They are often what we look forward to the most about the holidays. They are the things we have done since we were little, moved to where we live now, got married, had children, etc. They are wrapped up in the cookies we bake, the ornaments we hang, and the candles we light. They are the familiar and expected, yet they are special because we only do them during this time of the year.

At the same time though, they are what cause us to write lists (even if we aren’t list people)–of addresses for Christmas cards, people we are getting gifts for, things to get for the Christmas party (at work, at church, with friends, etc.), and food to buy for each special meal. They are why we make the same layer cake or baked ham that we have made for the past three years–because people would miss it if we made something else. They are what cause us to pop antacids because not only did we eat too much at our fourth Christmas party, but we are overwhelmed by the fact that our lists are getting longer.  On top of that, “Susie next door” gave us a present, and we didn’t even know we were close enough to exchange gifts! (…Add her to the list).

I will stop before I begin to sound like Scrooge, but of course, I am talking about traditions. They have the ability to bring family and friends together, to make a Holiday feel really special, and yet they can also bring about a lot of stress.

As I shared on Monday, I am feeling some anxiety along with my excitement that Christmas time is upon us. And so I have decided to begin this season by asking what are the trappings we have added to the Holiday that we don’t really need?

What can we let go of this Christmas, without losing its true meaning?

Last week, my friend posted on Facebook that her family’s plans fell through for Thanksgiving. She went on to say she was about to gear up to make a turkey, when her husband said that he would rather go to the Chinese Buffet. As I read that, I thought, “why not?” The Chinese Buffet is a feast, and the most important people in my friend’s life were going to be with her–why can’t that be her Thanksgiving?

My friend’s post and my own anxiety about the holidays has made me realize that sometimes, we need to question our traditions. Sometimes we need to test them, to see if they are bringing more life or more stress to our holidays. What may have once brought happiness to us and our family or friends–may now be something we have outgrown. What may have once brought joy, may now feel like a burden or obligation.  When this happens the whole meaning of Christmas and being with those you love, is lost.

So, before December even begins, may we reflect on Christmases past, may we feel the freedom to question what has been, and discuss with those closest to us how best to celebrate this Season. May worn out traditions die, important ones be resurrected, and new ones begin.