Christmas was a great time here in the Lucas household. I always enjoy the season, but the tricky thing about Christmas is it often comes with stress and expectations. Even as a kid, you anticipate it for so long and build it up so big in your mind that the actual event always feels a little bit disappointing once the initial frenzy is over. (That was sometimes my experience, anyway.)
I come from a large extended family, and Christmas was usually the one time of year we all got together. My father has eight siblings, so I have dozens of cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins, and on and on. Our family name is Lucas and my father grew up in Lucasville, so that gives you some idea of how many relatives I have. On Christmas we’d drop in on a few of my aunts and uncles, see cousins on my mother’s side, and go visit both sets of grandparents. Boxing Day was more family visits, culminating with the traditional feast of my Aunt Sandy’s fiery-hot, amazingly delicious chicken wings.
It was always a whirlwind but lots of fun, and when Shawna and I were first married I wanted to keep all the same traditions. Of course, when you merge two families and two sets of holiday expectations, some things have to change. Shawna’s parents and brothers both live in different provinces than us, so now either we or they have to travel if we want to see each other over the holidays. Even that has become more complicated as our family has grown.
When we just had one child I still wanted to see everyone and do everything, but gradually I’ve had to let go of my “Christmas expectations.” Over the past year we’ve become accustomed to what we can and cannot accomplish with four kids—three of whom still have naps—so I went into the holiday season quite happy to let things just unfold and not try to do too much. I didn’t feel guilty about not visiting everyone. I wasn’t even all that broken up that I missed the Boxing Day wings. (Though, now that I’m thinking about them, my stomach is growling a little bit…)
The result was wonderful. We didn’t leave the house at all on Christmas Day; the boys never even changed out of their new Mario Kart pajamas. Shawna’s parents are in town and they came over early in the morning, while my parents stopped by in the afternoon. We went to my parents’ place on Boxing Day and saw my brother, my grandparents and some of my closest cousins, but it was all very relaxing. The kids had a great time and no one got unbearably exhausted or cranky. (Them or me!)
The best part for me was I just got to play. Honestly, I can’t remember the last Christmas I’ve had so much fun. The boys got a ton of Star Wars Lego, so we spent half of Christmas Day building the Millenium Falcon, Luke’s Landspeeder from Episode IV and the Wampa Cave where Luke gets trapped at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back.
We played Battleship and Monopoly, and my parents bought a Nintendo Wii (yes, my parents bought a Wii… ), so on Boxing Day Xander and I spent half the afternoon playing Donkey Kong Country Returns. It was almost exactly like Christmas when I was 12, only I could drink the wine.
Holiday traditions can be wonderful things, and we’re gradually establishing some of our own. But I’m learning more and more in all areas of life not to hold onto anything just because it’s the way it’s always been done.
Family is what matters—not just being together, but actually enjoying each other, without the stress and unrealistic expectations we often pile on for reasons we don’t even fully realize or understand. Sometimes that means putting old traditions to rest and setting out on new adventures. Or eating chocolate for breakfast and playing Lego all day. Whatever works for you and your family.