Christmas Traditions: Is your Christmas your own or somebody else’s?

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24 December, 2012 by talungatales


We are all affected by and carry ghosts from our past, however we can choose to take the best of those memories and traditions and reject the ‘dross’ – the negative words in your head, the negative memories, the hurts. You can choose to make Christmas a time you love or hate – it will take courage to make changes needed to be happy and you’re the only one that can make YOU happy. Make Christmas something you love by doing what makes you and others who are important to you, smile. Create memories and make sure that they’re good ones, because for our children these memories will be with them a lifetime.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted – if I was hard on myself I’d say I’ve been neglectful however, I’m not. I’ve just been busy. Very busy. In September we celebrated my OH’s 50th birthday, it went well and ended with my first born going into labour at the end of the night. The next morning we welcomed our gorgeous little grandson to this world.  Being spring, here in Australia it also meant that many happy gardeners were beginning to think about their needs and wants and our little business started to burst with orders and enquiries. The pressure had been unrelenting till now. For that reason I have no guilt about not posting. I’ve been busy and that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

The Other Halves (OH) 50th & our new grandson

Being busy is healthy and good, however not all of us are well equipped to deal with pressures and stresses, have good time management skills or have learnt how to deal with frustration or other people’s expectations. Our self talk has a lot to do with how we handle stress and our self talk is also influenced greatly by our own families and how we were parented. Some events unfolded over the last couple of months which opened my eyes to just how damaged many people are when love is not demonstrated openly. When approval is withheld in the belief it will make the child resilient and strong, or worse that that’s how you parent a child because that’s how you were parented.  Sorry but this is WRONG! Repeating the “sins of the past” such as neglectful or abusive behaviour, being continually sarcastic, etc, doesn’t make the behaviour right. Just because someone close to you, someone who’s approval you really want, behaved that way doesn’t make it right. Wouldn’t you feel more whole if your parent had shown approval and openly showed their love in their words and actions?

It’s praise which makes a child strong, love makes a child strong, belief, faith, hope and trust makes you strong. Encouragement and the freedom to fail and fall helps you grow, it gives you the space to learn. Parents need to provide the cushion, not the brickbat. Children carry negatives into their adult lives. Some forever leading lives trying to please others, including those who scarred them in their childhood, in a never ending quest to seek approval from a father or mother – sometimes acted out using other people. The words they heard as children haunt them – ghosts of the past and in some cases the present too, both from the family of origin and the new relationships that person has made mimic the ones they’d grown up with. Psychologists call this co-dependency. There is comfort in familiarity, even if it’s in the form of dysfunctional relationships and in many cases people perpetuate this cycle from one family to another (their own marriage, workplace, church, social groups, etc) sabotaging their happiness by recreating their own past as it’s what’s familiar, thus comfortable. They don’t realise however just how damaging it is when they repeat the same negative words and behaviour.

Where am I going with this you ask? Well it’s Christmas time, and this is the time of year that counsellors, psychologists, doctors and psychiatrists are at their busiest. Depression sets in and suicide rates escalate. Christmas forces people together in a way that brings up past hurts, many subconscious and some not. Those that have lost loved ones during the year mourn their loss, their thoughts consumed with not having that person around. People who have spent their young years with critical parents, unhappy families, struggle with having to spend a day together ‘pretending’ and/or dodging verbal and emotional bullets, or in some cases even physical abuse.

I’ve learnt alot over the last couple of decades. One of the most pertinent is that we are all capable of making our own choices. In most cases it takes a great deal of courage to make changes – especially if it’s to break a generational cycle of behaviour. If it’s a loss that you’re grieving it’s understandable you’re feeling low, but remember that rather than grieving over a future you won’t have, be thankful for the years you did have together, the memories you’ve made which can never be taken from you. Would you have had it any other way? If it’s having to deal with acrimonious relationships, it’s within your power to limit time spent in that environment and to challenge your thinking about what’s being said about you and more so, take care with, and own what you say to others.

What about family traditions? Christmas traditions? Are you repeating the same old celebratory cycle – the menu, the same tree decorations, the same patterns that hold painful memories? Wish it could be different? Change it! You do have a choice.

Crayfish & octopus for dinner

Why stick to ‘tradition”? Create you own and start with the foods you love. Splurge on something special like this crayfish and what will be marinated & BBQ’d octopus.

For example, here in Australia many families still eat a traditional European Christmas meal. They slave over hot ovens, in hot steamy kitchens when it’s 38C. Nobody really feels like cooking let alone eating a heavy, stodgy meal. Most would rather a BBQ or a cold meat and salad platter and spend the afternoon in the pool. Well you know what, that’s what we’re doing … my parents traditionally celebrated on Christmas Eve and I still do, so our celebrations pretty much go for 24 hours as my OH’s family celebrate with a Christmas lunch as does my son-in-law. This year we’ve splurged and bought a rather expensive crayfish, this to be accompanied with BBQ’d marinated octopus, cold salads, ham and maybe a small roast turkey roll – all cold. It’s going to be casual, low key and about our nuclear family. On Christmas Day we’ll join my daughter and her husband and their now 3mo baby for a few hours, giving them space to find their feet with making their own new Christmas family traditions. We’ll go with the flow for their sake. Then we’ll join my husband’s family for a while.

Australian Christmas Tree

An Aussie Christmas Tree with a difference – gum nuts, and our favourite things including a special snowman who’s been around for about 50 years.

Christmas time is pretty stressful and getting the tree is another stressor. This year I’ve decided to make a change. Instead of a European radiata pine or an artificial tree mimicking the European fir trees I asked myself, “what’s native to my country (Australia) and climate”? Inspired by a photo I saw on Facebook of a decorated branch, I found some lovely eucalyptus branches with the gum nuts still intact, windfall from a winter storm. My eldest daughter and I removed the dirty, dead leaves and the OH painted the branches with a hint of gold. Instead of bring out ALL the old decorations, we’ve kept to a colour theme this year (we, being my son and daughter No2) of red and gold and decorated it with the decorations we like and love. It was important to have everyone’s contribution as it’s now ‘our’ tree. All this was topped off with a tradition I’ve kept from my Hungarian family but with a twist.

Szaloncukor

A Hungarian tradition -‘Szaloncukor’, meaning “parlour candy” decorate Christmas trees.

In Hungary trees are decorated with Szaloncukor (translated to mean “parlour candy”) and we were not to touch them till after Christmas. My mother brought out a box of wrapped chocolates which we’ve hung on the tree. The wrappers glisten in tones which mirror the colours we’ve selected. My kids enjoy this tradition just as I did as a child. In addition, my mother enjoys providing the chocolates and thus it’s all good and a tradition worthy of keeping.

What traditions do you love and which are you going to keep or let go?

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone.

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