By Mary Dravis-Parrish
Here come the holidays! Whether its Halloween, Thanksgiving or the Christmas season, families and friends come together to celebrate using rituals and traditions. For many this means fulfilling traditions that have been handed down from year to year, even generation to generation. Some of these traditions still spark excitement, adventure and fun as we celebrate. And some are still done just because it is what is expected.
As I have become more consciously aware of my choices, I have begun to question our traditions and if they are in the best interest of myself and my family. I am also inviting families to look at the traditions currently being celebrated and consider their value and whether they might be changed to suit the times or even kept if they serve their purpose. We as parents often hold onto traditions for the sake of our children, when in fact children often enjoy new experiences mixed in with the old ones. To include young ones in the planning of the celebrations allows them to feel empowered as a valued member of the family. This is also an excellent way to review the choices made afterwards with questions like: How did it work out? Is it worth doing again? How can we do it differently next time?
When circumstances in life create major changes- divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job or even relocation – lives change and so does how one approaches it. Nothing appears to be the same as it was and yet there can be a deep desire to hold onto anything that could make it seem as if life hadn’t changed. This includes how holidays are celebrated.
I recall the first holiday after my son had died, I found myself trying to hold onto the same traditions as if it would keep my life the same as it was before. But my life wasn’t the same. And then I told myself I needed to keep things as much the same as I could for the sake of my younger son. Looking back that wasn’t being fair to either of us to try to create an illusion that our lives would be the same, when in reality our lives would never be the same. He even told me that he didn’t want to do the same traditions that we had before. I began to be more willing to explore other ways of celebrating. For some years that meant that we didn’t do much of anything. We found we were happy just spending time together. It was some years before we put up a Christmas tree or did a little decorating. This was what we needed then and with each passing year, we have been able to reflect on what we would like to do each year.
The very meaning of the word, tradition, implies that we take on the ideas that our ancestors handed down about how to celebrate the holidays. We may have decided that there is a right and wrong way to celebrate dependent on our ancestry or how things had been handed down and evolved from there. This is not meant to dismiss our ancestral tradition. Reflecting on traditions allows us the opportunity to check in and see how well they are working for us today. Are there some ways to make old traditions more adaptable to current times?
Here are some questions that you and your family may consider:
- What does this holiday mean to us? Do my children value this holiday as I do?
- What do we want to receive from the experience of celebrating the holiday season?
- Are there some other possibilities that we would like to pursue?
- Are these traditions creating more stress for me and my family as we try to live up to the expectations of the past?
- What would we like to let go of and what would we like to keep as the holiday season approaches?
- What new ideas of creativity, adventure and fun can we create?
Ask if there is there an expectation that comes with holding onto a tradition? An example might be; People are expecting me to send out greeting cards. If I don’t they will be disappointed. Is this even true? Are you sending cards to keep people happy or are you sending cards because you really like sending them and they are a way for you to stay connected? The choice is yours.
If you struggle with letting go and doing something different, you may ask some questions:
- What am I afraid I might lose if I do something different?
- What am I holding onto that I truly need to let go of so that something different can occur?
- How can I be more comfortable with change?
It doesn’t have to take a life changing event for a family to begin to create new ways of celebrating. Life is constantly changing, and when we can change with it, we teach our children to have more flexibility and willingness to do what will work best for them, whether it is choosing friends, making future plans or choosing how to celebrate the holidays. The possibilities are endless.