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Family, Holidays, and Easter Ham

Figuring it out as a young family.

One of the most surprising things about being newly married was that we had to learn how to celebrate the holidays. Oh, we figured out Christmas and Thanksgiving easily enough. That’s easy: you go see family when finances and work schedules permit. But we have found that the smaller holidays, the ones that get you off of work for a day or two but whose traditions are a little more fuzzy, are harder to figure out. Do we drive the six hours and take a half-week off to see this side of the family? Do we spend the extra money to fly south to see my parents? If we stay home, how do we scale things down to make them manageable for three people?  

As a kid, it’s easy. Your parents make the plans and execute family traditions. Mom makes your favorite cookies and Grandma has the tablecloth for every occasion. But as a new family, blending the ideals together and finding new ground isn’t always smooth. Honestly, I struggle with this whole idea every spring because I never what to do with Easter.

Easter is, to us, a religious holiday, one that is best spent with your church family and your blood relations. We’d love to spend it with our parents and siblings, but it always involves a long trip, several days off work, and celebrating at an unfamiliar church and its members. Daniel and I have certainly enjoyed Easters at our parents’ houses, but it still feels different.

Some years we’ve stayed home and the result is that the day is not quite as holidayish as I think it should be. It seems silly to cook a large ham and all the sides for two people and a fickle toddler. One year, frustrated with the whole thing, we fixed tuna salad and deviled eggs before heading to the National Zoo for the day. It wasn’t very Eastery, but it made for a decent Sunday.

Slowly, I have seen some progress in making our own traditions and establishing expectations. Daniel and I recently learned, in this season of gloriously early Nate bedtimes, that dinner in on Valentine’s Day was marvelous. It was a treat to prepare and eat a wonderful meal of ribs, asparagus, and chocolate cake with just adult conversation in the room. It’s nice to find a happy medium of cynicism and holiday expectations that work for both of us.

Nate helps clarify things, of course. I’m discovering that those Easter traditions that are so familiar, normal, are usually things that flow out of families with children: special food to feed them, activities to teach them, and traditions to pass on to them. So, we read books, color pictures, and attend church, not because it’s expected, but because we want to show Nate what we think is important.

For now, we’ll still visit family when we can while still figuring out what we want minor holidays to look like in our own home. One day soon enough, I’ll be that Grandma with the sugar cookies and the holiday tableware, but for now, it’s good to know and enjoy the simpler holidays.

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