book-christmas-treeHoliday traditions are wonderful things. They connect us to our family and culture. They allow us a kind of time warp where we are connecting the previous generations with ourselves and those to come. Traditions help us weave ourselves into a bigger tapestry, help bring memories to life, and reaffirm our role in our community. They are life affirming, bringing warmth and light as the days draw closer to the darkest night.

Holiday traditions can be terrible. They can be twisted reminders of events that should never have happened, tragedies that leave us feeling empty, or abuse which masquerades as love and concern. It can make us feel trapped, unheard, and unseen. It can feel as if we’re required to take on a role that hides us completely, like wearing a mascot costume. We’re expected to perform, conform, and never ever question.  The term “of course” gets used as a means of over-riding any concern or need or change that might be suggested. It’s preëmptive and silences conversation before it begins.  Of course you’re coming, of course you love it, of course you will, of course…

The best thing about holiday traditions is that they aren’t either/or. We have the ability to hold close those that work for us, that support us and bring us joy while at the same time we challenge those that cause us harm. We can make a list of the “We always….” things and start challenging every single one. Like opening a present on Christmas Eve? Keep it. Don’t like salad at Christmas dinner? Let it go. Like going to see the Christmas light display? Keep it. Don’t like doing it Christmas Eve? Time to negotiate a new tradition where you do it earlier or later that week. Some traditions are harder to challenge like where to celebrate Christmas. It can be hard to say this year we want to spend it at home or we want to go away and spend it somewhere warm.  It can be very hard to challenge traditions where you’re expected to perform. If people haven’t validated you before and don’t expect to do so now, it can be revolutionary to demand it now. But revolutions are transformative and sometimes the hardest conversations bring the biggest healing.

If the holidays are supposed to be about love and joy, yet the traditions you are subjected to are causing you everything but, it might be time to challenge them.  You can’t give love and joy to others if you are denying it to yourself. Challenge your own traditions or make a new one, a new tradition of bringing love and joy into the world one person at a time starting with you.