Wrapping paper was everywhere. Far too many toys scattered the floor, their packaging lying in ruins as our 1-year-old zoomed from one to the next—the effects of a sugar cookie and chocolate milk for breakfast apparent to all. My husband and I laughed with my husband’s parents, enjoying an extra cup or two of coffee before the rest of the family arrived.
But my heart just wasn’t fully in it.
Part of me loved having extended family together on Christmas morning (I’m blessed with fantastic in-laws). But a bigger, more selfish part wished we were home. Our home. By the Christmas tree we had decorated, the same one our daughter had undecorated anywhere her little hands could reach.
We had been married for four years, but this was the first Christmas I felt homesick. I missed my family and our traditions. We hadn’t opened one present on Christmas Eve the way my family did when I was a kid. We didn’t play board or card games either. There was no Christmas movie the night before, no endless reruns of A Christmas Story on the TV.
When we got married, I inherited another set of parents, a grandmother, a sister and nephew, and aunt and uncles. That was the easy part. I actually like these people.
But what I didn’t expect was I also inherited someone else’s holiday traditions. I worried keeping my traditions meant losing his. I didn’t want that. But there were also traditions I didn’t want to sacrifice. Traditions I wanted to enjoy with our children and, one day, our grandchildren.
After we had headed home that Christmas, my husband and I talked about what each of our expectations were for holidays. We were surprisingly on the same page with one thing: We wanted our kids home on Christmas morning.
That day changed our Lakey Family Christmas traditions. After talking it over with our parents, we decided Christmas morning was for our little family, and we would visit my family later in the day. Since my husband’s family is three hours away, we decided we would spend each Thanksgiving at their home, and celebrate Christmas with them on New Year’s.
Several years later and another kid added to the mix, I no longer feel homesick during the holidays. We established our own traditions (including a Christmas Eve scavenger hunt) and kept what we love about each other’s—a breakfast casserole and cinnamon rolls from my husband’s side, and making a big event of decorating the tree from mine.
And I’ve realized another thing (took me awhile, huh?): Wherever my little family is, is home.
The good stuff: Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Action points: Feeling a little holiday tension around family gatherings? Take a quick coffee or hot cocoa date with your spouse this week. Express (kindly but genuinely) how you feel about the traditions you have in place. Are they too much? Is all the go-go-go leaving you frazzled, homesick? Listen openly to your spouse’s point of view and then discuss how you can establish traditions that honor both sets of families.
Visit the FamilyLife® Website