Thursday, December 04, 2014

Still helpful: Christmas traditions for the empty nest

This is an older post that I wrote some years ago for my Christmas blog.  It may be on here too, I'm not sure.  But I decided to repeat it because of a comment I received last night on the 2007 post.   The lady who left the comment noted that she had been struggling with this situation and that she was so encouraged to see some positive suggestions for dealing with it.  With that incentive, I'm going to publish this post again, and I'll add in a few newer ideas as well.  It may be, as I noted back then, that someone is facing their first Christmas as an empty nester.

Sometimes it can be really traumatic when all of the kids leave home and  things are just not the same as they used to be at holiday time.  It's unrealistic to expect them to stay the same, however.  Even if your married children live in the same town as you do, they should be encouraged to begin their own special traditions as a new family.  If they live in another state or even another country, they should not ever be pressured to "come home for Christmas".  Maybe they want to make that a part of their own holiday tradition -- and hooray if they do! -- but we shouldn't pressure them to do so.

I have heard so many stories of families that traveled through the night, on iffy roads, in aging, cantankerous vehicles, with cranky, tired children, just to get home because Mom & Dad (usually mostly Mom) wanted them "home for Christmas". 

I have found that beginning some new traditions of our own (and tweaking some older ones)  as empty-nesters has been really helpful in keeping the blues away at holiday time.  Here are a few ideas:

*  On the day of the first significant snowfall in our area (usually sometime in November) I bake the first Christmas cookies of the season to freeze.

 *  In recent years, because of a job change, my hubby will often have a weather-related day off.  If he has a day (or more) like that in December, he has found that he enjoys spending that time in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies!

*  I decorate to my heart's content!  Lots easier without little kids underfoot.

*  We had bought a clearance artificial tree which had clearly been used and turned out to be way too narrow for our living room.  We decided not to waste it and not to go to the hassle of returning it.  Instead, we set it up in our bedroom.  Now it's a traditional part of our Christmas decor!  The tree is pre-lit and the soft lights are very soothing.

*  I often plan special pre-Christmas gifts for my married kids and their families.  I include Christmas books, foods, decorations and crafts to enjoy throughout the coming season, often things they might not spend money on to buy for themselves.

*  We always do some of our Christmas shopping at a very special group of shops (in an old mill) where we traditionally visited when the kids were younger.  We like to go in the evening when the street lamps are lit, carols are playing, and a light snow is falling.  Sometimes we will go out to supper at a favorite diner and just walk over to the shops.

*  I pack Christmas boxes to send to those family and friends who are far away.  It is so much fun to plan what goodies to include.  I just want the box to say "Merry Christmas!" when they open it.

*  Many years, my husband and I fill Christmas stockings for each other.  This is lots of fun and something special to look forward to on Christmas morning.  We usually get useful items and candy at the dollar store.  Invariably I find under the tree a wrapped gift that wouldn't fit into the stocking, labeled by my hubby, "This is a stocking stuffer."

*  And speaking of gifts, we don't give large gifts to one another - just the stocking stuffers.  We save the money we would have spent on gifts and use it to take a few days' getaway at a later time.

*  We enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve Soup whether we have company or not.

 *  If your family can't come for a special meal over the holiday, try and find someone among your friends or neighbors who will be alone, and invite them.  Consider a get-together just with other empty-nesters.  We've done that at Thanksgiving and it is really fun!

*  I make a special breakfast on Christmas morning -- usually including an egg bake of some sort (prepared the night before and baked fresh that morning) and a coffeecake or muffins I've baked ahead.  We might enjoy the oranges or clementines from the toes of our stockings, or I might make a fruit salad or ambrosia.

We plan to have "Christmas" together with all of our kids and grandkids whenever we can all be together, no matter what time of year it happens to be.  The times all together are so rare we want to savor them fully.  One year, all of our kids and grandkids were in New England in the fall.  We took a long weekend at a log cabin on a lake, and one of the things we did was to draw names and get dollar store gifts for one another.  We brought along a little decorated Christmas tree and also a string of Christmas lights for the fireplace.  It was so much fun and made some great memories!

Well, those are just a few thoughts.  But above all, let's not forget that "leaving and cleaving" is biblical.  Once our married kids leave home, they are a new family and we need to set them free to function as such in every way.

And -- if your grown kids should happen to invite you to come have Christmas at their home, go, and have a wonderful time!


  1. This was filled with wonderful ideas. It is hard not to have them at home, but you do want your children to make traditions as a family themselves. I will have to remember these when the time comes that mine are not all with me.I agree about making it work on whatever day you can with them.

  2. Thanks, Sandy. I am glad you enjoyed the ideas. I have learned to just let go of wanting to be with my kids or grandkids on any given holiday. Often we are with some of them, but never with all of them.

    It's like anything else in life. We just have to face the facts that situations and seasons of life change and fluctuate. They may not be what we want or what we think is ideal, but they are the circumstances that God has allowed. He wants us to have a joy and contentment that is not dependent upon our circumstances.


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