I was lucky to grow up in a country where people of many religions live together in harmony. Growing up, our neighbors were our extended family. Although we did not celebrate Christmas in our family, I have many fond memories from my childhood surrounding this wonderful holiday, thanks to my neighbors. We made cookies with them and watched the decorations light up the beautiful nativity scene. The midnight mass held a special mystery. How could kids my age stay up past mid night? And then of course there was Santa. It all seemed so magical!
Now raising a family of my own in this country, we have created new traditions that fuse both eastern and western traditions. In our house the lights go up during Diwali and stay up well past this Hindu holiday through Christmas and come down only after New Year’s Day. We decorate the house twice, once with Diwali oil lamps and then in December with Christmas lights. There are two types of holiday sweets and simple traditions that go with each pretty much back to back.
That is the magic of traditions. They are important to create and maintain because
1) Traditions create memories that last a lifetime.
2) They create a family identity. Each family gets to add their own touch that makes the holiday unique to their home.
3) Traditions create a bond between family members and can even bring communities together.
4) They connect generations.
5) Traditions are a way to pass on family culture and heritage.
6) They are a way to teach values to younger generations.
7) Most of all, traditions have a way to elevate everyone’s spirits over the mundane.
For a couple starting a new family, holidays are a great opportunity to start their own traditions. They are the grown-ups now who will make new rules to be followed. Someone will be looking up to them and will follow these new rules.
To many new parents, holiday traditions seem daunting. Mostly because they are exhausted with chores and sleep deprivation. Starting new traditions is the last thing on their minds. Take heart, traditions are built over time. They don’t have to measure up to anyone’s expectations or done in any specific way. And they are actually a lot more fun when you involve your little ones. If you ask kids about their family traditions, they usually remember the little things, like holiday get-togethers with cousins, visiting the Christmas tree farm to pick a tree and then stopping on the way back for hot cocoa from a “special” café, putting up decorations together or “special” holiday bed-time stories. That’s what holidays traditions are for, simple yet lasting memories.
To young families starting new tradition here are a few tips:
1) Rest well to be in your best spirits. Creating and maintaining something intentional requires energy, else traditions get developed without much thought or meaning.
2) Find a purpose, then personalize it. For instance, create tradition that symbolize family unity, thankfulness towards one another, giving back, social responsibility.
3) Involve kids to make it fun and to personalize the traditions. For example, developing a theme for handmade decorations or forsaking a toy or two for the kids or a gift for grown-ups, to help at the food pantry.
4) Start small and grow over time. For parents with infants or toddlers, you may decorate the Christmas tree while they nap and then spend some time near the tree after they wake up and see their eyes light up. You can introduce your little one to the word “traditions” while you turn their handprint into an ornament for them to hang or make a paper Christmas tree and mark how they have grown on it year after year.
Sleep and wellness play a large role in developing traditions especially with little ones. Kids will be kids, so be patient. They may not want to participate or you may have many reasons to give up a tradition that was tough to get through last year. So rest up this holiday season and look forward to developing your own unique traditions that will unite your family and last a lifetime for your kids to trade stories about, well into their grown up years. Instead of striving to be perfect to meet expectations, define a new perfect. You will be thankful you did.