Family traditions can be comforting. They are something that we can count on that gives us a sense of place, of security. Family dynamics or external circumstances can change, however, and we can outgrow these traditions. So-called "entrances and exits," such as divorce, the birth of a baby, marriage, or a loved-one's death, alter family dynamics. Financial constraints due to job loss or a hike in the cost of plane tickets home also might force us to take a look at our traditions and see what needs changing.
Examining our traditions to decide on their appropriateness to our current family system can be scary. Some people have a hard time with change. However, sticking with outmoded traditions can put pressure and stress on us, taking away from our enjoyment of the holidays.
Here are some things to consider:
1. To Bake or Not to Bake
Is spending a whole day baking Christmas cookies something you look forward to? If the answer is yes, fantastic. Do it. If you feel your blood pressure rising at the thought, how about skipping it this year?
2. The Feast
Along the same lines as the cookies, do you really enjoy making the whole holiday dinner? If not, you're in luck. There are many options such as organizing a potluck, ordering a pre-made meal from a grocery store, or even grabbing the family and heading to a restaurant to celebrate, budget-allowing.
Speaking of budgets, how much are you comfortable spending on holiday gifts? If you don't feel that you can afford to give a present to everyone in your family and circle of friends, what about just shopping for the kids? Or, picking "Secret Santas" and just buying for one person? Some families have chosen to "take back" Christmas from its current focus on commercialism and not exchange gifts at all.
4. Making Memories
A family-focused activity can be a rich and rewarding way to spend time over the holidays. Getting off the couch to head outside for some exercise (ie: snowshoeing, hiking, ice skating) can decrease stress levels and foster family bonds.
Other traditions to examine are how much to decorate and whether or not to send out holiday cards. Again, if you love the traditions that you and your family engages in, enjoy them fully! If you find stress creeping in at the thought of them, though, consider why you are still doing them. Decreasing stress and ceasing engaging in unrewarding activities just because "that's the way we've always done it in my family" can truly lighten your load and make your holiday more fulfilling. Happy Holidays!
(To hear my interview on Broad Topics Radio, click here and download the 12/14/11 podcast.)