Growing up, we had very set family traditions on my mothers side of the family. My family, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins would gather every February to celebrate all the winter birthdays together (I believe there are 13 of them between us), every Easter would be at my Aunt C’s house, Thanksgiving would be at my Aunt M’s house and Christmas would be at my Grandmothers house. We all lived within 40 minutes of each other, so it was never any crazy traveling. My dad’s family, however, lives all over the country, so we’ve never gotten together for a Holiday.
When I met my Husband, every single Holiday celebration was at his Grandmother’s house.
My grandmother passed away 6 years ago. Since then, our family has only gotten together on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
My husbands Grandmother passed away 4 years ago. Since then, his family has not gotten together one single time for a Holiday.
This year, though? My Aunt M had Thanksgiving at her house and that was it. No Christmas. No Easter. No winter Birthdays. We got together as a whole extended family 1 time.
Honestly, it makes me sad. I loved Holidays as a kid. I loved going to everyone’s house for a different reason. When I was really young, my grandparents lived on a farm. My cousins and I used to spend hours in playing in field and barns. One barn was set up almost like a giant flea market, every year her gal pals would have a massive rummage sale; they would gather things throughout the year, and no doubt every year at Christmas, we would go in and mess with everything, we loved digging through their treasures and seeing what she would let us bring home (she wasn’t a fan, but always let us do it anyways). The other was the cow barn. We would climb our way upstairs and spend way too long jumping in and sliding down the huge haystacks. Our moms always hated it, because we would always be wearing our Christmas dresses and we would ruin our brightly colored, festive tights (year after year, not once did anyone suggest we change before hand). My grandpa would get so frustrated at us for messing up his hay pile, he always made us help with chores before we had to go home. We loved every minute of it. We got to help milk the cows and play “don’t fall into the cow manure” (its way more fun then it sounds).
When I was about 11, they sold the farm and moved to the same small town my aunts lived in, it was only about 20 minutes away. Though we didn’t have the barns to play in, my cousins and I started spending time playing dress up and discovered our grandmothers bright red lipstick (it was her signature look). We were also old enough, and finally invited to “help” with the cooking. My grandmother bought a set of silverware that was coated gold. We felt “oh so fancy” using “real gold”, we used to fight over who would get it one day (and just to be clear, my mom got the goldware after she passed away, so in the long run, I’m the real winner)
I don’t remember much about my Aunt M’s first house, I remember a pool table in the basement (that I was too little to touch), but they did live across the street from a park that had a GIANT slide (I would say at least 50 ft long, it went down the side of the hill) I do remember that we (the little cousins) would beg and plead with the big cousins to take us across the street to play, they never wanted to but we eventually would get our way (who doesn’t love listening to whiny little kids at Thanksgiving). Then they moved into a beautiful, huge, old Victorian house (ironic huh?). We would pretend it was a castle. My cousins and I could play for hours together. They have slowly remodeled it over the years and it just beautiful.
Easters at my Aunt C’s house are some of my fondest memories. She and my mom are twins, we saw them the most of all the family, and I was closest with my cousins who lived there. My oldest cousin was 10 years older than us all so we didn’t really talk much, but my other cousin is 3 years older than me, and the other was a boy (so he doesn’t really count when you are a kid, right?) But the middle cousin, she had the most amazing barbies you could dream of and she even let me play with them. We got along so well. We could play for hours together. I would bring my barbies and we would sit in her room and lose track of the rest of the world. We were 2 peas in a pod.
Now we are all grown up. My god, everything really does change as you get older. I don’t like it. I feel like my kids are missing out. They only have 1 cousin their age. He lives just a few blocks away from us, yet we only see him maybe once a year (I’ve asked multiple times for a play date and I’m pretty sure the mom doesn’t like me). All the other cousins are older and live in different towns.
We do live in the same town as my parents and the kids see them at least once a week, my husband’s mom lives about 4 hours away and we go there once a year, (funny enough, that is usually the one time a year we see the cousin that lives 4 blocks away). That is the extended family time they get to experience.
As I said, We only did Thanksgiving with my Aunt M this year. Since my Grandmother died, she has been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe it is too much for her? We always do a potluck style, so she’s never had to cook everything herself. But it’s still a decent amount of pressure on one person.
I feel like no one cares anymore. No one has offered to take on hosting the Holidays. Most my cousins live in smaller apartments so I guess they don’t have space, some have moved a few hours away.
How are family traditions a dying breed?
I feel like it is up to me to save the holidays. I want my kids to be able to experience the family dysfunction that I got to grow up with (and it was plentiful). To get to know everyone and realize we are all a bit quirky, it’s better to just embrace it then to fight who we really are. I need to work on my anxiety and get over the fact that my house isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t need to stop me from offering my home as a new place to create family memories. I want my kids to love the Holidays, but more so I want them to love their entire family and know who they all are by name.
I’ve already talked to my Husband and asked (told, I told him) that I am going to offer to host Christmas Eve this coming year for my mothers side of the family (did you know Christmas Eve is on a Saturday this year?!?) I then told him to offer for us to host Christmas (maybe the day after Christmas) for his side of the family. They haven’t all been together in the same place since his Grandmothers funeral. I must really be crazy, setting us up to host not only our first Holiday at our home but 2 within the same week. I even think I would love to do more. If my Husbands summer work schedule wasn’t so crazy, I think I would actually want to throw in a 4th of July celebration. We have never done a summer gathering. (maybe I’ll save that for when I really do go over the deep end)
I think its time we get back to where we came from. I want to spend time together as a family, and I’ll be darned if I don’t do everything I can to make it happen. Maybe no one will even show up, but at least I know I tried. No more excuses.
On a side note, if you have any hosting suggestions, I would love to hear them. Just thinking about hosting a full blown holiday is making my anxiety crazy!