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Holiday Traditions

With the arrival of fall our thoughts turn to spiced cider, hearty soups and gathering of family and friends.  As husband and wife we are often rooted in diverse family traditions.  Deciding how to celebrate the holidays can be a source of stress and conflict.

Several years after Mary Frances and I were married we moved to the city where I was raised and where most of my grown siblings lived.  On Christmas everyone would gather at my parent's home for a formal dinner -- turkey and all of the fixings, polished silver and sparkling crystal.  Getting dressed up for a formal dinner was not our kid's idea of fun, especially on Christmas day when they would rather be home with new toys.  We both had nightmares of rambunctious kids and shattered crystal.

One Christmas the kids were sick.  It was a blessing.  We did not join in the family dinner, in fact we did not even get out of our jammies.  We were blown away by how relaxed and carefree we felt -- even with sick kids.  Unlike Tom, in my family, Christmas was informal and kid focused. Dad would pull the charcoal grill into the garage and make hamburgers and homemade fries.  It was the only time all year the deep frier came out of the basement.

The decision to not join the rest of the extended family for Christmas dinner the following year was pretty easy when we factored in the needs of our kids on that holiday.  Tom and I both agreed that a large family gathering and formal dinner was too stressful and not fun for a young family.

We began a new family tradition and let the kids shape dough and create their own homemade pizza.  Having this plan helped us to stay firm in our decision as others in the family tried to persuade us to reverse our decision.  We made sure all in the extended family knew they were welcome to drop in and share in the joy of the day with us.

My folks were disappointed, but mostly gracious.  Mary Frances and I felt nervous wondering about the conversation, knowing we would be the only ones not at the traditional family gathering.  In the years that followed we occasionally heard the comment, "Tom and Mary Frances are having 'hot dogs' for Christmas -- Mary Frances' family tradition."  A knowing smile and wink between us reaffirmed our decision.

Our kids are now grown and when we gather for Christmas they insist on homemade pizza, not shaped like dinosaurs or ninjas, but with gourmet toppings and ever new ideas to create the perfect crust.  It is traditions such as these that create memories.  It is a risk to break from family traditions and set your own course, but creating new traditions is what marriage and family is all about!
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