As families, we create rituals and traditions daily. When the holidays arrive, traditions help us work together and, best of all, create a sense of joy
Holiday traditions make sense of these frantic days. They allow children and adults alike to take stock, remember what is important, and enjoy the season.
Children look to rituals to anchor their lives. Simple acts such as sitting down to supper, reading bedtime stories, and singing songs in the car quickly take on significance for youngsters.
Holiday traditions - indeed all family traditions - are built around beliefs and values. They represent expressions of love, hope, and solidarity.
Children sense the need for tradition and ritual early on. This desire to carve order and sense from daily activities makes us human. When the holidays come around, ritual and tradition take on larger-than-life significance
If you decorate cookies or cut down your own Christmas tree when the children are very little, chances are they will consider these "traditions."
They will expect you to repeat the activity year after year - and a tradition will be born.
You can establish traditions deliberately. Talk to your spouse, your parents, and your siblings and decide what is most important to you.
If you decide that midnight mass on Christmas Eve is a tradition you want to establish, start when the children are young. If you decide to make Hanukkah gifts every year, encourage the children to do so from a young age.
You may decide that it's important to get together with grandparents and cousins on Christmas Day or the last night of Hanukkah.
On the other hand, you may feel it's more in keeping with your expectations to celebrate these times at home with only your immediate family.
You can arrange a special day or event during the holidays to connect with the extended family or close friends. This could be a skating party, a movie night, or an afternoon get-together to exchange gifts, play games, or enjoy a casual meal.
Some holiday traditions remain static from year to year. Young adults still expect their parents to celebrate the holidays as they remember.
Nevertheless, it's human nature for change to make its mark on even the most entrenched traditions. People move, families grow, grandparents age.
Cookie decorating and notes for Santa may go by the wayside for a number of years - but chances are they will resurface with the next generation of youngsters.
Modified traditions can be just as meaningful to families. They evolve naturally from earlier ones, reminding us of that the passage of years does not mean the erosion of the family.
Being able to change with the times indicates a strong, centered, and involved family. A smaller tree, fewer folks around the holiday table, or Christmas or Hanukkah celebrated in a warmer climate does not erase the meaning of these holidays.
With a little thought and care, your holiday traditions will be joyful and meaningful.