Make Christmas Traditions Your Own

At times, Christmas can feel like one of the most hectic, stressful and crazy times of year. There's the decorating, cooking, baking, hosting, visiting, gift buying, doing the party circuit, card writing and family visits. The list goes on. It can be enough to make your Christmas feel like this:

Well, perhaps not with so many cops, guns or crotch-grabbing (or maybe so, I don't know what you're into). If there's a certain chaos and craziness to the scene above that you can't help but relate to, here is the first instalment to help you tame your holidays and make them something you look forward to with calm anticipation, starting with Christmas traditions.

Traditions are sets of beliefs and behaviours that are handed down from the past within a group such as a family, a society, a country, or a nationality. Traditions can continue and evolve over many years with some lasting for thousands of years. Traditions typically hold symbolic meanings and can represent a connection with a time in the past from which they originated. Some common examples of traditions include the observing of holidays and the wearing of certain clothes or eating of certain food to mark important occasions. A great example of a tradition is a birthday party. 

Many traditions are actually started on purpose, and as our lives change, so can our traditions. Some traditions we observe are relatively new, some are old, some can feel stale, others can generate fear and panic while yet others can feel comforting and warm like a familiar, well-worn sweater.

One thing you can do to make Christmas a time to look forward to and not as something to dread is to think about your Christmas traditions and whether they are helping make your holidays special and meaningful, or just stressful and daunting. Here is a way to do that:

As a family, make a list of your holiday traditions. 

These can range from simple traditions like opening one gift on Christmas Eve, to more intricate traditions, like helping to set up and host a feast for your large extended family.

Write down and describe the different parts of your traditions

such as decorations, food, clothes that are worn, people that are there, the location, the date, the time and what usually happens at the event.

Talk to each other about the traditions on your list.

If you have big list, choose one or two traditions to talk about. What do you like about each tradition? What don't you like? If you like driving around the neighbourhood to look at the lights on Christmas Eve, share with your family about why that's fun for you. Maybe you love spending time with your family and talking together in the car with the lights being an added bonus. 

Talk about why you observe each tradition.

Is it for fun? Does it hold special meaning to you and your family, or have you lost touch with why you observe it every year? How do you feel about each tradition? Maybe your kids love going to the children's Christmas party at your office while you dread taking them because you know you'll have to deal with the ensuing sugar bender. 

If a few of your traditions aren't big winners on the list, that's okay.

You don't have to love every tradition. You don't have to even like every tradition either. You aren't bound to any tradition just because you've been doing it forever. If any of your traditions are not creating a meaningful, special holiday for you and instead bring about genuine stress, apprehension, anxiety, fear, fighting or (inappropriate) tears for you or anyone in your family 

you may want to consider whether that tradition should change or even continue at all.

If you do decide to stop a particular tradition remember that it's perfectly okay.

Consider what you're letting go of: stress, anxiety, tears, or even fighting. Is any tradition worth keeping for the sake of appearances if it brings on arguing or crying?

If you decide to change an existing tradition,

decide what parts work and what parts aren't working and change what isn't working. Don't feel that the whole thing has to go just because one part isn't going as smoothly as you'd like.

For example, my husband and I both agree that it's important to decorate our Christmas tree together. This year he told me that he doesn't enjoy helping me decorate the tree because we have to hang what I call 'filler' ornaments first. Those are the cheap plastic ornaments I bought for us because I love having lots of ornaments on the tree. He finds this boring and it doesn't help to make Christmas meaningful to him. All it did was make it so we were both unhappy about decorating the tree. I learned that what my husband does enjoy is hanging all of the special and unique ornaments that we've collected over the years and given to one another as presents. He loves to talk about each ornament as he finds a special place to hang it on the tree. This year we agreed that I would hang all of the 'filler' ornaments while he would work outside, and I would call him in when the time came to hang the special ones. It ended up being a win-win: I got to hang all the 'filler' ornaments just the way I wanted to while listening to music I love, he got to work outside and get the deck shoveled like he wanted to, and we both got to hang up our special decorations and enjoy a beautiful tree without any frustration, complaining, boredom or arguing.

As a final thought, why not start your own Christmas tradition?

Find something you love about Christmas and build a tradition of your very own around it. Get creative and even a little silly together. A tradition based on creativity and silliness can be one of the most enjoyable parts of your holiday and one you will look forward to every year.

As another example, I love Christmas get-togethers, but I dislike the general busyness, dressing up and complicated schedule juggling that goes along with them. The social aspect also tires me out quickly and I would always feel guilty for leaving early if I got too tired. Four years ago I decided that the solution was to host our own Christmas party and invite everyone with whom we wanted spend time during the holidays. We've been hosting a party between Christmas and the new year ever since. This way we get to connect with people who are special to us and show them a great time. Each year we put out a ton of food and drinks for our friends, we play a fun party game and give away prizes, make festive milkshakes, and overall have a great time. Last year we had so many guests sitting on our couch it actually broke. I considered this a great thing: we had so many wonderful friends sharing with us that our furniture broke. I still do go out to a few other get togethers, but I make sure that those I go to are ones that I really want to go to and I've ditched the parties where I would only be going for appearances sake. 

I think it's perfectly okay to make Christmas your own. Having a meaningful and special holiday season based on what brings you and your family happiness is worth far more than the effort of maintaining any tradition that brings about negative feelings and bad memories. Talking about your traditions together can become its own tradition that brings you and your family closer together and builds happy memories that you can look forward to making year after year. 

I'd love to hear about your holiday traditions. Tell me all about them in the comments. What do you love about them? What makes them meaningful to you? Which ones would you change, and why? Are there any you'd let go of this year? 

I'd love to hear about some of the traditions you've kept up over the years and why they are special to you.