Family traditions are the foundation of a happy holiday season, whether that means decorating a Christmas tree or sharing Christmas dinner, or giving gifts and lighting menorah candles for Hanukkah, or whatever your family does together to make the holidays special.
One of the privileges of being women over 60 is that we often are assuming the role of matriarchs for our families and extended families – and we get to be the leaders at the center of our family celebrations. So if you would like to try something new to make your family holiday celebration special this year, here are a few ideas for new holiday traditions that you can introduce to your loved ones:
Divorce and re-marriage have become more common in recent years, which makes blended families a growing trend. If you have a family celebration with new step-grandchildren or in-laws, it can be especially important to find a way to include everyone in the holiday tradition.
Perhaps, before a get-together, you could reach out to your blended family members and ask them for ideas – what kinds of holiday family traditions do they most enjoy celebrating on their side of the family, and how can you use the holidays as another way to bring the family closer together?
If you have a big family with lots of grandchildren, it can be fun to make sure that the kids are actively involved in the celebration. For example, you could have the grandkids tell the Christmas Story in a play or with a song, or have a “Holiday Talent Show” for all of the kids to sing a song, tell a joke, or share something special that they’ve been working on at school. Growing up as part of a big family can be stressful at holiday times, so it’s important to make kids feel like they are a part of things.
More families are experiencing interfaith marriages, cross-cultural marriages and other blending of families from different ethnic, cultural and lingual backgrounds. Look for ways to celebrate your family’s unique cultural diversity.
If you have in-laws who speak a different language than you, try to include them in the holiday celebration by learning a song or a holiday greeting in their native language, or watching a movie in their native language. Or try serving a diverse range of dishes from various cultures and countries represented by your family (or even representing the countries where your family has traveled).
The holidays are a wonderful time to broaden our perspectives and expand our sense of our place in the world. I have seen this in my own life, as my son moved to Moscow and I learned enough Russian to get by confidently during a visit to that country.
“Green” is not just the color of a Christmas tree, it’s the name of a social movement toward being more eco-friendly, recycling, and reducing our impact on the environment. If you have environmentally-conscious people in your family, look for ways to create a “green holiday” or “eco-friendly” celebration.
For example, you could provide compostable dishes (instead of plastic or paper plates), or you could purchase CO2 offsets (in the form of buying trees to be planted – check out organizations like TerraPass for more information on how this works) to help reduce the impact of the carbon emissions created by everyone traveling to get together for the holiday.
Or, instead of buying gifts (which are often heavily packaged with plastic and other non-eco-friendly materials), your family could start a new tradition of only giving each other handmade gifts that are sustainable and made by hand.
The holidays can be eco-friendly, and it doesn’t have to be about guilt and depriving yourself of fun; it can be about giving thanks to the Earth for our natural resources, our sense of abundance, and our ability to take meaningful action to improve our lives and help the environment.
The holidays can be a difficult time when your family is far flung – whether you live on other sides of the country or even on different continents, one important holiday tradition might be to use technology to bridge the distance between your family members.
For example, you could have a special holiday Skype chat to talk to each other “face to face” online, even though you can’t be present in the same room. Or you could have the whole family record a YouTube video and send the link to relatives who weren’t able to attend in person – kind of like an online video “greeting card.”
On the other hand, if your family is gathered around, perhaps everyone would benefit from taking a break from technology altogether. Try a new holiday tradition of making Christmas Day a “technology free day” so everyone can be fully present in the room together and spend time chatting, singing, eating and resting.
Sometimes the best way to spend time with your family is to shut out the everyday clutter and noise that technology brings – although technology has many wonderful attributes, even the most tech-savvy and interconnected families still need a break to enjoy some “real world” relaxation now and then.
What are your favorite holiday traditions? Are there any new holiday traditions that you’ve recently implemented with your family? How did it go? Please join the discussion.