The Value of Traditions – Why Do We Love Them?
December is holiday season for the many families who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Swedish St. Lucia’s Day or the Winter Solstice. As we enter the month of the year with the least light, it is wonderful to have so many opportunities to celebrate with light such as roaring fires, Christmas tree lights, candles and outdoor twinkling lights. Traditions create closeness between family members as time is spent connecting with one another during family rituals and gatherings. The holidays can also be very busy and stressful, but carving out time for family traditions gives everyone a chance to feel grounded. Adults can re-connect with their childhoods as they pass on family traditions. Children delight in the predictability of the annual festivities. New memories are created and family values are reinforced as the importance of spending time together, creating together, and helping others less fortunate becomes highlighted. Traditions are also an important part of healthy self-esteem as they create a sense of belonging and identity as one feels and experiences family culture and family ties.
Some Ideas for Family Traditions…
- Catching Santa’s footprints (as seen above)! Every Christmas Eve we sprinkle flour on our hearth in hopes of catching Santa’s footprints. With a little help from my husband’s big boots and his finger outlining around the footprint, we create some very convincing footprints!
- Books! Bringing out holiday books and reading with my children is one of my favourite traditions. This is also a great opportunity to learn about Festival of Light traditions from other religions and cultures. Suggested titles are: The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, The Night Before Christmas, A Christmas Memory, The Little Fir Tree, Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present, The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate, The Shortest Day, Lights of Winter, Christmas Around the World, Lucia: Saint of Light.
- Christmas Music – the sounds of Frosty the Snowman, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells and all the other traditional favourites stir up the implicit memories associated with these songs. Singing songs or playing music together – from piano to guitar to tambourines – creates joy.
- Baking – mmmmm….the smells coming from the kitchen are also associated with many past memories and create new memories for our children. Gingerbread people, shortbread cookies, peppermint bark – what wonderful gifts for neighbours and friends as well. Putting on the aprons, using the hand-held mixer, licking the spoon and bowl are all part of the tradition!
- A Gratitude Paper Chain – I’ve previously written about the many research-proven positive mood benefits of expressing gratitude. This tradition is a wonderful way to make thankfulness part of a daily December routine. Give family members a strip of paper, for each day of December, where they can write or dictate (for the younger ones) for what they are thankful. Take each “I am thankful for…strip” and glue it in a circle, interlocking with the others.
- A Night-time Outing to See the Twinkling Lights – for “Vancouverites” this could be to the VanDusen Botancial Gardens, Capilano Suspension Bridge Canyon Lights, the Stanley Park Christmas Train or a pyjama car ride through the twinkling streets of Vancouver
- Homemade Gifts – the joy of giving is really felt when the gift has been made by the hands and heart. Homemade ornaments, lavender pouches, candles, photo frames, cookie mix in a jar, painted pictures on a canvas etc. are such meaningful presents for friends and family.
- Homemade Cards – these are also the cards that get saved and that hold the memories. Cards can easily be made with potato prints of a star or a tree (dipped in paint) with the addition of a little glitter, or free-hand drawings, paintings, or just a glitter collage! Don’t forget the teacher and classmates.
- Christmas Movies/Theatre Productions - “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, “Elf”, “The Polar Express”, a family outing to a favourite pantomime or the ballet of The Nutcracker.
- Crafts – sitting together making popcorn and cranberry strands for the tree, cutting out snowflakes for the living room windows, freehand, or using a template, making a Menorah – again it prioritizes time for grounding and connecting while creating happy memories.
- Making a Gingerbread House – it could be a kit, or a mini Graham Wafer creation, or a grand home-made one of a kind Gingerbread house. The memory is in the time spent making it with loved ones and decorating it with all that colourful candy.
- Decorating the Festive Table – have you ever noticed how much children love to make name tags, menus, welcome signs, and create centrepieces? It could be pine cones and greenery collected from an earlier walk, or homemade crafts from school or home, and of course candles. We like to decorate our table for the whole month of December.
- Charity Contributions – creating a hamper for a family less fortunate, serving in a soup kitchen, delivering food to the local food bank and/or toys to the toy bank, there are many ways to involve our children in the gift of giving and teach them the virtue of generosity