Monday, November 17, 2008

Family Traditions -- Be Brave -- Establish Your Own

One of the things I marvel at every holiday season is how conflicted and exhausted parents of young families often become over where and how to spend their holiday time. There are the families that spend Thanksgiving with one set of parents and Christmas with another. Or even the families that spend half a day with each family driving hours and hours with tired crabby kids in order to not offend parents or relatives.

We had a young family and were living in Denver, Colorado in the 1980's. My family was from Brooklyn, NY and Kathy's was living in Arizona. Well, sometime in early October the phone calls started, inquiring where WE were going to spend Christmas. Obviously with three young children and a fourth on the way, our respective parents, brothers and sisters were anxious to see us. Lots of pressure. Beginning in the early days of our marriage, Kathy and I had established Thanksgiving as a day at our home, even though we lived in the same town as her family. We hosted what we called a waif's dinner, for her family if they choose to come and for friends who did not have family and had no where else to go. It became a strong tradition and a great opportunity to be with friends, relatives and an occasional newcomer who was dragged along by a friend. Best of all we got to stay home with our little ones and just hang out.

But now - we had moved all the way to Colorado! Obviously, judging from the phone calls from our respective families, they felt Christmas was an important time for family to reconnect. So building up our courage we called everyone and said, "we love you and will miss you but we are staying in Colorado and sneaking away to a condo in Vail". We told everyone they were always welcome to come visit with us. It turned out to be a great decision and a tradition that we carried on through the 1980's. Our families came to accept that we viewed this time as a chance to establish our own family traditions. They of course were always welcome. In fact, one year my entire family of six brothers and sisters along with my mom and dad came from all over the US to spend the holidays in Colorado. It was one of the most memorable times ever for everyone of us as we had 24 inches of snow on Christmas Eve and no one could go anywhere. We spent Christmas day in our driveway climbing to the top of our suburban and diving into the snow banks on our lawn. The photos were wonderful!

So today as you look ahead to the coming holiday season, be brave and think about establishing YOUR OWN FAMILY TRADITIONS.

Now, I will share one more weird tradition that we have in our family. In 1969 Arlo Guthrie, the son of the famed folk singer Woody Guthrie, wrote and performed a classic song, Alice' Restaurant. It is 18+ minutes long and describes the adventures of a group of friends at Thanksgiving. We have played that song in our home every Thanksgiving as Kathy prepares dinner for the past 34 years (and for those few Thanksgivings spent on the road at soccer tournaments we just brought the music along)!!!! And there was a tear in my eye, a few years ago when our kids called from Cincinnati to tell me that as they prepared their Thanksging meal they were playing it as well . Check it out If you live in Phoenix, radio sattion KDKB plays it at 9am, 12pm, 3 pm and 6pm each Thanksgiving.

Let us know some of your more unique family holiday traditions.

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