A Few Thoughts on Christmas Traditions


Is it just me, or is the thought of creating Christmas traditions terribly exhausting and overwhelming when you constantly feel unwell?

Yesterday someone asked me if we have any Christmas traditions in my family, and it was the first time I have thought through the fact that, actually, we have exactly zero Christmas traditions.

And, honestly, this made me a bit sad.

It felt hard to explain at the time, but there are reasons we haven’t created any Christmas traditions.

Our first Christmas, my husband was going through pre-deployment training. He came home for a few days over Christmas, and left right after. We spent that time with our families, and there wasn’t really time for starting traditions.

Our second Christmas, we were living in a tiny hotel room following his deployment, with all of our belongings piled high to the sky in the corner. A tree would have been ridiculous. Making cookies would have been impossible. It felt like there was no space, and especially no energy for traditions.

For a few Christmases after that, I can remember my health being in a decent place, and doing things such as making Christmas cookies and decorating to some extent. But then, my health deteriorated, and none of these things became grounded as tradition.

Several Christmases ago, I was in too much pain to travel or do anything Christmasy at all, so my in-laws visited and brought Christmas to us. All Christmas day I remember laying on a tiny mattress on the floor, thankful someone had brought Christmas to us, but not able to create and Christmas traditions for ourselves.

Then last Christmas, I started a new job on the 22nd of December. Most of the weeks before Christmas, all my extra energy had gone to interviews, getting background checks, and pre-employment training. No time. No energy. No spoons. No traditions.

This year, I am finishing up hours towards licensure. All of my energy is going towards work to be able to finish up this goal that I have been working towards for the last 6 years. I’m tired. Most likely, we won’t risk traveling or do too much of anything because I don’t want to trigger a flare that would lead me to miss work. With the end so close in sight (May, here I come!), I don’t feel inclined to take any risks.

So, what to do about NO Christmas traditions?

I think part of the problem is that most of the traditions I would hold on to from growing up – such as making dozens of different kinds of cookies – are just completely impractical because of my pain. I can’t stand for hours baking. I can’t hike out to get a real live Christmas tree. I can’t walk around for miles Christmas caroling. And it’s hard to think of Christmas traditions that I actually want to do that I am also capable of doing.

This year, likely, won’t be the year of starting all the traditions! but I’m thinking about it more than I have before. This year we are doing Christmas stockings for the first time, curtesy of my sister’s awesome shop. I can see that turning to tradition. Perhaps we will go out to eat somewhere fancy on Christmas Eve like last year, and voila, two years in a row makes it tradition.

Perhaps I will try to scrounge out the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, and even though it’s not a real tree, I’m going to call that tradition. Perhaps I will cook Filet Mignon steak for Christmas day again, which turned out amazing last year.

What about you? Do you find it hard to create Christmas traditions because of feeling unwell or other life stressors?

Check out Life in Slow Motion’s newest book, When Chronic Pain and Illness Take Everything Away. Available on Amazon.com in kindle and paperback formats.


  1. I understand your perspective completely.
    Since becoming ill the only thing I can focus on for any holiday is feeling well enough to show up for family dinners. If I can find the energy to get dressed and make it out the door I consider that something to celebrate 🙂
    Don’t allow the pressures of the holidays to get in the way of enjoying just being able to show up.

  2. I think your idea of fancy restaurant, filet mignon and stockings are great traditions! Traditions do not have to be elaborate at all. My husband and I started some traditions for our daughter when she was young and before I had gotten RSD. However, some years the tradition is that we are all together with people we love. Wishing you a low pain Christmas holiday and sending a gentle hug! Also, I’m so proud of all that you are accomplishing following your dream. You are inspiring <3

  3. We had the usual traditions as the children were growing up but many have gone by the wayside since the children have grown and left home. I try to simplify more each year. I feel better this year compared to last year (praise God for Turmeric!) and so I am doing a little bit of baking. I started to make out Christmas cards this year but didn’t get very far. I needed to let something go and the cards got voted out.

  4. I so needed this post. Thank-you. I’m HUGE on traditions and Christmas is my favorite time of year. I have been sick now for 4 years and each year, I do less and less. I was getting really depressed about it until I read this post. You’re right. I can modify and its OKAY. It’s my family that matters most anyway. Thank-you for “permission” . Love your blog. Blessings!

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