With PresentsHoliday Season? That’s right, friends! Whether we’re ready for it or not the holidays are upon us. And with the holidays…Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s… comes a mob of traditions.

Trunk-or-treating at Grandma and Grandpa’s church

Aunt Becky’s mac-n-cheese, a Thanksgiving staple

Mr. Wonderful’s Ten Days of Christmas

 Church on Christmas Eve

 Monkey bread on Christmas 

 Chip dip, Catan, and champagne as we ring in the New Year.

 The list is endless and seems only to grow with each passing year.

Each year, before the holiday crazies get going I have a little tradition of my own. Every fall one of my favorite authors, Nicholas Sparks, releases a brand new, tear-jerking novel and my tradition is this: On the day his latest story releases I drive to Barnes & Noble where I find his book waiting for me just inside the door. I browse through several copies savoring the process. I check the pages for crimps and crinkles. I sniff the dizzying new book smell. I pick the perfect one and hold it close to my chest. Next I meander over to the café and order my first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season. Then I sit, sip, and read until my heart’s content or my hubby/kids need me at home.

Christmas LightsThis past Tuesday Nicholas, (because I like to pretend we’re on a first name basis), released his first novel in two years, See Me, and I was bound and ready for a trip to B&N. I planned it out in my mind. Tuesday is story time at our local Barnes & Noble providing the perfect chance for both my girls and me to have some fun.

But then life happened. So much life I can’t even remember what derailed our plans, but no matter, here I am on Saturday afternoon, my tradition still waiting to happen.

And to be honest, while I’m excited to read Nicholas’s new book, and let me just tell you, I always, always, love a good excuse to go to Barnes & Noble, I’m kind of not-that-into-it this year. I’m wondering if it’s time to let go of this tradition.

Maybe it’s because we don’t really have the money right now to spend on a new book I don’t really need. (Want? Heck, yes! Need? Not so much.)

Maybe it’s because it’s been a while since one of Nicholas’s books captivated my heart like his earlier novels did. (Don’t get me wrong, I love all his stories but The Longest Ride doesn’t hold a candle to my all-time favorite, The Notebook.)

And maybe it’s simply because traditions are supposed to serve me, serve us. Never the other way round.

Black FridayThis is what we need to remember as we gear up for the holidays. Traditions can be wonderful things. They bring romance to our lives by drawing us to people, places, and things that make our hearts sing. Traditions encourage us to live outside of the norm, to grab hold of life, and in many cases should be fought for even when they’re inconvenient.

But if we’re not careful, traditions, or rather, the pressure cooker we build around them, can enslave us to patterns, habits, and behaviors that no longer serve a purpose, at least not a healthy one.

Whenever we find ourselves feeling not-that-into a tradition it’s time to take stock and ask ourselves the whys and wherefores behind the tradition in question.

Is it a blessing to us or others?

Does it require time and money we don’t really have?

 What’s the worse that will happen if we decide to do something different?

 Who are we seeking to please?

Depending on the answers to these questions it may be time to let the tradition go. Giving yourself the freedom and permission to do so ushers in peace, and grace, and makes room for other blessings to grow.

I’ve shared this quote before, and I’d like to share it again. It’s so important and needed at the start of the holidays, and I hope it will help you navigate the tradition trap this year:

“Whenever Christmas (Insert: Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas cards, Christmas trees, Black Friday, trick-or-treating, caroling, turkey, pies, decorations, presents, shopping, etc…) begins to burden, it’s a sign that I’ve taken on something of the world and not of Christ.”

~ Ann Voskamp (Insert Mine)

May this be your rule of thumb to keep traditions from ruling you.

This holiday season may you and yours find joy in traditions that whisper His name and freedom from the noise that doesn’t.

~From the Archives