Traditions, new and old

In the last few days, Dave and I have been discussing our plans for the week of Christmas. We’ve had a wonderful December, with a few family activities and a few adult activities every week. Sharing carols and decorating and cookie baking with our kids for the first time has been a blast. Some of these activities we know are keepers; some of them may crop up from year to year and add a special something. All we know is how much fun we’re having and how Christmasy the last few weeks have been.

As we decide which of these to embrace, a few stand out. Today’s visit to the Christmas market in Chicago definitely counts. Tess wore her German coat and got tons of compliments. I got my goulash soup fix and shared potato latkes with my kids. Tess love them with applesauce. It must be in the genes! Remy rode on David’s shoulders and looked absolutely stunned at the crowds around him and the shops full of twisting, glittering decorations. Joy lent a helping hand and some laughter, and we all had a wonderful time. A short half day can have such an impact.

One of our traditions was given to us by Tess’s birth family. I write about this often, but the advent gifts have been a wonderful surprise for all of us – not just Tess. Their presence inspires us to take a moment every evening and sit down in the light of the Christmas tree with our kids. We set the Christmas pyramid spinning, and talk about the holy family. (The kids don’t quite get that story yet, but Tess has figured out there’s a baby involved and Mary the mom has a problem.) I suppose it’s a start. We’re not very religious, so this gives us an opportunity to share the story even though the kids aren’t in church every week.

More importantly, it gives us time as a family. Life gets so busy, especially in December, that those moments together are in themselves a wonderful tradition. We get so many questions about open adoption – is it hard? Don’t you worry? What does that even mean? To us, it means so much more than letters and pictures and a single meeting. It means gifts that are so much bigger than the perfect cars and girly items in the tiny packages. It means an opportunity to discuss adoption, to discuss family, to discuss religion. Nothing about it is overwhelming – it’s a small moment of joy. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? So thank you Micky and Kat, for making Christmas happen in our house every year since we brought Tess home. We love, love your idea! You bring Christmas home to us every day all month the way, Tess and Remy now think all presents are called

Cadeaux Micky et Kat!

We’re trying out new traditions this year. I’ve always loved the music at the 10 o’clock Christmas service. I love the idea of the kids staying up late as a special occasion and getting to do something magical, like holding a candle in a dark church while singing Christmas music. I’m already looking forward to seeing Tess’ eyes light up by candlelight on Wednesday night. (Remy will, of course, be trying to eat it while saying, “Très très chaud!”)

For so many years, I was a visitor wherever I was for Christmas. Now that we are family, we’re making decisions about what we want Christmas to look like in our children’s memories as they grow up. Dave and I want the focus to be on family, reflection, fun, magic, and on what religion means to them. As people who struggle with religion, we look forward to hearing what our kids think. Will they be really religious? Will they be really curious? We are not sure yet. We are very comfortable with our lives today, and feel like we found a balance. Hopefully our children will appreciate our candor and openness when they’re older.

And next year? Who knows which traditions will carryover and which intentions we’ll be able to act on. It’s fun for us to think about how our children will look back upon these memories. Here’s hoping they make the grown-up kids as happy as they’re making us today.

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