Holiday Traditions in Open Adoption

happy family in winter clothes outdoors

One of the beautiful things of open adoption is the creation of traditions as the years pass. The holidays can be especially hard on birth parents. Personally, I find having traditions to be helpful in healing and having something to look forward to. Just as with any holiday tradition, the way a tradition is carried out will vary from family to family. For me, it is one of my favorite visits of the year as we’ve established what works for us. For others, the tradition may be a certain type of gift or how time is spent. Either way, the result is a special time within adoption relationships.

This holiday season marks our 10th year celebrating together in our unique way. Some years varied slightly depending on circumstances, and over the years we’ve expanded on our tradition, but generally our plan is roughly the same. Our first Christmas visit was when Anna was 6 months old. We decided to meet at a little Japanese restaurant for lunch and a visit since the restaurant was a halfway point for us at the time. I was 17, so my parents, siblings and I all rode together, excited to see her again and catch up with her family. Anna came with her mom, dad, and brother. We ate our lunch, exchanged small presents, and mingled for hours. The restaurant is a small one and we basically had the whole place to our selves. It was so nice! I still remember well the feeling when holding Anna, walking her around the restaurant and her falling asleep on my shoulder. As a birthmother, those gifts are absolutely priceless!

Over the years, our families have grown and many of us have moved to different places, but that Japanese restaurant is still the halfway point. Now our tradition is for our families to start there and then take our party to Anna’s house nearby. There we usually add even more guests, including her grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. When you include my husband, me, our three children, my three parents, my two siblings, plus her family—it is quite the crew! We all feel like family now, bonded by love over one special little girl in our lives. After a few years we decided to add a Dirty Santa game as a fun way for the adults to exchange gifts. This, by far, is now one of my favorite traditions! It has turned into such a funny time trying to steal the best gift and has created many memories that I look back on fondly. After that excitement, all the children run off to play while the adults chat and catch up on life. Here is where I get to hear the stories of Anna from her parents—her funny sayings, the questions she may have asked, or how her school is going. Our visits are such a treasure, not only to visit with Anna, but her parents as well—they are a key component to our adoption! Our schedules over the last years have gotten very busy, so phone calls and emails are fewer these days. Our visits are a time to reconnect. Again, such a priceless gift! Truly, the memories of our visits are the best gift from them—that we get this time to be together every year is worth far more than any purchased gift that they have ever given me.

For other birthmothers in open adoptions, their traditions may look a little different. Some have visits, while others send gifts through the mail since they are further apart and cannot make a personal visit happen each December. Nicole S., co-founder of Birthmom Buds told me about her tradition, “I send Charlie an ornament with his gifts each year. The first year, I bought a Precious Moments baby’s first Christmas ornament where it had spots to write in his birthday, birth weight, etc., but every year since then I have hand made the ornament. I always put the year and ‘Made by Coley’ on the back.” I love the idea of a traditional gift each year! Especially something homemade from his birthmother, how personal and special that is.

Breanna B. also includes an ornament with her gift, “We do it differently each year. Sometimes we gather together early or late and trade gifts. Sometimes it’s by mail and then a call (often with video) on the holiday. I buy all my kids a yearly Hallmark ornament so that’s part of my birth daughter’s gift each year.‬”

Betty P. now has a very open adoption since reuniting with her adult son, “ Logan celebrates Christmas with us the day before Christmas Eve so that it doesn’t interfere with his adoptive family’s Christmas celebrations. It doesn’t matter to us when we celebrate, only that we do.‬”

As you can see, traditions can be celebrated in ways that fit each adoption situation. The commonality is the thought and time spent sending love to our birth children in one way or another. Whether in person, over the internet, or through a package in the mail, holiday traditions are one way to be present in our birth child’s life after placement.

What is your adoption holiday tradition? Do you have a visit? Send a special gift?