When I was a young mother with children ages five, three and one, I remember distinctly putting pressure on myself to create the perfect holiday celebration in every way. At the time, our family celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas, and I spent the majority of the month baking pretty cookies, amassing large gift piles for each child, and frantically making sure all of our relatives/friends were also remembered. While the holiday season was no doubt festive, it was also expensive, overblown, and tiring. (And at times, yours truly was just a bit cranky and resentful!) As time passed, I became more focused on family traditions and rituals that could ground my family and create lasting impression. I began to realize that the holiday season would be so much more meaningful if certain traditions became exclusively ours, and included participation from everyone!
Traditions and rituals are repeated activities over the course of time that help create a feeling of stability, belonging, and comfort. For all families, traditions are very powerful. If ritual activities and events are connected to holidays, they become etched forever in the memory of young children. I am not advocating giving up gift giving, or hanging those beautiful decorations, but rather encourage all to consider shifting the holiday focus just a tad, to the idea of family tradition. Adding a ritual or two to your existing traditions, can really enhance meaning to the experience. Contemplate adopting or tweaking one of the ideas below to become your own family tradition:
This is something I actually did with my own children for many years. (it became the inspiration for the LANK book fair PJ party) Our family hosted an evening neighborhood pajama party. All wore PJ’s and enjoyed hot chocolate and animal crackers. No need for fancy food or décor! We read several different holiday stories, (Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, etc…) and played dreidel.
Need a stocking stuffer?
Write kind notes to each other or draw pictures that can be hidden inside stockings. There is nothing better than a hand written note. This can also be extended to cards – a family friend of mine had each of her children illustrate something for the family holiday greeting card; which was them printed and mailed to family /friends. Each year’s card was very unique and the children felt personally connected to the mailing.
Play a game or include a yearly activity
I recently asked my adult children and son-in-law to recall a favorite memory from the holiday season. My son–in-law mentioned a family football game, while my daughter recalled several; playing a family game of Monopoly, the annual drive to look at holiday lights, or the family circle in which each person said aloud something to be thankful for. Interestingly, no one mentioned a “gift” in their holiday reflections.
Wishing all a wonderful holiday season, filled with tradition, ritual, and strengthened family bonds.