surviving the holidays away from family

This time of year is exciting: decorating the house, trying out new recipes, preparing the house for guests, gifts under the tree, and lots of laughter.
But it can also be an incredibly difficult time of year.
This year, Nick & I decided we aren’t going home to Ohio for the holidays. Last year we skipped Thanksgiving and traveled back for Christmas. This year though, we took our trip to Hawaii and painfully decided that it would be too much to travel back to Ohio in between Hawaii and traveling for weddings in February.
We understand this was our decision, which we made because we needed to get away together, but it’s heartbreaking for us that we can’t be with family.
This will also be the second Holiday season without my brother, who I loved getting to spend time with during Christmas and Thanksgiving.
It’s hard to feel festive when you aren’t with your people.
We’ve talked a lot about how hard this will be and how sentimental and emotional we both feel about not spending time with family for the holidays. Even still, we want to enjoy this season and make our own traditions.
If you’re in the same boat, I wanted to share some things I’ll be doing to help my heart survive the holidays this year.

Candles

This might be the weirdest place to start, but the one I’m most excited about.
The strongest sense for memory is smell. That whiff of cinnamon can take you back to that time you made cookies with your mom or the scent of peppermint can remind you of your grandmother’s house in a split second.
It’s powerful emotionally to have the same scents you’re used to back home in your new place. What is that to you? Is it pine? Cinnamon? Chai? Pumpkin pie? Maybe it’s the type of coffee your parents drank, the smell of which consumed your home.
I’m going to ask Nick’s mom what kind of candles she buys and get the same ones. This scent thing is also big with baking…

Food

Bake the same cookies your mom or grandma always does – or at least try, if you’re me. I’ll be asking my mother-in-law for some recipes and my grandma too.
Use the same recipes as your parents for dinner. Both of our families always make the same thing on Christmas every year, but they’re different, so we’re going to try to incorporate them both together.
Like Monica making 3 types of potatoes for her friends – fill the house with what your family would be eating!
I’m going to be making my grandmother’s cookies for Christmas. It was a tradition for me to go over to my grandparent’s house and bake cookies with my grandmother. My brother and I both did it, rolling up our sleeves, wearing grandma’s extra aprons and getting covered in flour up to our elbows. In recent years, I’ve gone over with my dad to bake cookies, and it’s one of my favorite parts about the season.
My house will smell like ginger snaps and it’ll feel like a piece of Ohio in Salt Lake. 

Decorations

Buy a real Christmas tree! Or get the same fake tree that your parents have.
My favorite family Christmas tradition is going to the Christmas tree farm in Ohio & cutting (sawing) down our pick, then dragging it back to be hauled onto the car. When my brother & I got older, we’d fight over who got to cut it down, but we always drug it back together. There is something irreplaceable about your entire house smelling of pine – no matter how messy that thing is, I love having a real tree!
Wrap all your presents and put them under the tree – I’ve always loved that look of a tree littered with ornaments and presents underneath it.
Hang up stockings and fill them on Christmas Eve. To be honest, I’ll probably fill Nick’s late at night when he’s asleep, because I love surprises.
Hang lights outside and inside! Nick hung lights outside & I love them. Our tree is covered with lights, and i have candles all over the place. We don’t have a big apartment, but I love the way twinkly lights look, but you gotta work with what you have!

Music

Ask your parents what music they used to play or what they love for the holidays and make a playlist for the day. My dad would always play Johnny Cash records (yes, records), and hearing his deep voice always brings back cozy memories. Bing Crosby too! Honestly, all the classics. Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra – and of course the more modern Michael Bublé. I can’t wait to make this playlist!

People

Facetime your family day of – this is a must. Thank goodness for technology. I think we’ll FaceTime when we open presents from each side of the family.
Invite people over or go to someone’s house – it’s fun to be just the two of you, but one of the best parts of holidays is being with other people too. I’m hoping we’ll have a friend’s house to go to later for dinner, possibly, maybe just drinks or something.
Take holiday photos to send to family and frame for your home – this is actually one we aren’t doing, but plan to do in the next few years!

Presents

Wrap/ship presents to your family for them to open on Face Time with you – remember to send them at least a week in advance (depending on where you’re shipping to). I suggest googling the deadlines so you can be sure they’ll get there.
Buy gifts for each other – no matter what your budget is, agree to get a few things for each other. Nick & I’s parents are both sending us things, as well as our grandparents, which is amazing! But it’s nice to have a little time just the two of you to sit and exchange gifts – take advantage of the quiet. I think we’ll spend some time doing this together, drinking coffee (me) and tea (Nick) hehe.

Traditions

Come up with a few new traditions the two of you can continue with your future family. Maybe a certain time you wake up, how the day will flow, do you open one present on Christmas Eve? Maybe you have a certain order to opening presents! Haha, my family always does one person one present at a time so it’s a big circle and you have to wait to open your presents. Yes, the horror of waiting. But it just makes it even more exciting! And everyone gets to see what others are getting and experience it with them. I love this tradition and hope to be able to teach my kids patience this way. We’ll see.
I hope you have an amazing Christmas! Hug the people you’re with, cherish this season and remember – Jesus came so that we may have LIFE and have it to the FULL.
xoxo,
Erinn

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