“You’re eating Christmas dinner at Waffle House?!” my mom texted, in reply to a photo I sent of my infant gnawing on a plastic coffee creamer cup last December 25.
Well…yes. In my sweats, actually. While my daughter uses her fingers to steal eggs off my plate and my husband wipes bacon grease on a paper napkin.
Is it okay if that’s what Christmas looks like?
Through movies like Christmas Vacation and songs like “White Christmas,” we’re taught that Christmas should look like an extended family gathered around a homemade feast. Everyone dressed in their best clothes to exchange perfectly wrapped gifts. Pure white snow glistening outside candlelit windows.
But what happens when your Christmas doesn’t look anything like that?
Our families either don’t live nearby or don’t have the capacity to host a traditional American family Christmas. Husband and I like to keep our wardrobe casual if it’s not a workday. And having grown up in Florida, I’ve experienced just one white Christmas the year my family decided to spend the holiday in Utah. (It was great fun, but we decided we missed the rest of our family and would gladly give up snow on Christmas to be with everyone instead. We realized we were okay with wearing shorts instead of scarves on Christmas Day, too.)
Furthermore, last year was the first Christmas for our baby AND our first Christmas as working parents, which means we were über excited to create Christmas cheer with our daughter but about as tired as Kate trying to get home to Kevin in Home Alone. We decided the best course of action would be to keep our Christmas activity plan realistic because she was only 9 months old. We could do whatever we wanted for Christmas because she certainly had no expectations, nor would she have any memory of this particular holiday. Santa and his reindeer visited our house but kept a REALLY low profile about it, you know?
With no snow, no family down the street, and no children’s traditions meaningfully happening yet, what should our Christmas traditions look like? Was there a prescribed formula to follow? If so, did we have to follow it?
Don’t get me wrong – I love Christmas traditions as much as the next Christmas Carol, and we carried out plenty that day. We ate cherry Kringle for breakfast, the same Christmas breakfast my mom has served my family since before I came along. We made wassail in the slow cooker using my husband’s grandmother’s 50-year-old recipe. We opened gifts next to our Christmas tree and smiled at how much our daughter loved
her new toys the crinkly, colorful wrapping paper.
We also hosted Husband’s aunt, uncle, and cousin for a simple homemade Christmas lunch, grateful they made the hour-plus drive to our house to celebrate for a short time.
But, with no other Christmas plans or expectations, Husband and I decided our Christmas traditions would look like this:
- Enjoying each other’s company.
- Spending some time outside because there is no snow, and no excuse to not get some fresh air.
- Resting and more resting.
- For one day, not overdoing anything.
After lunch, we hiked some local trails before napping at home. Dreams of not cooking dinner were dancing in my head, so we put on our comfiest pajamas and sweatshirts, and headed out in search of the yellow glow of Atlanta’s favorite greasy spoon.
Waffle House was packed! All ages and all fashions were represented. Everyone was in a good mood. We chowed down on hash browns, eggs, bacon, grits, toast and, of course, waffles that I didn’t have to cook. (Which I’m convinced makes food taste even better.) We sang along with the Christmas music coming from the jukebox. We left an insanely huge tip for our server and gleefully watched her face from our lights-out car as she picked it up.
I’m optimistic in that I look back at Christmas every year and think, “That was the best Christmas yet.” And that next year’s holiday will be even better. Letting go of “traditional” Christmas traditions made our first family Christmas the best yet. We didn’t leave cookies for Santa, wear matching pajamas or sit down to a fancy dinner. But we did enjoy a wonderfully slow-paced day together, taking delight in the peaceful simplicity of our day and in our life situation exactly as it was in that moment. If our family can enter every Christmas season with that outlook on what our holiday should look like, every Christmas will be the best one yet.