and location of holiday meals; the menu; patterns of gift giving;
and who is invited are all parts of the holiday traditions that
provide order and comfort when life seems unpredictable. Traditions
are a link with the past and a gift for the future. The reassurance
and consolation that traditions bring are at the center of the holidays.
traditions come from the cultural or ethnic background of family
members. Other traditions are directly related to family spiritual
preferences. However, there are some traditions that just are, no
one knows how they started. One thing that seems to be true around
the world is the central role that food plays in holiday tradition.
The aromas and flavor combinations of special holiday foods trigger
memories of holidays past.
personality type views tradition in a different way. For some people
sameness is essential right down to the details, such as, who sits
in what chair at the table. Yet, for others change is welcomed and
often sought. This group might travel to exotic locations to celebrate
holidays or might have a different menu each year. These differences
of expectation are multiplied when differing regional, family, ethnic,
and spiritual traditions are combined in families.
grow up, leave their family of origin, and begin to create new family
units. Today's families are more complex and geographically separated
than in past generations. Many young families today seem to be searching
for ways to keep the reassurance and consolation that come with
tradition, while minimizing the conflict and stress stemming from
differing personalities, spiritual choices, or cultural and regional
origins. Older family members often want to continue traditions
but may lack the needed energy and financial resources. Communication
and compromise are the keys to preserving and creating family traditions.
sharing of the "whys" and "hows" of traditions
can create wonderful memories and assure that traditions will continue
from one generation to the next. When parents and grandparents involve
younger family members in preparing traditional holiday foods, decorating
for the holidays, and participating in the spiritual aspect of the
holiday traditions are more likely to be carried on. If grandparents
are hosting the holiday celebration, they can save some of the preparation
until the younger generations arrive. This provides an opportunity
to teach younger family members how to prepare favorite foods and
lets younger, stronger people get involved in holiday decorating.
While working together, the generations can talk about the history
and background of the tradition.
younger generations are hosting the holiday celebration, older family
members can add to the enjoyment of the holiday by being willing
to try new things. Sometimes a new activity, recipe, or decorating
idea is not perfect the first time it is tried. Humor and a non-judgmental
attitude will encourage young family members to keep on trying until
the new idea is refine when it may become a new family tradition.
Family food favorites can be modified to be more healthful; gift
giving can be refocused to include community service and gifts to
and old traditions will provide comfort and consolation no matter
what the make up of the group who is celebrating together. Families
of today often include a mixture of close friends, "step"
relatives, and biological kin. Celebrations are most enjoyable when
grounded in the philosophy that holidays are times to celebrate
what is good about life. In contrast, the enjoyment is dampened
when traditional activities become chores. When that happens, it
is time to evaluate whether you just need help getting things done
or whether it is time to change the tradition. For example, if sending
holiday greeting cards has become a chore because of changes in
vision or joint pain, ask younger family members to help create
mailing labels or hand address your envelopes. Focusing on people
instead of chores and choosing only activities that you enjoy will
create a happier holiday season.