At this time of year we often fall back on the celebration habits we have formed over time. Read on for ideas of how to reinvent holiday traditions in ways that serve you!

Christmas Cheer Tradition

I started an alternate holiday tradition when my children were young. I wanted to get them away from the overbearing glitter and consumerism all around. A spiral of greens in our family living room with a big candle in the center became the vehicle for a darkness-to-light ritual.

Each person around the circle held an unlit candle, walked slowly and carefully in the dark to the light, lit their candle and helped to light up the room by placing their now lighted candle along the spiral, creating a mysterious and personal experience of the darkest time of the year.

Now, twenty years later, I still hold this yearly ritual with friends. The quiet dark time around the spiral has morphed into a time of silent meditation, a sharing of inspirational poems, songs, music, a personal account of what moves one from dark to light.

The spiral has been simplified to accommodate difficulty of movement for some, but the atmosphere is still the same – an evening of wonder and probing of life’s mysteries.

The Gift Giving Holiday Tradition

One Christmas the $30 wok my son gifted his sister traveled across the country four times before the right wok ended up in her home two weeks after Christmas. The silliness and extravagance of such gift-giving was obvious and as a family we decided to forego the gift guessing and the FedEx flurry of shipping items over long distances.

We only share gifts when we spent time together, holiday or not. Now I let fun activities of the year lead to my gifting. I collect healing flowers on a summer day and infuse them in oil. This mixture is easily turned into a magic salve at Christmas time. When the harvest is abundant, dried fruit turns into trail mix.

Photos I take on my travels are made into note cards and bundled as gifts. I let the mood and my energy dictate what I make as presents and I always seem to end up with a supply of small, fun gifts for friends or family. Oh, and how about letting people know their gift is a donation to a favorite charity in their name? Now that’s a win!

The Holiday Party Tradition

Do you feel overwhelmed by holiday party traditions? Don’t stay home; incorporate the party into your life. Walk to the party and stay for just a short while. Put your dressy shoes in a bag and wear your walking shoes! You’ll get your exercise in under starry skies and can enjoy some of the food and drink that is served without feeling guilty. Ask if you can bring a friend. Invite someone you know who doesn’t have much of a social life around the holidays and turn the party into relationship-building opportunity for others. A win-win!

The Food and Drink Tradition

Do you love all the goodies that get served up around the holidays? Like most of us past age 60, if you want to end up in January without gaining weight you have to watch the food intake. I have found my antidote for the weight gain. I join a rowing machine challenge between Thanksgiving and Christmas and work out daily on the rowing machine accumulating miles, which turn into charity contributions as I row.

If you don’t belong to a club, get together with your friends and set up a challenge – walk miles, ride the stationary bike, do push-ups, sit-ups, whatever. Pick a goal and keep each other posted. A month is doable. A goal with an end reward, or charitable contributions is motivating. You can eat and drink modestly and not feel guilty. This is a win-win-win, because you’ll be ahead of the New Year’s resolutions and in shape for a spring adventure or activity you might want to do!

What holiday traditions enrich your experience and relationships during this time of the year? Do any rituals have a special significance to you or your family? Are there traditions you have re-imagined and adapted over time? Please share your thoughts with the community.

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