Creating Meaningful Family Holiday Traditions
Holiday traditions are not unlike any other traditions. They are powerful ways to share our hearts and values through our actions, creating the beginnings of memories and love legacies to share with our family and friends. There are a few basic components that open the door to great new, life-changing and fulfilling events.
Cherish any standing gift of family tradition. Bathe your children in them by sharing the traditions of your culture and family along with the stories of years past. Laugh about that time your grandmother gave your aunt the sweater your mother had given her the year before, when your family drew names. Relish the warmth of the priceless moments of trips to the homes of lost loved ones. Let your son wear the waxed canvas apron your dad once wore to fry turkeys. Sing the holiday songs, bake the recipes, play the games, take the trips. Don’t just toss the old; those traditions were in place for a reason. Tap into that. Recreate it.
But, be sure your traditions are authentic and still reflective of your family’s values. It makes no sense to go apple picking if you have no time to do anything with the apples and they rot into mush on your counter top. It is a waste to make a huge family dinner if you don’t enjoy cooking or if you have given your family food poisoning at any point; Thanksgiving Pizza might be doing your family a big favor. It is a terrible idea to go digging around in your savings account to pay for pricey gifts if your family values are centered around minimalism. Whatever you do, know this: your traditions, no matter the time of the year, are an opportunity to fill your lives with even more joy, so make them meaningful!
Shake it up! Do something new. Ask your family if they have things they would like to do. You do not have to go out and buy anything, even though advertisers would like you to. You do not have to check off the holiday checklist of what has been done in the movies. Create what you would like more of. If your love language is “Quality Time,” take your family on a road trip or just a long hike with a picnic lunch. If your husband’s love language is “Acts of Service,” perhaps you can bedazzle his car with a little extra care before he chauffeurs you over to your next holiday party. Have fun with this! Incorporate love languages of others so your traditions can be even more powerful!
Reasonable and Repeatable Traditions
These two things are so closely knit that we cannot mention one without the other. If you are seeking traditions to pass along, make these traditions fun and feasible. Nobody wants to expend a lot of time, effort, money, or energy on any tradition that isn’t a labor of love. Remember, these traditions are for you and your family for years to come. If you try something new and it turns out to be a bust, be thankful for the lesson and try something new next year. Keep it simple and enjoy!
This is a great opportunity for your legacy to get really big! This could be your chance to change lives – lots of them! Often, community groups have charity events that you and your family can take part in. You could also have a long-lasting and far-reaching tradition, like sewing scarves for the homeless or taking your kids to work at a food bank. Is there a special charity that tugs at your heart strings? Is there a family on your mind with a special need that you would like to help with? These are all meaningful and big activities that can be invested in as a family, with lifetime dividends.
Just think of how many mothers take daughters every year for Black Friday shopping and it becomes a special day of the year, belonging to only them (and the millions of others waiting for “door-buster” bargains). Cookies need to be baked. Gifts need to be wrapped. Special meals need to be prepared. Do not discount the precious memories born of necessity. If there is anything you have to do during the upcoming holidays, ask yourself this very simple question: “How can I make this even more fun?”
It is OK to reform.
If your extended family wants to draw names for gifts, it is perfectly fine if you ask that this year’s gifts be “Take, Make, or Bake.” This is a breath of fresh air for families that would rather take a day trip to the beach than buy a gift that will quickly find it’s way to Goodwill. It is also incredible to make a gift that will serve as a keepsake for years to come. Can’t we all agree that homemade picture frames and construction paper cards are priceless? Baked goods are always sought after gifts and there are so many options to personalize something precious.
The More, the Merrier.
Take a tradition you have and multiply the joy with adding some neighbors, friends, a single soldier away from home, or a geographically misplaced colleague. This will instantly bring richness and, bonus, they can share their traditions too. Who knows? Perhaps you will add their tradition to your repertoire next year!
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