Are traditions running and ruining your holidays? It can happen. When certain time-consuming activities or labor intensive food items are demanded by family members (or your own excessive expectations) to the point of stress for the one providing them, I say stop! Take a look at what you’re doing and consider the benefit/cost ratio. Is the benefit of that tradition worth the cost to your stress level – honestly? Is it worth what it costs you in term of focusing on the celebration of Christ’s nativity?
Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial or constructive and I will not be mastered by anything, or become a slave to it, (1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). I have certainly found myself enslaved to certain family traditions in the past and it wasn’t pretty when measured against the stress within me and the resulting behaviors. Dinner with too many food items on the table… too many material items purchased for too many people… too many events… too many expectations… not enough focus, not enough peace.
Of course there are times we make legitimate sacrifice of ourselves for the good of our family, times when the labor and expertise we invest in a tradition result in something so valued and appreciated, providing treasured memories and genuine pleasure we consider the benefit well worth the cost. But do pause for a moment to consider. Is it possible the sacrifice of yourself is promoting a sense of entitlement within your family rather than appropriate enjoyment of a tradition?
We have an old family recipe from my grandmother for wonderful, sweet holiday bread rolls which dominate one entire day of life. They require the cooking of a potato for the dough in the morning and the preparation of dough all throughout that day, punching it down, separating it and letting it rise several times to get it very, very light. In the evening the rolls are formed individually by turning them in the hand with much finger work and placing them on the baking tins. The buns are covered and allowed to rise all night, thus the title “Overnight Sweet Buns.” First thing in the morning of the next day they are baked, filling the house with wonderful fragrance. They can be done ahead of the holiday and frozen, but then you miss that fragrance and the fun of having them fresh-from-the-oven for breakfast on the holiday morning.
A few years ago I gave up the honor of making these rolls because of the intricate finger work involved. If I can’t play guitar anymore, it’s obvious my fingers aren’t up to bun-making, either. Family members picked up the trust and continued to make the rolls because they are delicious and a holiday tradition, after all!
This year the family discussed the benefit/cost ratio and came to a profound conclusion: the cost was higher than anyone was willing to pay! No one volunteered to make the buns, so there were no Overnight Sweet Buns on our Thanksgiving table this year. Did I miss them? Yes. Do I wish my family had added stress to their lives in order to provide them for my dining pleasure at that meal? I do not!
I give you as much permission as I am able to impart – reconsider your traditions. If they are fun and fit well into the holiday schedule and are appropriately appreciated, that’s great. If there are some that cause undue stress, see if family members are sufficiently vested to take up the obligation, allowing you to turn your attention elsewhere for more peaceful holidays.