Blending the cultures of two families with children, can be challenging and worth it! Joe and I married 25 years ago, putting together his daughter, 11, and my daughters 7 and 8. Of course, when you marry, you are also gaining expectations for holidays, including what traditions everyone gets to celebrate. It seemed like there were some things causing conflict between all the families involved. Instead, I decided to create win win win situations, which is less stress and more fun for the kids!
It was important to me to build our small family community as a place of safety, comfort and joy and that starts by creating traditions that belong to just us. Enter, the 12 Days of Christmas. Beginning on December 12th, I would give each member of our family a small little gift each day, ending on OUR Christmas day, which was December 24th. In this way, if our childrens’ other parents had specific traditions they wanted to hold, like Christmas eve dinner or Christmas day breakfast, we wouldn’t get in the way; and our daughters would have a PLETHORA of Joy to enjoy!
At first when I designed this special holiday tradition, there was much resistance, even from Joe. No one saw the value in what I was doing. I was really surprised they weren’t interested in this. I was determined though, and Joe was supportive. By about the third year, the kids were asking when the first day of Christmas was because they were actually looking forward to it. Maybe they needed some more paper?
What is important to hold on to is any kind of change, even one that is fun, will be a little challenging. They don’t know how it will land, or understand what’s being created will later bring them comfort and fun.
Many of the days consisted of things the girls used often like pens, paper, and batteries. Sometimes we included fun new art things they could try. Other times there would be their favorite snacks or a new book. One of the items we personalized was getting them an ornament of their favorite movie or cartoon character or something that reminded us of them. They each had their own collection when it came time to move out and they had a tree of their own items!
To incorporate something to build awareness outside of themselves, we would donate to a charity of their choice and sometimes we’d volunteer for a charity of their choice. We would have conversations about what things mattered to them so we could find a cause that truly mattered to them. Of course, they didn’t have a lot of their own money, but they could donate their time and energy. One year, one day of Christmas we bought roses and handed them out at a local nursing home.
However, our most favorite day of all was their Christmas day, we would write each child a letter, remembering all the greatness they did in that year and telling them what gifts we saw in them.
This year, we will all be in different places for Christmas. It seems weird that I won’t get to do days of christmas.