“Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.” ~ John McClane ~
In our house, it is not Christmas until Hans Gruber gets thrown off Nakotomi Towers. Santa, Christmas carols, and twinkly lights ain’t got nothing on John McClane. Every year we watch this movie and every year I feel the spirit of Christmas well up inside me – a dad, a weary traveler, just trying to get home to his family on Christmas Eve, a greedy, Grinch-like villain, and a good old-fashioned 80s holiday party complete booze, blow, and sex in the conference room. It’s full of Christmas music, and holiday one liners, Theo’s “Twas the night before Christmas” riff, Hans’ “It’s Christmas, Theo, it’s the time of miracles…,” and so many others. I mean, sure, Christmas movies don’t usually end in violence and bloodshed, but I bet there’s been a family party or two you would have maybe considered walking barefoot across broken glass to escape. I mean, the guy who composed Silent Night is named Franz Gruber for heaven’s sake….coincidence? I think not!
The Power of Tradition
Okay in all seriousness, it isn’t so much that Die Hard is a fabulous Christmas movie (it obviously is), but the fact that watching Hans and John trying to outwit one another has become a serious holiday tradition. The season would not be the same with out it. I can make the same argument for Bill Murray’s Scrooged (because Bill Murray is a national treasure) and of course, the beloved National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Every time we share our traditions with our family, it connects generations and the present to the past, and makes kids stronger and better adjusted. No, my kids don’t watch Die Hard….yet, but there are tons of holiday traditions we look forward to every year, many that I enjoyed when I was young. Taking turns opening presents on Christmas morning for one, making sour cream cookies with thick buttercream frosting, and opening our stockings first thing while waiting for the rest of the family to wake up and the coffee to brew. We’ve also adopted some of my husband’s family tradition, Christmas Eve mass before cutting loose with booze, food, and presents. Every year we put on our Christmas best and head out in the cold, dark, night. Snow crunches under our dress shoes and we suffer through the 2 hour Christmas mass. I say suffer because my kids run out of patience and good behavior about 30 minutes in, but in all seriousness, the choir, the music, smells of incense and candles, I can’t imagine Christmas without it.
Tradition is about more than holiday fun. It’s about finding connection in celebration, knowing “this is who we are,” and making children feel they are part of a something special. And yet, survey respondents in a recent online study, admitted they spend more time shopping than with friends and family during the holidays. I know this is a ridiculous busy season (and why I’m cutting these 5 things out this year), but let’s not forget to prioritize what matters amidst all the shopping, cooking, and planning.
Slow Down and Enjoy The Season
Staying on top of everything makes it hard to consider adding MORE to our plate, but I want you to consider adding a few meaningful traditions this year. Particularly, traditions that help YOU enjoy the holiday season. Every year we work our assess of to make it special for our people, keeping the magic for the kiddos and giving and hosting and cooking ourself into exhaustion. But the fact remains, we only get a handful of December 25ths in our lifetime and an even smaller amount with our kids at home. Can you say with certainty you are making the most of these fleeting years? Are you genuinely enjoying this time of year? Probably not, right?
First, evaluate your family traditions. Which do you do out of a sense of obligation or guilt and which traditions mean the most to your family? Traditions do not need to be grand to be special, often the smallest things done with great love are the most meaningful. May I suggest watching Die Hard with popcorn and beer. Eliminate or alter any traditions that are more work than joy. This year I’m cutting out Christmas cards and Santa visits, to name a few, because they feel more like obligations than something I gleefully welcome. Nothing terrible will happen if you don’t make 20 dozen Christmas cookies this year. The holiday really will go on.
Figure out what you need to enjoy this season. Do you need more help? Ask for it. Stop thinking you’re the only one who can wrap the presents right or cook the ham. Take a note from successful leaders and business owners who know the value of delegation and collaboration. You’re a powerful CEO of the household, stop doing it all yourself.
Do you need a day off to recharge? Find a damn way woman. I know it’s easy to tell me all the reasons you legitimately can’t, and I believe you, but at the end of the day it is still up to us to find a way to preserve our sanity. Trade with a friend, hire a sitter, beg your parents, or just give your kids all the damn screen time they can stomach and hide. Make time for yourself, even if it’s just a few stolen hours to recharge and remember the point of all this hustle and bustle.
Do you need to remember what matters? If you’re religious, lean into the true meaning of your faith’s Christmas tradition. Try and reconnect with the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth and remember a poor refugee couple, who had a baby in a manager, still managed to make Christmas special for all.of.eternity.
Include some new, simple traditions that help you remember the joy of the season, that take you away from the demands and let you enjoy the simple moments that only come around once every 365 days. Here are a few easy, peasy holiday traditions to consider trying this year.
1. Make a playlist of your favorite Christmas carols and play theme everywhere you go, like your own personal theme music
2. Give your kids $20 to shop for one another at the Dollar Store and see what awesome gifts they can find on a budget
3. Propose a holiday gift exchange with extended family, instead of buying presents for everyone individually
4. Make a Christmas Movie bucket list and vow to get through them all before the big day
5. Make paper snowflakes out of coffee filters
6. Let the kids decorate the tree and don’t fix their “mistakes”
7. Plan a night out with friends or your spouse, forget about all the demands and enjoy seasonal cocktails and tiny appetizers someone else had to cook
8. Buy a deliciously fragrant scented candle and light it whenever you’re home
9. Give your kids the gift of experiences instead of more toys
10. Stay home Christmas Day, in your pajamas, and don’t clean up one scrap of wrapping paper or toy packaging until December 26th
Give a few of these a try and see what sticks. If you enjoy them, repeat annually. If not, forget ’em. The best traditions are simple, repeatable, and something that makes you happy. Find more space for traditions that connect you with your people and the spirit of the season and eliminate those that just stress you out.
Your family wants you present and happy so don’t let traditions get in the way of that. Just because something is “the way you’ve always done it” doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be done moving forward. Traditions typically evolve and change over time, they need to grow to fit and support our lives. Create sustainable, enjoyable traditions that make you as excited as a kid for Christmas to come around each year.