What does Christmas mean to you? When you think of the holidays do you instantly connect with fond memories and traditions, those things that you could count on year after year?
Maybe it was a certain recipe that was made or putting up the tree as a family.
If asked what would you say are your family’s holiday traditions now?
I was speaking with a client the other day who stated that her children were upset because she was too busy this year to do some of the things that she always done with them, their traditions. She stated to me that she was stressed with all the gifts and everything that needed to get done and they would just need to get over it because she can’t do everything.
I suggested she take a step back and look at what her children were really asking her for, which was something we all seek, to be taken somewhere familiar, a place where you can return to each year, your traditions.
We can get so caught up doing the next thing on our list that we forget to stop and make time for things that may not seem important at that very moment. Things like baking cookies together, taking a road trip to look at lights or simply watching a holiday movie together all seem innocuous enough but can be very important in a time when children, even grown children are receiving less and less personal time with their parents.
I think that we can agree that for most of us Christmas has a much different focus then when we were younger.
My mom did not worry so much about getting the perfect gift. She went to a store, found a couple things she thought we would like and headed home. What is funny is that years later I can only remember a Thumbelina doll and a stuffed monkey out of all the presents I received over all the years.
What I do remember is she and my aunt baking cookies together every year and allowing me to help them frost them. I remember the smell of the suitcase that held all our ornaments which was opened up just before we all decorated our tree, I remember watching the Wizard of Oz on television together at Christmas time and I remember that Christmas day we were always together with my aunt, uncle and cousins all eating in the dining room with a table beautifully set with my mom’s prize possession, Candlewick china, that signaled immediately it was a special occasions.
I am wondering if we have taken enough time to share with our children or spouses stories of our own, memories of the holidays? Have you stopped to think about the memories you are creating today, if any? What traditions will transcend your lifetime? Are we missing an opportunity to share all those special things that our parents did, simple things that we will carry in our hearts until the end of our days, simply because we are too busy and they slip to the bottom of our list.
If we asked our family what they received for Christmas gifts over the past few years do you think they would remember? Unless it was something truly special, I doubt they could rattle off a list.
Things like clothes and toys are usually replaced by new things to dream about owning for the next Christmas.
What remains with us throughout our lifetimes are memories and traditions, these are the real gifts we give our children and these are the only gifts that will remain with them long after we have gone.
Even if they don’t seem all that interested in participating at that moment I can tell you that their attitude will eventually change and these traditions, things we do as a family, will be remembered years after.
Traditions allows a marker in years that fly by too quickly. Much like looking at old Christmas card pictures it is a point of reference to return to throughout all our lives. It makes everyone feel as if they have come from somewhere important, that they belong and that they have a history.
So where do you begin if you have no traditions now? Think up something fun. Something as small as baking cookies together or going to see Christmas lights and then home for hot cocoa or a winter walk together. It doesn’t need to be expensive just something that you can commit to doing each and every year.
Make it an event by taking about the date in advance, speak often about what you are planning so that everyone has a chance to look forward to it with joyful anticipation. Your attitude will be an important part of the event so don’t expect perfection.
If you have traditions you currently practice ask yourself, is there a reason behind what you do? Many times our traditions are based upon our heritage, often these are things our spouses and children know nothing about. Talk with your parents and grandparents, ask them what their Christmas was like growing up and what sticks out in their minds as their traditions, allow them to share these with your family.
Ask your family if there is anything new they would like to add as a new tradition but remember that you will need to commit to doing it each year.
Keep in mind you are making memories and those can’t be purchased, they are created by spending time together and no amount of money can buy traditions that will remain in you heart.
So pick a date today and make some memories happen. This is not a chore, have some fun with it, take some pictures each year, create those markers in your life.
Put it on your calendar as a reminder for next year because before you know it your children will be grown with children of their own and they will be need these pieces in their lives to look back upon.
It seems like it gets harder and harder to hold onto those things that bind us together as a family. We need to make the time to purposefully share with our children what we were gifted with many years ago, traditions and memories.
That is what makes life more beautiful!