SILVER SPRING, MD, November 10, 2011 – Holiday traditions we hold close to our hearts. They are things that we can count on and bring to mind memories, reminding us of both times and people that have passed. Some traditions may be fun, some may be tedious, some may be bits of distant past that you hold onto wistfully, hoping some day to recreate. The first holiday season with a new baby – whatever holiday, in whichever time of year that may be – is a good time to establish what traditions you are going to pass on, which you are going to leave behind and which you are going to adopt from your spouse or partner.
Dividing the holidays
If you haven’t run into holiday battles yet, requiring a dividing of holidays between sides of the family, now that the baby has arrived, you can bet that they will begin. There are ways to avoid big fights over who goes where and when.
First, you should assess what is realistic for your family. Consider cost, in terms of both money and time. You may not be able to afford to be jetting across the country – and with and infant or young child, you may not want to – or you may have limited guest space for visiting parents, in-laws, and siblings. Then again, maybe you live around the corner from your sister and next door to your mother.
Then decide if there are certain holidays that hold priority for you or your spouse. Is there a giant family reunion-style dinner every year for a specific holiday that you want your children to be experience? Does your long lost uncle fly back to the country once a year and only for a particular occasion? Are both families equally invested in the ritual and protocol of the holiday season, thus requiring an alternating of years?
Once you have determined which family have priority for which holidays, establish ground rules. Decide which holidays you are visiting relatives and which you are staying home. Let your family know that you’ll be alternating years, or which holidays to expect you every year. Communicating this up front helps prevent hurt feelings when you turn down an invitation and manages expectations.
A great alternative, if you have the space to accommodate, is to shift the center of holiday celebration. If you are able to host the celebration, then there is no need to decide which family to go to; you can have both come to you.
It also allows you to blend the traditions from both families’ celebrations into one event, and expose your child to the favorite traditions of both parents.
Some traditions you can take from one time into another. Others are things that you enjoyed, but are no longer practical or realistic. Maybe you enjoyed going ice skating on the frozen pond near your house the day after Christmas.
If you don’t live in a climate that permits this, or if the lake is no longer freezing over, consider going to an ice rink instead. Did you have a New Year’s tradition where your drove to all your relations’ houses to wish them a prosperous new year? How about a video chat via Skype instead, allowing you to reach those family members in other cities. Enjoy a large Christmas tree, but live in a small apartment that can’t accommodate it? Try a smaller potted evergreen that you can dress in a short strand of lights and a few smaller ornaments.
Then take your favorite ornaments that are too large and hang them in the windows using fishing line.
Another aspect to adapting traditions is age appropriateness. Your child will get too old to sit on Santa’s lap at some point, and a toddler will inevitably drop and break delicate tree ornaments. Make sure that you adjust and tweak traditions as your family changes. This also helps reduce the eye rolling when your children reach their teenage years.
For every tradition that you loved, there is a way to adapt them. You just have to get creative, and maybe you’ll find you like the new version better.
Create new traditions
While an important part of traditions is passing them down and continuing the practice, part of what makes those family rituals important to pass on is that they are enjoyable and meaningful to those involved. Everyone has seen the horrible holiday movies where everyone in the film, except for one person, finds the rituals of the season tedious or annoying.
Avoid this situation by banishing those that you don’t enjoy and inventing something new.
New traditions can be something small and specific to your family unit, like making table centerpieces for Thanksgiving, or making paper snowflakes to hang in the windows as winter decorations. Creating a tradition for your household gives your children something special, just for them. These traditions generally help create a sense of excitement and anticipation for children as the holiday approaches.
Your tradition creations can also extend to larger family practices. Change the menu at the holiday dinner. Don’t like cranberries? Serve a chutney instead. Don’t like pumpkin pie? Bake a new treat. Like the idea of exchanging gifts, but not the sense of monetary obligation? Instigate a handmade only rule. Like to sing, but hate the idea of caroling? Start an after dinner karaoke tradition in your living room. Want to have a New Year’s party, but no one wants to pay for a sitter? Invite the kids too and make it a slumber party for them.
Traditions are an important part of any holiday. Whether it’s going to a park to watch 4th of July fireworks, a poolside bar-b-ques on Labor Day, or a very particular stuffing in the Thanksgiving turkey, traditions create memories and a shared past with those involved. Without traditions, holidays become just another day in the year.
What are your favorite traditions? Have you created any new ones? Send me an email above and I will try to share them with Parenting The First Time Through readers.
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