There are all kinds of traditions at all times of the year.
Whether it’s the tradition of having pizza on deadline night. Or quarterly team bowling tournaments. Or annual office clean outs.
Traditions can be powerful.
The holidays are especially full of traditions.
And sometimes they need to change.
A childhood friend of mine had a wonderful nurturing mother. In preparation for Christmas, she worked hard to get the house cleaned and decorated to perfection. She spent hours making nine different kinds of cookies, coconut cake with freshly grated coconut, and an unbelievable fruit cake. All family recipes – beautiful and delicious.
When it was time for all to enjoy her fine work, she was exhausted, depressed and crabby. She yelled at the kids; complained of a migraine headache; and went to her room to sleep.
Such good intentions. All wasted.
The kids wished for years that she would skip all that work so they could just enjoy being with her for the holidays.
When Ryan was 6 years old, I thought about this and asked him what was most important to him during the holidays. His response: “It really doesn’t matter much Mommy. As long as I get to stay home and make cookies with you.”
Wow. There were half dozen or so other projects and events that I had planned to squeeze in between school and work and family events. All for him and with him. But he didn’t give a hoot about any of those things.
So I dropped them all and we just stayed home and made cookies together.
Not nine different kinds – or even fancy kinds.
Just sugar cookies — with lots of icing.
Not just on the cookies — but all over the kitchen!
Yes – there were sprinkles everywhere!
How wonderful to have that time together, the yummy cookies — and the broom.
It became a tradition.
And because it’s so easy to get swept up into the traditions of others, it also became an tradition to re-visit these stories and to share them with others, as a reminder to each of us to fill the holidays with things that are important to us and our loved ones. But not too full.
Over time, Ryan’s desire to stay home and make cookies with me faded. ( He is now 21). But the messages from those memories are still perfectly clear. Let go. Plan less. Do less. Make a mess. Laugh. And leave space to just enjoy.
That reminds me of another holiday tradition.
During my years at University Directories, tradition called for a surprise visit from Santa.
I’m not sure if anyone knew this, but it wasn’t really Santa who came to our parties. Since it was such a busy time for him, Santa delegated this to my date for the party.
I must not have made expectations clear with my date one year, because when it came time for him to don the suit, he refused, saying he “wasn’t in the mood.”
With everyone waiting downstairs for Santa and his gifts to arrive, there was only one way to handle this party emergency and that was for me to take on Santa’s assignment.
It didn’t take long for party participants to realize there was a substitute. Was it the loose fitting suit? Or did the high heels that give it away?
The suited substitute explained that Santa was very busy at The North Pole and had sent his sister, Janta, in her first public appearance.
Never to rely on my dates again, Santa gave the assignment to Janta for the rest of my years at University Directories and even now, sends her for various surprise appearances in the Triangle area.
You might see her around.
The extra large suit is a big clue.
And – a good reminder to leave plenty of room for the people and things you love.
Happy Holidays!from Jan & Janta