By Tina Whobrey
When my husband and I first started dating, we spent holidays with our respective families, as most new couples do. His family was in Central Illinois and mine was near Chicago, so even after dating for a year or more, we weren’t doing both in one day. As a chef, Adam had to work throughout the holiday season – including weekends, holiday-eves, and even many holidays. For some reason, however, New Years’ Day was a day off for him. And so began our very special winter holiday tradition.
New Year’s Day was our personal celebration day…just us and a whole lot of celebrating. Adam and I started this out as “our Christmas”; where we would eat all day, play games, watch movies, and exchange our gifts with each other. (This also proved to be wonderful in the gift-buying part of the season…procrastination AND sales all in one shot!) But, it truly lifted much of the pressure people tend to feel about how to balance all the family gatherings during the holidays. There often seems to be either too much traveling or too much sacrifice. In a time when there is too much focus on how much we do, I feel it is necessary to be reminded that instead of asking too much of ourselves, we step back and remain focused,too…on what really matters.
So, after adding a little one to our love, we have extended our mini-dating-tradition into our family winter holiday tradition. New Year’s Day is our big day. The Winter Solstice and Yule often fall on work days. Christmas is chalk full of already-assumed commitments. New Year’s Eve is…well, I don’t even know what New Year’s Eve is anymore. (It is a time that reminds me I am still a “new mom” even though my son is 2.) New Year’s day is ours. We reserve a special gift for everyone to open and stay in our jammies all day. There are movies and games ready to go any time we wish, and there is food available even if we don’t wish. I am not allowed to do any sort of house organizing, which is something I love to do on days off, and my husband can only use the technology that is included in our family activities. We eat on the couch or living room floor, and chocolate covered peanuts are a side dish for every meal – breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, dessert, and snack! Coffee, hot chocolate, or champagne is poured throughout the day, and the little guy gets special juice and fancy cups. We are together without reservation or distraction. We commit to our family – to us as we are.
If you’ve read other articles I’ve written, you probably already know that cheese, meats, breads, and spreads are on our celebration menu. New Year’s Day calls for some additions such as cocktail weenies, spray cheese and chicken-in-a-biskit crackers, and cookies (I never said this was a healthy tradition). That is balanced out, however, with some fancy-type foods. We start our day with Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Crepes, which are rolled like sushi and plated just right. Lunch is usually skipped or rolled into the snacking; but dinner tends to be holiday-ish with a spiral ham, sauteed kale, and garlic-mashed potatoes. We blend the fancy holiday celebrating with the comfy family coziness.
Everybody wins. We get to see most of our family at some point throughout the season. Traditions that have been around since my husband and I were little remain intact. We aren’t rushing around to make it everywhere all in one day; and at the same time, we are able to protect our biggest priority…each other.
We hear of so many different family holiday traditions and each remind us of keeping our family and loved ones close and sacred. Regardless what is on the agenda, I feel it is crucial not to allow ourselves to get wrapped up in what we are taught is important to ‘do’. So, un-wrap your holiday season to discover the greatest gift of all.
What are your special family holiday traditions?
Tina Whobrey moved to Chambana with a friend in 2000. Since then she has attended Parkland, ISU, and finally the U of I, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Education. She taught middle school Social Studies for five years, married her favorite person in the world and moved to NY state. They decided C-U was “home” and moved back to have their son, who is now two.