“Mom, since I wasn’t home for most of Advent, it feels like Christmas was just sprung on me!” That’s what my oldest told me his first year away at college. And he was (is) at an excellent Catholic college; the traditions of the faith are prominent. It just wasn’t home.
As our children grow up, we (collective moms) are re-thinking how to celebrate Advent and Christmas. How do we keep meaningful traditions in our homes with some of our older children at college or even married and beginning their own families? We still have younger children at home, and we instinctively know that the traditions are an anchor for our families in a chaotic world and an important part of our children’s formation. To give them up is not an option, to keep them going the way we always did isn’t entirely realistic.
What to do.
Be flexible. Married children have jobs and another family; they can’t be part of everything. Welcome them to whichever traditions they can you join in. Shift times and days to accommodate. Don’t stress yourself competing with the in-laws; each family will have its strong points that will draw the couple to celebrate with them. You are all an important part of each other but not the whole.
Snail mail is fun. I sent St. Nicholas packages to my college kids. Who doesn’t like getting packages?! They appreciate those gestures even more when they are not at home.
Technology makes it easier for all of us to connect and share a bit of what is happening on either end. I love seeing pictures of my college kids on campus. They have many special events and ways to celebrate the holidays. We all enjoy seeing pictures of our college guys and their friends caroling, or the Christmas formal. It expands our celebrations at home.
Add to your traditions each year. Something new helps fill the hole that is left when another person leaves home. I mean simple: a new Christmas puzzle on the puzzle table, a recipe we never tried before…but don’t stagnate as the number of celebrants at home contracts. In fact, lower numbers may mean you CAN do something elaborate that wasn’t possible before.
Mature some of your traditions a little. As much as we all love picture books, our Christmas Eve reading as a family needs a boost. Perhaps a reading of A Christmas Carol, http://charlesdickenspage.com/carol-dickens_reading_text.html each older child and adult could take a part. I know several young men who would thoroughly enjoy reading the part of Scrooge.
Another idea is to assign everyone to gather with a Christmas poem or short story to share, or a joke or a song.... funny or serious, original or not. The idea being that an older child or young adult can contribute something to the ‘Christmas magic’. The same idea can be applied to the Christmas feast. What a great thing it would be to have many chefs!
I don’t know any mom who doesn’t love having a house full of her children, including babies, especially at Christmas. But as those days wane, we can look forward to friendships with our adult children, new traditions, and in time, daughters and sons-in-law and all the blessings that accompany that. We’ll never stop being mom and making Christmas special, because we love our families and we love our Lord.