Mother and Daughter Decorating the TreeWhen the holiday season approaches, many people start looking forward to their favorite traditions. Others, however, start to feel a sense of impending dread along with the excitement. When your anticipation of the upcoming festivities leans more toward resignation than enjoyment, stop to reconsider how your family spends this special time of the year. By evaluating your current traditions and making room for new habits that may be more meaningful to you, you can both experience and spread more cheer.

Examine Your Traditions

If you are feeling less than joyful about the upcoming season, it's important to figure out why. Does the pressure to find the perfect gift or the competition among members of your extended family about who can find the best present leave you stressed and anxious? Does your pocketbook feel the strain of all the extra celebrations everyone expects? Does your annual family baking day always seem to end in frustration, tears and a big mess that you are left to clean up by yourself? If any of these scenarios sound familiar, you're not alone. Most people have at least one aspect of the holiday season that they'd rather skip. Ask each family member to identify which traditions they could happily do without and schedule a family meeting to talk about them. Make a decision together about what to keep, what to adjust so that it's more fun for everyone and what to throw out.

Seek Opportunities To Give

The chance to give back to your community is rarely more advertised than during the holidays, and service may be just the tradition your family needs to add. Citizens in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand celebrate Boxing Day the day after Christmas. Historically, this observance was an opportunity for wealthy patrons to box up the abundance of their holiday feasts to give to their workers to enjoy with their own families, but modern families can celebrate by donating food to local food pantries or volunteering at soup kitchens. Churches can take up special donations to make an extra contribution to the local groups they work with that serve the less fortunate. Even something as simple as making cookies to deliver to those whose jobs are busier at the holidays, such as first responders or those who work at hospitals, can be something meaningful to do as a family.

Make Time for Quiet

In your quest to find traditions that hold special significance for your family, don't forget to leave time to rest. For many people, adding to an already busy calendar is the thing they most dread about the holidays. Making space for some quiet time or intentionally leaving one or several free nights a week to spend at home may be all it takes to help you enjoy the season better. If you need a specific activity so that you are not tempted to pencil something else in during your nights off, opt for something easy and relaxing. For example, in Iceland, families observe the tradition of Jolabokaflod, which involves the gift of books and a quiet evening spent reading on Christmas Eve. It can even be as simple as a weekly night set aside to watch each family member's favorite holiday movie while eating popcorn or takeout from a local restaurant. No matter how much you love your active traditions, you may find yourself looking forward to the peaceful ones more.

No matter what traditions you observe, there is no reason you should have to settle for a season that begins with low spirits or leaves you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Intentionally choosing habits and traditions that serve your family well is more likely to give you all the holiday experiences you want.

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