All the Holiday Traditions I'm Unapologetically Breaking This Year


I'm an '80s baby, and growing up there were certain traditions my family did every holiday season, regardless of whether or not we actually enjoyed them. Waiting in an endless line to visit Santa at the mall? Check. Freezing our toes off caroling for strangers? Check. Posing for a Christmas card photo sometime in October even though we were way overheated in our snowflake sweaters? Check, and I can still feel the sweat dripping into my high-tops.




When I had twin boys four years ago and became a mom myself, I spent the first few years following in my parents' footsteps, forcing my family through a packed social calendar from Thanksgiving through Christmas, all in hopes of giving my kids magical memories of the season. But to be honest, we were going through the motions of all these activities more than actually enjoying any of them. So I did what millennials are infamous for: I quit. Or more specifically, I stopped doing all of the things you're "supposed" to do during the holidays in favor of things we actually wanted to do. And honestly, it's made the season so much better. 

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Each year I'd drop cash on fancy new outfits for the boys and march down to the mall, where we'd wait in an endless line of screaming kids to meet a man that vaguely resembled Santa Claus. Then I'd fork over my credit card so my kids could sit on this strange man's lap and try not to look terrified while some oversized elf took their picture. We did this for three years running before I finally realized none of us enjoyed the whole "meeting Santa" experience. My kids didn't need to meet the man in red in order to know that Christmas was coming. They're happier practicing their letters by writing him a note instead. So, we scrapped it.


The same goes for sending out holiday cards. I get that it's a tradition my parents and grandparents did for years, but they raised their families before social media, where a once-a-year photo might be the only chance you had to see how big your second cousins were getting. I post pictures of my kids so often that even I get sick of seeing their faces. My entire extended family and all the friends I'd send cards to anyway are all online, so why was I driving myself up a wall sending them a physical photo? Rather than stress myself out over coordinated family outfits, booking a photographer, picking the right card, and remembering to order them in time so they'd arrive before New Year's, we just skip the family Christmas card altogether. No stress, less paper waste for the environment, everyone wins.

It's not that I'm a total Grinch when it comes to the season. It's just that doing the same things year after year can start to make December feel you're stuck in a sci-fi movie about time travel rather than a celebration of what should be one of the best times of the year. And I'd rather spend those coveted weekends doing things that bring my family joy.

Take, for example, the Christmas tree. Instead of waiting until December and freezing our asses off in a parking lot picking out a real tree that may or may not have spider eggs nestled inside, we have a fake one that we put up in November, as soon as the kids ask.

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Ditto on gingerbread houses. When the boys were toddlers, I insisted on buying the overpriced gingerbread house kits because that's what I remembered doing as a kid. But everyone knows that gingerbread houses are for show; you don't actually get to eat them. Plus, odds are high that the kids will end up crying when the thing inevitably collapses into a pile of frosting and sprinkles. Instead, now we decorate Rice Krispies Treats the boys cut into Christmas shapes or stick with baking cookies. Call me a lazy millennial who's cutting all kinds of Christmas corners, but that's good enough for me.

Can't stop won't stop.

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Saying goodbye to traditions that my family doesn't love has given us room to find things we like doing that we wouldn't have had time for otherwise, like cleaning out forgotten toys every December to donate to families in need, or driving through the local charity light display. And even if something is a complete blast, that doesn't mean you have to do it every Christmas until your kids are adults themselves. Sometimes what makes something special is its rarity, like the one time we went sledding at night.

I know I'm not the only one in my generation who's letting go of the idea of forced holiday traditions. My friends are switching up the ways they do holidays with their kids too. We know our moms love A Christmas Story, but we're happier screening The Nightmare Before Christmas with our brood instead. And rather than getting dressed up fancy for Christmas Day, we're more likely to throw on matching family pajamas and spend the day lounging in comfy plaid.

Traditions are only good if they're enjoyable for everyone. I'm not disowning my childhood by breaking the traditions I grew up with; I'm forging my own path with my own family doing things that work for us.

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