Thanksgiving is just a few days away and have been thinking a lot about family traditions, specifically how to break them. I kind of hoped that when my mom passed away in 2008, that we would be able to do something different for the holidays. My mom ruled the holidays with an iron fist. We did what she liked and there was never room to deviate from the plan.
The fake Christmas tree always went up a week before Thanksgiving and was taken down as soon as the gifts were opened on Christmas Eve. Presents were part of the décor and once they were gone, Christmas was essentially over.
The tree had to be decorated to mom's standard. Only certain ornaments that fit the theme (angels, Santa's from around the world, bears and presents) were allowed on the tree. Decorating the tree was a four-five hour ordeal, as everything had to be department store perfect.
If a non-themed ornament was allowed on the tree, it was hidden in the back and served as a counterweight. This was due to the great Christmas The Disaster of 87', when the front heavy tree toppled over the week before Christmas.
Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner were the same meal, eaten at 3pm. The meal was as follows- a Butterball Turkey, stuffing (grandma's recipe), gravy, corn, mashed potatoes, rolls and fruit salad with marshmallows. Pumpkin pie for dessert. Sometime in the early 90's my aunt decided to start bringing candied yams and my mom wouldn't eat them. Don't mess with tradition.
After the holiday meal, an old, battered Trivial Pursuit game circa early 80's, is brought out and we play in teams. The correct answer is always the one on the card. It doesn't matter if the geography is out of date, that just presents an extra challenge, brush up on Eastern Europe.
All Christmas present are to be purchased and wrapped no later than the second week in November. Christmas cards are mailed the day before Thanksgiving. This gives mom bragging rights as the first of her friends to have it all done. The holiday is ruined if someone beats her to the punch.
No homemade gifts. Being a kindergartener is no excuse!
Since 1984, there is only one album good enough to be played during both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner = Mannheim Steamroller Christmas.
My mom was a great parent and I don't mean to pick on her, especially when she is no longer around to defend herself. She didn't ask for much, she just asked it all during the holidays and drove us nuts. It's turned me into a Grinch.
We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas pretty much exactly the same until I was thirty-one. When I married in my mid-twenties, my husband was absorbed into our family traditions. His family lived across the country and we never once celebrated with them. We just called and sent off a box of presents. We never added in any of his traditions or even really asked what he wanted. It would have been a prime time to stand up to my mom and make some changes, but we didn't and more years passed. I got divorced the year after my mom died.
I had hope those first holidays back in 2009. We went out to dinner for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful. We didn't decorate a Christmas tree or have to listen to Mannheim Steamroller ( I gave that album away). We ate prime rib for Christmas. We all missed mom, but didn't miss the old way of doing things.
It lasted for a few years, but slowly the traditions have been creeping back in. We had Thanksgiving at home last year ( an utter and complete disaster and story for another time) and the Christmas tree came back, although all of the decoration mandates were gone. I'm starting to see my family push to getting back to our long-held traditions.
I don't want to give in.
Here is my problem. I already made a holiday stand this year, when I refused to attend my aunt's annual fourth of July party. I wouldn't go and she was very hurt. I felt terrible, although I had the best July 4th ever and don't regret my decision, I just wish that she had not been such a point of contention.
I find myself feeling the same about Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's not that I want to skip them. I want to see my family. I just wish that there was some wiggle room for new ideas. I really want to create new traditions with Dan and redefine how I feel about the holidays. I don't have a concrete idea of what I want, but I want something different. I also want to feel like I am able to make my own plans without feeling guilty or feeling like I might hurt someone.
I don't know how to make this work.