When Transition Becomes a Tradition

transition and tradition

I haven’t had a normal Christmas in a few years.

By normal, I mean waking up at my parent’s house, waking up my brother who I’ve convinced to stay the night at our parents’ place (mostly so I can wake him up at my leisure), opening stockings, having a special breakfast, distributing presents and opening them around the circle one at a time, hanging out with various members of the family, enjoying dinner, then reading one of my Christmas presents (because I invariably get at least one book) the rest of the evening.

The last Christmas I had like that was three years ago. Dating, marriage, and moving have all disturbed my normal when it comes to holiday traditions. Before that, college and loss created their own unique transitions. This year is no different. Baby James’ due date made flying to New York for Christmas (the plan before I became pregnant) a bit iffy. My parent’s travel schedule, which included Coeur d’Alene in November and then again in January, made it impractical for them to come out in December too. So, Tim and I will be spending this Christmas alone.

Alone. Initially that held all the bad connotation you might imagine. But the longer I sat with those plans as reality, the more I realized God had my best in mind.

You can read more about how transitions have permeated my holiday traditions over on Kindred Grace today. Bonus: the post includes the recipe for one of my favorite holiday foods!

When It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas

Less than a week until Christmas?  I still can’t believe it.  It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

Christmas is generally sunny, about 70 degrees.  Christmas is waking up, romping up and down on my slumbering brother (yes, I did this in my twenties – don’t judge), and opening stockings before breakfast.  Christmas is lights in Naples, gum drop trees downtown, and a post-meal walk up Big Dalton canyon.

None of that is happening this year.  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I’m stuck in the sentimental space between Christmases past and Christmases in the future.  For a newlywed, this space is called Christmas Present.  As the marital status implies, everything is new.  New spouse.  New lodging.  New responsibilities.  New life.

Christmas Present is new, and for a holiday built on traditions and memories, new can take the feelings of Christmas right out of Christmas.


So, how do you get Christmas back in Christmas?  Since I am currently waist deep in Christmas Present, my advice is fairly raw and being tested as I type.  In any case, here are the ways I’m approaching my first married Christmas:

  • Know that your feelings are okay. Marriage is a huge adjustment and holidays are part of the adjustment.  You are simultaneously mourning Christmas Past, trying to make it through Christmas Present, and hoping Christmas Future is better.  Give yourself a break.
  • Be honest with your spouse. Your feelings effect them, too!  I hesitate to talk about Christmas feelings because I don’t want Tim to feel bad.  Withdrawing (which is my default) makes him feel worse. Communicate!
  • Be honest with God. If you’re not used to speaking candidly with your Abba about how you feel, let David speak for you.  The Psalms are full of his heart, mind, and soul in song form.  If David can ask God, “Why?” and “What gives?” (Emily paraphrase), then you can pose the same questions.
  • Let God work on your feelings. Trying to force yourself into Christmas cheer isn’t going to get you very far. If you’re not feeling how you want to feel about Christmas Present, ask God for peace and joy, even in the newness.  If you’re feeling like me, you can even ask Him to help you want to have joy and peace in the newness.
  • Embrace the new. Don’t try to replicate Christmas Past. I have a good imagination, but jacking up the heater to 80 degrees, importing some palm trees, and creating cardboard cut-outs of my entire family just wouldn’t be the same as Christmases past.  Trying to recreate a SoCal Christmas in Northern Idaho is disappointment in the making.
  • Transform traditions. Is opening stockings your favorite part of Christmas morning? Stuff a stocking for your spouse or family member.  Always decorate Christmas cookies with your mom? Host a cookie exchange for college gals who might also be away from home. Not Christmas without a ham?  Try your hand at tamales instead.
  • Make new traditions. They probably won’t fill the Christmas Past void, but overtime new traditions will be special.  In fact, they will become the new Christmas Past. I know I will look back with fondness on the first time Tim cut down our own  tree, the first year our tree fell over, the first time Tim and I made Christmas dinner together, and our first Christmas in Coeur d’Alene.

Newlyweds: What are you doing to make Christmas Present feel like Christmas?

Married folks: What did you do to make your first married Christmas special?

A New Holiday Tradition {of the culinary sort}

I am a stickler for traditions – especially around the holidays and especially in regards to food.

Thanksgiving wouldn’t be the same without brown sugar, pecan crusted, butter laden sweet potato casserole or stuffing made with Mrs. Cubbison’s (who I always imagined was good friends with Aunt Jemima…) classic dressing mix.

Every once in a while, however, a new culinary tradition is born, a recipe so good it breaks right in to the standards with fresh flavors and an addictive quality that demands repeating.

This happened last year with Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip.

A friend brought it to a Thanksgiving celebration and I couldn’t walk away from the plate. We ate the dip with tortilla chips and Wheat Thins. Basically, anything crispy or salty was an excellent foil for the smooth tang of cream cheese piled high with a sweet-tart cranberry relish.

My fiance, now husband, and I proceeded to take this dip to every function left in the holiday season.  It went from the desert to the chilly Ozarks and back home again.

My mom flew to Idaho for Thanksgiving this year.  When we planned the menu, you better bet the Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip made the list for pre-meal munching.

If you’re like me and forget to pick up a lemon while you’re at the grocery store, sit your little hiney back in the car and go get one. (Or have your ever so kind husband grab one on the way home from youth group even though he is dead tired – thanks, babe! When he heard what I needed it for, he agreed that the extra stop was worth it).

The lemon juice, combined with the sugar, helps break down the cranberries and totally brightens up the relish.  Our go to vehicle for this insanely addictive dip is Wheat Thins, but any beloved crackerish item will work.

I do hope this dip finds its way into your holiday recipe repertoire! Your family and friends will love this new tradition.


Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip

Original recipe by Jamie Cooks It Up!

Time: 15 minutes prep + 4 hours refrigeration

1  12 oz package fresh cranberries

1/4 C green onion, chopped

1/4 C cilantro, chopped

1 small jalapeno pepper

1 1/4 C sugar

1/4 t cumin

2 T lemon juice

dash salt

2  8 oz packages cream cheese (I used reduced fat)

The night before (or at least 4 hours in advance):

Rinse cranberries under cool water and pick out any shriveled or bad cranberries. Place berries in the bowl of a food processor. I’ve chopped by hand and the results are much quicker and more cohesive when done in a food processor.

I’m not one for extreme heat so I use half of the jalapeño.  Take the rib and seeds out. Chop green onion, cilantro, and jalapeño into smaller pieces.  Add to processor with sugar, cumin, lemon juice, and salt.

Pulse mixture until the cranberries look like gravel and the other ingredients are well incorporated.  Put in a bowl and chill (I vote overnight!).

Let the cream cheese come to room temperature a couple hours before you’d like to serve the dip.  Place the foil wrapped bricks in room temperature water for awhile to speed up the process.

Use a knife or spatula (an off-set spatula, like you would use to frost a cake, works wonders here) to spread both blocks of cream cheese over a plate.  Pour cranberry mixture over the cream cheese.

Serve with crackers or chips of choice.

Three of us devoured half of it in one sitting and the remaining half the next day. Just put saran wrap over the plate and all is well for eating leftovers.

Pure & Simple