Home for the Holidays

This week on The Allender Center Podcast, Dan and Becky Allender launch a new series reflecting on the holiday season—and all of the complexity it brings.

Dan: “The holidays have always born a lot of ambivalence. This is the season when not only winter arrives and people are getting ill, plus the holiday madness, the intensity, the freneticism, the end of the year—there just seem to be so many contradictory currents. We anticipate this, […] while it’s simultaneously an exhausting period with a whole lot of pressure and demands. Family conflicts seem to be even more accentuated and yet unable to be addressed, because we don’t want to ruin the holidays for one another. So it’s a strange time for most people—an intensification of loneliness, busyness, exhaustion, pressure, expectations.”

For Becky and Dan, the chaos of the holidays has abated as their children have grown and started families of their own. It’s a quieter, calmer season after decades of holiday freneticism. Becky shares about how, as a child, Christmas was the happiest time she ever saw her mother, so it felt important to recreate the joy and significance of the holiday for her family.

Becky: “I just really went wild over Christmas. […] It feels very freeing, less expectations. I think that’s probably the crux of it. I’m not trying to orchestrate as much now that our children are not living with us. And that’s huge. All that used to be wrapped up with what Christmas should be, what traditions should be, what carols should be sung. I don’t really have to worry about that so much anymore.”

In early years of marriage, Dan and Becky had difficulty navigating the different traditions and expectations they inherited from their families, wondering what it meant to develop their own family traditions. “It was not a pretty picture,” says Becky.

Dan: “The conflicts between a husband and wife often get enervated and intensified in the context of this highly crucial season, in which somehow something really special is supposed to happen that hearkens back to a reconnection with one’s past and then thrusts you into the future with regard to creating something different for your children. So it does feel like an intersection of madness.”

Dan returns to the idea of leaving your mother and father to form a new family (you can hear more about that in our recent Marriage series) to wonder what issues comes with the act of leaving during this time of year.

Dan: “Probably the holidays—Christmas and Thanksgiving—are the most sticky season for being stuck in the patterns and structures and the unnamed, unaddressed, and sometimes unconscious processes related to either our assumptions or our great joys with regard to our own childhood. […] That’s what I mean by madness—an ambivalent holiday that holds the intersection of past, present, and future, and often unaddressed conflict, unaddressed expectations, that jumble together in this dense, symbolic madness.”

Through this series, Dan and Becky are hoping to invite each of us to have conversations with our families and loved ones about our expectations and hopes for this season. What does this time of year mean for you? How can you help foster a mutually meaningful season for you and the people in your life?

Becky: “Sit and ponder: What are your hopes? What do you want? What do you value? It’s certainly changed for us as we’ve aged, and […] I think that does require quiet and intentional thinking and conversation. What do you want? I need to ask myself that more and more, not just at Christmas.”

In coming weeks, we will continue this series by reflecting on how to receive people into our home as a host and how to go into the homes of others as a guest. As we mark this season of Advent and the hope of Immanuel, God with us, may our care for ourselves and others outweigh the pressure, expectations, and chaos that so often come with this season.

Dan: “If we can be of some assistance in engaging this madness, that will be a delight.”

Reminder: Early next year, we’re launching a new series in which Dan responds to questions from listeners. If you have a question for Dan, or a topic you would like him to engage, email Content Coordinator Beau Denton, bdenton@theseattleschool.edu. We look forward to hearing from you.