Lights sparkle and twinkle amid the ornaments. Presents cover the ground around the tree. It’s a typical Christmas morning. Except, this Christmas there are three families gathered together. Three families, three sets of traditions. Usually each family celebrates individually at their own houses and then join later for dinner. This year, the August flood has changed those traditions. It’s been four months, and these families are still making the best of the worst natural disaster that has ever affected them. How do they find time for their own little family? How can they maintain their own family Christmas rituals?
This Christmas will be like none other for so many families in our Baton Rouge region. Many are still rebuilding and recovering this holiday season. For those in this situation, preserving some family traditions is vital in a time of change. How do the families that are sharing space do exactly that? Clear communication, creative planning, and understanding will help ease the stress of how to make this shared Christmas still your family’s special Christmas.
Communication is key.
We hear that all the time. In this situation, clear and honest communication will go a long way. Sit down with your relatives or friends that you’re living with before Christmas Eve night and explain your Christmas wish for your family. Family therapist Roger Butner agrees, “The most significant way families can make space for their own family time during this Christmas season is to address the issue directly with those who are sharing space with them.”
These are strange times for everyone still in flood recovery, and hopefully they will understand. Roger elaborates, “Perhaps the most tactful way to approach this is to express the importance of having immediate family time during the holidays, and to ask the guest or host family if they have begun thinking of ways to have some time for themselves. In other words, bring up the issue of how both families can have some private Christmas time, so that the host family is not only planning time for themselves, but also helping the guest family to create their own family time.”
When you discuss your family wishes with your relatives or friends, put your heads together to create the best situations for everyone involved. Maybe you can celebrate Christmas morning in different rooms and then join together later. Maybe you can devise a schedule for time around the tree, so each family can have their own little Christmas. Maybe you still will decide to join all together and open each separate family’s gifts. Plan a creative solution together. Roger suggests, “Another thing to include in this type of planning is to discuss how they can plan some time to celebrate Christmas together. This way, no one is being left out or pushed out, but everyone is being respected and considered in the process. Having family traditions during the holiday season is such an important way of celebrating the continuity of family life!”
One way to maintain your traditions, but also share with the others is to do one thing each family does on Christmas day. This approach can teach the children that families have different customs but can celebrate together.
Listen to understand.
Understanding is a must on everyone’s Christmas wishlist. This time of year can be stressful and sharing space for so long could heighten that tension, but listening to one another for understanding can be one of the best tools to use. Tap into that Christmas spirit and be open when others share their wishes.
This Christmas, find new ways to celebrate with others and find new ways to preserve your traditions. It’s an unusual holiday, but with a little effort, it can be beautifully memorable. ■
Own your Christmas and share with others!
Find out who is likely to be doing Christmas without the resources, or even their home, to enjoy the holiday time as they have in the past. Reach out to them as a family. Share your blessings with them.
Consider sharing gifts anonymously with others this year. This may mean buying gifts, cooking favorite meals or desserts, singing Christmas carols, sending hand-written Christmas cards of prayers and blessings, or anything else that shares love, hope, and joy with our neighbors.