In a similar way every family does their holidays in their own way. That is part of what makes this time of year so special. It becomes part of our family identity, our traditions, our way. We grow up with certain family traditions. When we start our own family we blend two family traditions and create our own tradition. And our children will do the same.
Many give gifts to loved ones, friends, neighbors and sometimes to strangers. Some are homemade, some purchased. Some gifts are funny, some are serious. Some are needed, some are wanted.
Choosing the right gift for each person on my list is stressful for me. Is it the right gift? To quote Marie Kondo, will it spark joy? I never know for sure. Is it the right color, size, style, age appropriate, etc. There are so many options. And I get overwhelmed.
To ease the stress and financial burden for everyone, our immediate family came up with a solution that has worked for us for years. We pool our resources and purchase one gift for each adult (there are seven of us). This moderately priced gift is discussed among the other six adults through WhatsApp threads. I know when I open my gift from the family, it has been discussed for the last month or more. Everyone has weighed in on the options, a corporate decision has been made and the gift purchased with the confidence that comes from thorough research and knowledgeable input.
You know what I like the best about the way we do gifts in our family? The discussions. I was an hour into my workday in early December and noticed on my phone that there were 43 WhatsApp notifications. The family was starting their day chatting back and forth about gifts. What color? Everything she has is black, should we break out and get gray? What fabric would be best? Would she need a fire extinguisher along with this electric appliance?? Another comment read like this,” I’m not sure the flip four and five work with Google assistant? This link 300 would work with your other google speaker thingy dingies.” Suffice it to say, I have only a vague idea of what they were talking about and did not respond to that particular conversation. I know when to let the content experts take over the decisions.
Special foods seem to be a common element in our family traditions. My husband has a Swedish background. Pepparkakor are paper thin spicy cookies. I was introduced to them my first Christmas with Dave’s family. His mother, of course, made them the right way. I was given the recipe. And I made them our first Christmas. Well, actually, I didn’t make what any self-respecting Swedish descendant would recognize as Pepparkakor. They were more like gingerbread men. I didn’t realize when you describe them as paper thin you were seriously talking about rolling the dough out until it was almost translucent. This blending of family traditions can be challenging sometimes.
So, whether your tradition involves making Rice Krispie squares with sprinkles, your grandmother’s latkes, or your mother-in-law’s Pepparkakor, you are creating a family tradition that helps to knit together your family. The shared tradition builds family identity. It creates a sense of belonging, a fun and positive story to share with each generation. These are good things.
I am not sure I have it in me to make the Peppakakor this year, but Emily seems to have taken over that tradition. The Pepparkakor is somewhat laborious to make. I did make the peppermint meringues, which I love to do and learned from my mother. We don’t have to do it all. I am going to follow the traditions that spark joy.
Best wishes to you and yours for a happy, joy-filled holiday season.
Margaret Nelson, Executive Director
The River Center Family and Community Resource Center
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