Friday, December 19, 2014

Celebrating The Holidays When Your Family Is TINY

My family is TINY, as in just the four of us plus my mother and my mother-in-law. I usually don't think about it, but around the Holidays, when society's emphasis is on ALL THINGS FAMILY, I feel bad. We don't have large family gatherings with tons of people running around, my kids don't get loads of presents from relatives, and on special occasions, most of our friends want to be with their own relations, not us. Still, the reality is that until my kids get married and have children of their own, the family is not going to grow; in fact, since the two mothers are older, the clan is actually going to get smaller before it get bigger. 

Having a small family is a challenge around the makes me sad.

Coping with all of this pressure to have FAMILY has been a real challenge for me. Even though it's silly, I feel guilty that I can't give the kids more relatives. So my husband and I have come up with our own holiday traditions, fit for the interfaith family we are.


Since my husband is Jewish, he's in charge of Hanukkah. We light the menorah and say the prayers every night. We've turned Hanukkah into The Literary Holiday by giving the kids books the first night only. Hubby hides the books, turning the gift-giving into a pseudo Scavenger Hunt by giving the kids hints as to where the books are. We have a special meal and continue to light the menorah whether my husband makes it home on time or not; it's important for the kids to know that I (the non-Jewish parent) respect Dad's tradition enough to carry through whether he's home or not. 

Pre-Christmas (Okay, so it's not a holiday, but it has become it's own materialistic season.)

Seymour (as in he "sees more")

Since I am a former Catholic and we're raising the children Unitarian Universalist (which embraces all religious traditions), we have a Christmas tree and TONS of decorations. Elf-On-A-Shelf came after Thanksgiving and he delights my daughter every day as he moves from place to place. My kids get stockings which Santa fills with little things like socks, which seem to consistently disappear, and sugar-free candy. Now for the two biggies:

Christmas Eve

First, we have a special Christmas Eve dinner, usually lasagna (my son's favorite), and the kids drink special sparkling apple cider out of plastic champagne glasses.

Later, we attend our church's Christmas Eve service for children. I fell in love with this years ago when my son was a baby. Our minister starts off by pointing out that God loves the sound of children, so we shouldn't worry about keeping the little ones quiet. He also tells the Nativity with the wee folk ages 6 and under coming up to the Sanctuary and acting the story out. When my kids were younger, they were angels and shepherds; I'm sad that they're too old to participate now, but it's still fun to watch.

Depending on how we're feeling, we may go to our town hall's free Christmas Light Show. Sometimes we drive around looking for extra-special house displays as well.

My daughter (who is 9) prepares the snacks for Santa and spends quite a bit of Christmas Eve making gifts for Santa and Mrs. Claus. She also says goodbye to her Elf who will be picked up by Santa when he comes later that night. 

Christmas Day

Yep, that's a bit smaller than our family - just a bit.

The first rule is that no one can go downstairs to look at the tree until EVERYONE is out of bed. We then go downstairs where Santa has given the kids three presents (the Wise Men gave Jesus three, so that's how many the kids get as well) and we have given them one. They also see what's in their stockings.

Everyone opens one present one at a time while we all watch. Then, while the kids enjoy their presents, either hubby or I make a special breakfast (he makes THE BEST OMELETS!).  Then my daughter and I start cooking for the grandmas while my husband goes to pick them up and Junior amuses himself.  Since the Nanas LOVE to eat, and must eat early, dinner is usually over long before 5PM, so we all sit down to watch a holiday movie (often, "It's A Wonderful Life"). 

Chris Moose

Okay so it isn't a lavish celebration, but from what I hear from other people, it's also not filled with the bickering and pettiness that families with larger families experience. Our Holidays are simple and they're ours. I'm savoring this time with the children, knowing that they won't be home with us forever. 

I guess cherishing time with the family you have and not bemoaning what you don't have, is really what the Holidays are all about.


I found two fantastic articles on celebrating holidays when you don't have a large family. Since they resonated with me, let me share them with you:

Tara-Michelle Ziniuk wrote this lovely article in which she tells about celebrating Hanukkah with her family of two.

Dresden Shumaker explains how she envies those with big families in this wonderful piece.


Thank you for reading! Please come back again, won't you?

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