Passing the (Holiday) Torch: Stepping Up to Host Family Gatherings


Passing The Torch - How to Take Over Holiday Gatherings GentlyAs we gather around the holiday table this year, we’ll share lots of traditions around food, decorations, games, conversations, and so many other things. It’s one of my favorite times of the year because I absolutely love holiday traditions. I’m very much a stickler for holding onto as many traditions as possible. If your family is anything like mine, you probably have many fond traditions that you cherish, but what happens when the family dynamic changes or the older generations are tired of holding the traditional gatherings?

Today I want to share a little about how you can take on the challenge of holding holiday gatherings for your family.

As children, I feel like we all grow up thinking that holidays are a well-oiled machine for our benefit. We get to come into a family member’s home and feast on delicious food, share in family games or stories, open presents at Christmas time, and just generally be a passenger. But as we grow up, it becomes clear that holiday gatherings don’t just happen on their own. Instead there’s a lot of work that goes into them.

Somewhere along the way, I grew up and had my own children and realized that holiday gatherings are magical because my parents and grandparents put so much into making them come alive. And that’s where I meet you today; in the place between being the adult child who contributes to gatherings and the adult in charge of gatherings.

We all know, even if we don’t want to admit it, that at some point the care and keeping of family traditions will fall to us, so today I’d like to share a few tips to help you when it comes time to pass the torch, so to speak. Some families care deeply about their traditions and others don’t, but these tips will help you gently take over the holiday gatherings that you care about as your parents and grandparents age and begin doing less.

I recently took charge of my extended family’s holiday gathering. We’re a large family and don’t meet as often anymore because the grandchildren have grown up, made their own families and started their own traditions. I love meeting with my family, so I recently asked both my uncle and my grandmother if I could take charge of this year’s gathering.

It’s important to know whom to ask. Most families have a family matriarch in charge who may or may not orchestrate holidays with an iron fist. You know your own family best, and you can make that decision about who to ask. For my family, my grandmother and my uncle were my choices because my grandmother is the glue that holds us together and my uncle has been one of the organizers of past events. They both were happy to give over charge of the event to me once I explained my plan.

That’s the next key thing: have a plan. Sometimes the older generation will still look at you as children and grandchildren. Sure, they know you’ve grown up and become an adult, but when it comes to some things, they’ll still see you as the chubby, cherubic baby they loved. Having a plan for your holiday gathering, even if it’s as simple as explaining what foods you want everyone to pitch in with, is what helps folks feel confident about handing over the reins.

When you talk to family, be respectful. Some people will gladly hand over the reins, feeling relieved at having one less duty during the holiday season. Others will be reluctant for any number of reasons, and if you show respect towards them, they’ll be more willing to let you try your hand at hosting, organizing, and planning the holiday gathering.

Last but not least, delegate the duties. Just as our parents and grandparents have spent many years developing patterns of who brings what to meals, you’ll be in charge of delegating out menu items and other things for the holidays. Don’t feel the need to do it all yourself if your family has always contributed. Keep things consistent and delegate what you need help with. That way you won’t be too stressed and your family will feel like things are staying the same.

Taking over holiday gatherings can mean a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun. You have the chance to breathe new life into old traditions and start some of your own. Don’t let fear that your family will say no stop you from trying something new. You might find that you enjoy hosting and that your family loves the change if they’re anything like mine.

And as a bonus, these tips will work with most in-laws, too. Just make sure you don’t step on any toes, and you should be good to go! How have you taken on family gatherings? Let me know in the comments!


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