When is it important to keep family traditions, and when do you need to let them go? 23



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Christmas Day has always been a day that I treasured, and it will always be so special to me. Our Christmas Day routine is a tradition that I hold dear to my heart, but this year I am faced with the possibility that this beautiful tradition is about to change and it saddens me incredibly. But I can’t help but wonder, do I simply need to let go?

Our family is a large bunch so it can be difficult to get us all together, but luckily we go all out at Christmas time and it is the one time every year we know we’ll all be together. Our family does the same thing every single year – everyone comes to our house mid-morning, we put on a big Christmas Day lunch that puts everyone into a food (and alcohol) coma. We sit on the deck and enjoy each other’s company before our annual game of street cricket with the neighbours and then a late afternoon swim in the pool. We drink, eat, talk and laugh far too much but it is always wonderful.

I grew up doing the same thing at my grandparents house so the family Christmas Day has been a tradition that I’ve lived with my whole life. But, recently discussion in the family makes me think that things have to change – even though I don’t want them to.

I have three children: two daughters and one son. They are all married now, my son being the youngest and they all have children. My daughter-in-law has been around the family for close to a decade, firstly as a friend and then as a partner. She has known about our family traditions the whole time, but now she feels they need to change. While celebrating a Father’s Day picnic with some of the family last month, she announced that she thinks we should go to the beach and spend a “real” Aussie Christmas with a barbecue, some sand and some surf. She told me that she thinks the way we do it now is too much effort and it would be more pleasant for everyone if we were at the beach.

I was a little taken back by her feelings. While I am completely open to suggestions about how we can integrate family traditions with others traditions, I feel a little put down that she wants to disrupt something we’ve done for so many years. I ask each of the kids to bring one dish. John (my husband) and I do the rest of the work. We set up the house and decorate it, we prepare the rest of our three-course lunch and we happily supply all of the grog, although the kids always bring extra in fear of running out! But the thing I don’t understand is that I love doing all of this. I love the privilege of being able to provide for the family and bring everyone together and being quite frank, I don’t want this to be something that changes until I am too debilitated to keep doing it.

But am I being unfair in not wanting my daughter-in-law to shake everything up? I understand that sometimes something new and exciting needs to happen, but is this one of those scenarios?

My daughter who was at the Fathers Day picnic told my other daughter and they both came to me privately and said they don’t feel like anything needs to change. But I also don’t want my daughter-in-law to feel like she doesn’t have a say in what we do as a family. So where do I go?

When is it important to keep family traditions, and when do you need to let them go?

Tell us in the comments below, have you had to make a decision like this? Would you give up your longstanding family traditions because one person has requested it?

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The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. I understand what you are saying; I was brought up on traditional Xmas Day at Mum’s place and adored cooking traditional fare at my place but alas it was bought to an end for me too I remember how devastated I was ! I agree family traditions should be kept!x

  2. Your daughter-in-law is out of place to suggest the entire family change a tradition that they all appear to enjoy. Has your son said anything? If daughter-in-law wants to have a beach party with the entire family in attendance she can pick another time of the year. This has put your son in a difficult position, and his wife needs to consider his feelings as well. It is not the daughter-in-law’s place to rearrange your family’s traditions — she can start a new one — maybe on Boxing Day!
    Just my opinion.
    My Mom loved having us all show up at ‘home’ on Christmas day – until she became to frail to host us — then, and only with her blessing, did we start to rotate the location for our get together to our various houses. There were so many of us that when it was my turn I used the community room at my condo complex. We had loads of room as well as use of the pool and two extra ovens – there were 35 of us.

  3. We did break our traditional Christmas which is very similar to yours, going for a picnic and having a swim, but apart from it being too hot, it just didn’t seem like Christmas to me, so went back to having the family get together at our home and wouldn’t have it any other way now. I get plenty of help and they often stay Christmas eve also so we all wake up together…..

  4. 21 years ago I changed my tradition of Xmas. We as a family extended by friends and their families gather on the last sunday of June for all the traditional food, tree, decorations and prezzies. Just like December. That way as I live by myself the kids, grandkids and their families get the best of both. Do what they like for summer xmas and I get to relax and enjoy a wonderful peaceful December. Saves the worry and hurt feelings.

  5. What about if your children’s partners had the same tradition with their own families and wanted their children to spend Christmas with the other grandparents? Or what if you both were shift workers or your family were shift workers. This is much the case in our family and even though we love the traditional Christmas with families, it doesn’t suit everyone’s needs or work situations. I cannot remember the last time all my family were together for Christmas day, but we’ve had some great times around the season without any family bickering. I like to think life is about experience, not tradition.

  6. Majority vote should settle it.

  7. This is the very thing I based my first published children’s story on. If you want a great Christmas present, written as a school reader for 7-10 yr olds, but suitable for all ages, try ‘A Surfing Christmas’, published and available as a print book from the Blake Education website. Maybe get your grandchildren to check if it’s in their school library 🙂

  8. When family scatters overseas and interstate it is not always,if ever,possible to all be together at Christmas . I miss it,and I miss my husband, but times change and we have to move on.What I do hate to see is shops putting things out too early, the expensive commercialism and the “politically correct” people telling us we should stop our traditions, because they offend people who have only been here 5 minutes and supposedly swore allegiance to our country and all it stands for.

    1 REPLY
    • I feel all family traditions the way I was brought up has gone out of the window none of my children visit parents like I did during the year we had many family gatherings on Sundays for Sunday roast or some one pop in for a meal or coffee now days you have to be invited to visit your children

  9. We too, have a large family. Our family day is Boxing Day, so that it doesn’t interfere with our children’s in-laws Christmas traditions. All ‘new’ family members respect this.
    I think it is important to keep your traditional festivities going. Perhaps suggest an alternative e.g Australia Day at the beach and start a new (additional) tradition. Just tell you daughter in law that you appreciate her input but prefer to keep your own family tradition going as long as you are able and after that it will be up to her and your son to start their own.

  10. We celebrate our traditions every second year at our place. On the ” off” year someone else organizes it. It works for us maybe it can work for you too.

  11. Our family had a similar tradition till I changed it.My

    father had passed away and my mother was not in good
    health.So I suggested we all go to a good restaurant for Christmas dinner.
    I saved Mum from having to cook.There was no washing up afterwards, and when we worked out what it cost To buy and prepare the meal it was a cheaper option.

  12. Whatever happened to the spirit of Christmas? Nowadays, it seems to have turned into a multitude of expectations. Whatever happened to the birth of Christ and the blessings of Christmas – Peace, Love and Joy. It seems to me that for many families the spirit of Christmas has been replaced with expectations and much bickering when those expectations are not met.

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