For almost 10 years, I would spend days leading up to Christmas by cooking. There was researching, planning, calling stores, shopping, and of course cooking. It started by reading an issue of Cooking Light and talking about holiday traditions, and one of the traditions was the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Desperate to start a new tradition with my husband, it sounded like a great thing to start.
The Italian-American tradition was adopted by this Norwegian, and I started making seven courses of seafood every Christmas Eve. It was all-consuming, as you can likely imagine. Days leading up to the holiday, I would be researching and planning the menu. I also never liked repeating the items I cooked the previous year. Anyone who heard of our tradition was completely wowed. Looking back it was quite a feat and completely ridiculous to me now thinking about it.
Finding that holiday tradition in a magazine, seemed so genuine at the time. I suppose now it’s equivalent to seeing it on social media, another family’s annual trek to a tree farm, or watching as one of your fellow mom friends posts her daily Elf shenanigans, or seeing the mass amounts of holiday cookies produced during annual baking. When we see holiday traditions around us, our first thought can be to feel inadequate and think our own traditions aren’t good enough and we should embrace something bigger and grander.
In my eyes, there was nothing grander than seven courses of homemade seafood. That is until I experienced finding my own happiness during the holidays. You know how you tell someone you like something once and then you forever get gifts associated with that thing you like? One year of seafood was probably enough, but I made it every year and it totally took over our holiday. It took over days leading up, it took over Christmas Eve church service, it took over the evening, and it took up the night, cleaning up after it. And why? Because I thought we needed a tradition. My husband only last year, almost ten years of these shenanigans, did he finally say, “Stop.” Well, he was kinder and suggested we try something different.
We had just moved into our new home and it was likely that he too, wanted a tradition. A tradition that was still ours, just slower and more meaningful. He asked that we stop the annual seafood extravaganza and opt for our favorite seafood and serve it with the kids’ favorite meal, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. He also offered to make a cocktail and said the evening would be spent at church and relaxing.
It was our new tradition.
After church, I sipped my dirty martini on the couch, watching my kids play and read with their grandma. My husband and I worked together on getting the meal ready and it was done in 30 minutes. After the kids went to bed, my mom, husband and I stayed up late watching shows on Netflix. It’s been my favorite holiday I can remember. We found our own happiness.
There’s so much pressure during the holiday season to do all the things and be all the things.
But stop, and just be you.
Connect with what really feels good and makes you and your family happy. Those activities and feelings don’t need to be compared to what anyone else is doing.
Be confident in your own holiday celebrations and traditions. Your traditions can be simple, but the most important thing is that it makes you happy and brings meaning to your family.