Holiday Traditions

HappyHolidays2I have been thinking a lot lately about why the traditions of the holiday season are so important. Part of this was fueled by my children’s excitement when I unpacked our holiday decorations; they oohed and aahhed over our Christmas cookie jars and had extensive conversations with one another about whose Christmas stocking was better (their debate ended in a tie).

Then, as if reading my mind,  I received an email from Minimalist Parenting authors Asha Dornfest and Christine Koh that addressed just this topic. Asha wrote:

What makes the holidays meaningful for your kids? …For my kids, it’s two things: specialness (the ritual only happens on certain occasions) and repetition (the ritual happens every time). For them, the joy is in the anticipation of the ritual, and the familiarity once it’s underway.

I also think rituals foster a feeling of belonging; “this is something my family does every year” … The dependability of the ritual is more important than the amount of work involved.

I completely agreed with Asha’s words, and they made me reflect on the holiday rituals that we embrace each year, especially those I’ve consciously carried on from my childhood. I’ve talked about some already here on Red Shutters: our gingerbread house and holiday cards. A few of my other favorites include:

1. Christmas Eve: Our tradition is to attend Church on Christmas Eve (the kids are in the pageant this year!), followed by opening just one gift. Opening the gift started when I was a child (perhaps 11), after my brother (around 8) and I had figured out the truth about Santa Claus. If there wasn’t a Santa Claus, my brother realized, that meant all of the presents were already in our house! He went particularly nuts about this, so my parents decided opening one present would tide him over to morning. Thus, a tradition was born!

2. Pajamas: This is a fairly recent addition to our holiday traditions, but already I’m a big fan. Last year, I purchased matching red and green striped pajamas for the kids to wear to bed on Christmas Eve. They loved them, and have continued to wear them throughout the year. This Christmas, I’ve gotten all four of us matching red and white striped pajamas (my husband is beyond thrilled), and I have to confess that this might be the part of Christmas (other than being with family) that I am looking forward to the most.

3. Holiday Decorations: This year, my mom passed along boxes of her Christmas decorations in a movement toward downsizing. It was bittersweet to take so many special things from her, and she found it hard to say good-bye to some of those items. They are now mixed in with the decorations I have accumulated over the years, and they fill our house with memories and with love.

4. J-Cake: The “J-Cake” as we affectionately call it is my mother’s famous coffee cake. It is, hands down, my favorite food in the entire world. It tastes like love, family, Christmas, and happiness all rolled up into one bite–though it is impossible to eat just one bite. I have reserved December 23 for baking numerous J-Cakes with my mom and kids.

5. Christmas Lights: Oh, I wish I could talk my husband into decorating our house with way over the top Christmas lights! I’ve pitched a few ideas at him (a light up Santa and reindeer for the roof!), and he just smiles. Then, he, thankfully (I guess), trims our house with tasteful white lights. But those lights make me smile every single day. And, maybe next year, I’ll get those reindeer.

I’m looking forward to hearing which traditions my children appreciate the most this year. Will it be the J-Cake? The new PJs? Or something else?

Searching for new traditions to share with your family this holiday season? Here are some great ideas to consider.

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