Basking in the Glow of Family Traditions

As we enter into December, we move into high gear for another holiday season, and all that comes along with it: the joy, the stress, the commercialism, the exhaustion, the magic, the rush… As the month whizzes along, we tend to get swept away with the tide, and then heave a giant sigh of relief as it passes. 

Family traditions are what the most cherished childhood memories are made of. Take the time to sit down with your beloved to make a calendar of the holiday activities dearest to your family’s heart. Discuss your priorities so that you are able to simplify as much as possible, the days ahead.
Create two lists: Things you thinkyou have to do, and things you want to do. The idea of this exercise is to take some of the pressure off. For example, do you truly hate the office Christmas party? If so, why take the time from your family to put yourself through that? Are you sending cards because you want to, or do you feel obligated to? Can it wait until the beginning of the year, or even Valentines Day? I used to start at the beginning of my address book one year and at the end the next. 
By whittling down your to do list, you allow more time for the things that are meaningful to you and yours. The following ideas are simple, fun, and inexpensive.

  • Make Christmas cookies. Don’t have time? Use the ready made cookie dough found in the dairy case.

  • Make a gingerbread house. Graham crackers and canned frosting make an easy shortcut! 
  • Help your child make cranberry relish, fudge, or other gifts from the kitchen.

  • Rather than hosting an elaborate party, gather a group of friends to go Christmas caroling and invite them in for cookies and wassail-a traditional hot spiced fruit punch.

  • Go to a tree farm or ask a friend with land for permission to have a winter woodland adventure, perhaps even to cut your own tree. 
  • Start a collection of ornaments for each child, letting him/her pick out or make a new one each year. This creates a store of wonderful memories to be taken into their adult lives.

  • Take an “ooh and aahh ride” to check out the Christmas light displays around the village. 
  • Pick out a few select holiday videos and avoid those commercials! 
  • Make a collage with old holiday greeting cards; or weave place mats with construction paper, decorate with stickers, and cover with clear contact paper.
  • Make your own wrapping paper using post consumer newsprint or fabric, and gift tags using old greeting cards.
  • Make something special for your child. Keep it simple: a drawstring bag, a travel pillow, a painted tee shirt, a bird house, a card… Gifts made by you especially for them are the ones they remember.
Children enjoy the opportunity to get creative, and love making special presents for those most dear to them. When kids have made gifts that they feel excited about, they experience on a heartfelt level that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

If you can bring yourself to leave the TV off, not only will you have created more time for yourselves, you will cut down on the whining for this or that without the constant exposure to commercials.

Even if you do not participate in the religious aspect of the Holiday, share with your child the Story of Christmas. It is a basic element in the culture of our society. Coincidental with the Christmas holiday season is the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, or Hanukkah, as well as Ramadan, an Islamic celebration. There are many good stories and books about these important holidays. Don’t forget the valuable resource we have in the Public Library.

When things start becoming too frantic in your house, take a little break for a read with your children. The investment of your time will pay off and they will return the time you need to complete your task!

Above all, keep in mind that Time is the greatest gift you can give your family. 

To this day, our grown sons insist upon watching A Charlie Brown Christmas and the old Grinch cartoon once they have returned home for the holidays. As we decorate the tree, they pick out the ornaments they have each received over the years, and reminisce about growing up together. We still gather in the kitchen to make my great grandmother’s cookies, and drink wassail with childhood friends. 

Each Christmas morning they sit cramped in the stairwell, until we are all ready and the annual photo shoot documents their anticipation- not of what they will receive, but reaction to gifts they have chosen for each other. And in my mind, there is a time lapse vision of my childhood, and those of my parents and grandparents, as well as future generations, for I’m certain that the boys will take these traditions into their new lives.

Here’s wishing you and yours a blessed Holiday Season filled with love and warm memories.- RDW (11-19-09)

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