Reclaiming Christmas Joy

Illustration of a mom, two children and a cat smiling around a Christmas tree.
Chris Sandlin

Christmas can feel overwhelming when you're newly divorced and dealing with so many changes. My divorce and the transition from being a stay-at-home mom to a single, working mom was not easy, and I felt jealous of the time and money my ex-husband was able to lavish on our young children that first Christmas after our divorce. But as my second Christmas as a single parent approached, I decided to embrace the holiday with new family traditions.I began to realize that simple and inexpensive activities with my children could still create meaningful holiday memories.

Something to look forward to

Our new customs made the season feel special again. We decided to put the tree up early.My son, Chandler, assembled the tree while my daughter, Emma, was in charge of the ornaments.We hauled boxes up from the basement, wore cheesy Santa hats and listened to our favorite Christmas music. The kids' favorite CD included Louis Armstrong singing, " 'Zat you, Santa Claus?" We laughed and did crazy dances around the living room.

I wanted to celebrate "the 12 Days of Christmas" for our new tradition. Even though I hadn't touched a piano in years, I played the famous tune about the 12 days on our old upright while the kids sang off-key. As a family, we decided on 12 special events for the season, including sledding at night, making homemade hot cocoa and viewing Christmas-light displays with friends. We were excited about our plans, and instead of sorrowing over the past, we now had something to look forward to.

Simple and meaningful

The first Christmas after the divorce, my son had asked about making a gingerbread house. We didn't tackle that project then, but by the following year, I realized his request could become a part of our 12-days tradition. So we visited the downtown candy shop, purchased our edible decorations and made a gingerbread house good enough for our cat to eat — which she did!

More than 13 years later, many of those traditions remain, and we still wear the same cheesy Santa hats.

Celebrating Christmas didn't seem possible the first year after my divorce. And though God had not erased my heartache by the following holiday season, He did walk with me through it. He was restoring us, and those new Christmas traditions were a simple and meaningful part of the healing process. 

This article appeared in the December 2013 issue of Thriving Family magazine. It was reprinted from Focus on the Family magazineIf you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2013 by Tami Byd-Bok. Used by permission.

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