For One Year, What Does It Matter If We Break Our Traditions?

Dec 15, 2020

“So, are we going to have fish tacos for Christmas dinner?”

I asked my partner this question somewhat in jest, somewhat seriously. We were just realizing that, once again, we would be celebrating a major holiday solely with members of our immediate household.

Usually our family combines forces with my side (my partner’s family mostly live in a different country) and we split the tasks for a big turkey dinner so that everyone makes, at most, two dishes. Put it together, and it’s a feast for 25+ people without too much work for any one family.

But without this potluck approach, I wasn’t sure I felt like making all the main course dishes and desserts, plus clean up. It never felt too much like a chore with family; in fact, there were always some wonderful conversations while doing dishes.

For parents, caregivers and anyone — get our printable holiday TV schedule right here

It brought into question what we would do for this diminutive feast — what were we prepared to take on, given that our bandwidth is at an all-time low?

In many ways, the pandemic is allowing a loosening of our long-held family traditions. So I’m trying to look on the bright side and to see how this can give us all a bit of a break — a respite from expectations and even demands.

Here are a few ways that a change (in holidays) could do you good (with apologies to Sheryl Crow for the misquote).

We're making what we want for Christmas dinner

One of my all-time favourite foods is tacos, preferably shrimp or fish.

But it’s not usually a traditional holiday dinner item in my house. Now that we’re only breaking bread with the immediate household, we can actually entertain the idea of tacos for Christmas dinner. Or pizza for Christmas Eve. There can be a break from turkey, ham or lamb (or all three, if your family does it all).

This year, especially, we’re allowed to really ask ourselves, and those we are supping with: what do we actually want to do? Not because it’s expected, or tradition. Just — what do we like?

If you're celebrating Hanukkah this year, you can find a simple and elegant craft for the little ones to make here.

Skip the homemade pastry

This past Thanksgiving was also a meal just for members of one household.

We did attempt a turkey dinner, but we decided to cut ourselves some slack. Instead of homemade stuffing, I made it from a box.

We barbecued two small chickens rather than ordering a fresh turkey and cooking it all day in the oven.

We elected for pre-made shells for the pumpkin pies, rather than spending hours making pastry from scratch (my family is comprised of amazing pie makers, and we bring at least one pie to a feast like Thanksgiving, complete with homemade pastry. It’s a labour of love, but it takes hours).

This change in holidays is allowing us to be realistic about we can take on, and what we even want to attempt.

I won’t be doing a cookie exchange this year, which is one part sad but mostly a fantastic break from making dozens upon dozens of cookies until the wee hours of the morning.

I’m actually looking forward to making small batches of cookies with my daughter because it’s the result of wanting to do it, not doing it because of tradition or other people’s expectations.

And if we’re tired? We’ll do it the next day! Goodbye cookie deadlines — and somehow they taste so much better without that added ingredient of stress.

No late-night, winter drives

I’m not alone in missing my family oh-so-much.

For all the positive spin I’m putting on the holidays, it will be hard to be happy all the time without actual physical contact.

I worry about my mom, who lives alone. I fret about my dad and stepmom, who both work in a hospital.

Like many of us, I can be brought to my knees by sudden sadness, longing, and aching for that tangible feeling of love and togetherness. But even though we are all so over incessant video calls, we’ll keep going with them for family gatherings, and remember that no one needs to make the risky drive through a blizzard to make it to a dinner in time.

We are spared driving in the middle of the night to make it back home safely. Families, friends and loved ones can be together on Zoom, safe in our own houses, and make the most out of chaotic, overlapping conversations — just like in person.

It may not make up for missing a hug, but we can erase the worry of everyone driving dangerous roads or navigating slippery sidewalks and try to revel in shared laughter, song, games and reminiscing.

Try slowing down a little with a simple holiday craft. It's colourful, easy to make and anything but stressful. Check it out here.

Support local businesses

I know a lot of people are taking a break from cooking all together and ordering a family feast from local restaurants, caterers, farms and food shops. They’re supporting local bakeries, sweet shops and tearooms by procuring their Yule logs, Christmas cookies and stocking stuffer chocolates from these establishments.

They’re helping bolster the economy, supporting small businesses in staying afloat, trying something new and divvying up the workload.

It’s community in action and wonderful to see. And from it all might arise new traditions and likes.

Perhaps cupcakes will replace the fruitcake (fingers crossed this comes to pass). Maybe the local chef’s appetizers will swap in for Aunt Mary’s Jell-O salad (again, some traditions are OK to let go of!).

Even when I go back to more of a regular world post-pandemic, I hope I continue to share the wealth with local shops when I can, and not take everything on my own shoulders.

Some parents are firm, unapologetic traditionalists when it comes to Christmas. Read Natalie Romero's piece here.

Yes, the holidays will be different this year. A lot of traditions won’t be enacted. It will be very tough in some regards.

But given the strain, it’s also important to try to find coping mechanisms, and take on what is desired and possible, not what has always been done.

So go ahead. Skip the cookie exchange. Opt for store bought. Pass up the long wintry drive. It is one Christmas.

Join me in tacos for Christmas dinner — the change might just do you good.

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a yoga teacher and freelance writer who lives in the beautiful hills of the Headwaters in Orangeville, Ontario, with her blended family of seven. With kids spanning a decade in age, there are always some shenanigans on the go, and she loves being in the middle of it all. Janice loves sharing nature, eco-living and new experiences with her family and friends, as well as a fine cup of coffee and a good book.

Add New Comment

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Submission Policy

Note: The CBC does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that comments are moderated and published according to our submission guidelines.