When I was growing up, we celebrated every single holiday and birthday with my extended family. There was a get-together about once a month with at least 20 or so family members. My dad, who's one of seven siblings, comes from a big Italian family. There was always something to celebrate within the family, which meant we were always together.
There were many traditions during the holidays. Three-course meals that included either lasagna or ravioli on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Playing board games and staying up until midnight on New Year's Eve at my grandparent's house with all the cousins. Birthday parties always included cake and presents. Friday night was pizza night. Our get-togethers were loud, out of control, and filled with people.
As a kid, I loved being a part of my loud Italian family. My family is incredibly loving and accepting. I knew that I wanted to pass on our traditions to my own family some day. I wanted my kids to experience our Italian traditions just like I did.
I thought this would be easy for my family to embrace, but it turned out to be really difficult. My kids were sensitive to loud noises and didn't like a lot of people. We had to frequently isolate ourselves to take breaks from the chaos. My husband and I could hardly converse with anyone, because we were always tending to the kids. The night usually ended with someone having a meltdown and us having to leave in a hurry.
It was hard for me that my kids couldn't tolerate the holidays and get-togethers with my family. It was something I was a part of for so long and grew up with and thought was so normal. I didn't think I could give that up.
We learned that we could still go to these events, but just had to make slight adjustments to accommodate my family's sensitivities. Whether we had to plan to leave early, take two cars, or bring someone with us to help, I knew I had to do this for my family, because they were my number one priority now.
This last year with the pandemic, my extended family hasn't been getting together at all for holidays or birthdays. It's been different but it has actually allowed us to start our own traditions with our little family. This really helped us turn holidays into what we wanted, and help our kids be as comfortable as possible. Even if we didn't leave our house.
On Easter, we stayed home and had a little egg hunt for the kids. For birthdays, we had drive-by parties. As stay-at-home orders gradually lifted, we spent 4th of July with close family. On Halloween, we set out candy in baggies in our driveway, while we trick-or-treated down two blocks then stayed home the rest of the night.
We went to my parent's house for Thanksgiving with just our family. And for Christmas, we're having my parents over. We actually had them over a few years ago Christmas morning, and we loved it because we didn't have to go anywhere.
We're thinking that could possibly be a new tradition. We also celebrated St. Nicholas's feast day on December 6 this year, which I never did as a kid. We decorated our tree that day, something else we're trying to implement annually.
These traditions have been good for my family. It's quiet, fewer people, and we're in our own home. I've loved celebrating these holidays with just my family and coming up with new traditions. Our traditions. We may not be celebrating in the same way that I did growing up, but we are rejoicing with traditions that we created together. In a year of uncertainty, it brought us closer together during the most important times. It reminded us what the holidays are all about: family.
Kate lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. You can read her writing at her blog This Special Journey.