Creating the Best Holiday Traditions: Go to Grandma's, or Stay Home?

Ever since my husband and I first got together, we've traveled for the holidays. If not at Thanksgiving, then definitely for Christmas. We've always lived miles from family -- if we wanted to spend the holidays with our loved ones, someone had to make that endless trip up and down I-5. It was usually us, because not only does most of our family live in the same general area of Oregon, but our house in Seattle wasn't particularly well-suited for having people visit.

Now that we live in Oregon -- and our living room is a little more accommodating -- we'll be hosting Christmas this year. But as we look forward to the (hopefully) many years to come, I wonder what sort of holiday tradition is best to establish, now that we actually have some options to consider.

Should we do it at our house? At the grandparents' house? My husband's brother lives here too, what about his house? How do you pick where to spend your holidays -- and is it possible to make the WRONG choice?


It sounds like sort of a dumb (or at least extremely privileged) question, I know. We have so many loved ones nearby, what should we do? Isn't this a TERRIBLE problem to have?

But I have an actual reason for wondering. See, when I was a kid, we went to my grandparents' house in Michigan for almost every Christmas. I have wonderful memories of those visits: snow everywhere, the giant tree they always had, the familiar ornaments and treats and all their lovely holiday traditions.

Years later, though, my mother told me she wished we'd done more Christmases at our own house. She said she'd wished we'd established some of those beloved traditions at home, instead of having it all associated with something that could not last. My grandparents moved, grew older, and eventually they both passed away. By then I was no longer a child who was easily charmed by Christmas magic, of course, but still ... it never felt the same.

So that's what makes me think about my own children and how to create the traditions they'll treasure. Does it make a difference in the long run where they have their Christmas morning each year? Is it important to establish a pattern: we always do X on this day, and Y on that day? Does any of it matter at all, as long as there is love and family togetherness?  

Some say that changing holiday traditions can be upsetting:

Anytime families deviate in any manner from a long-standing family tradition, they’re bound to generate emotional responses from some family members.

To me, though, it seems like the most important thing is creating those special holiday feelings, and the location shouldn't matter nearly as much as the sentiment. That said ... god, I'm thankful not to be driving seven hours on a freeway this holiday season.

What's your approach to family togetherness during the holidays? Do you insist on being at home, or do you travel, or do you switch things up each year?

Image via Linda Sharps

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