Let’s face it. The holidays are a perfect combination of stress and happiness. Elf on the Shelf, Caroling, getting together with the extended family can be outweighed by winter storms, holiday traveling (or hosting), and money issues.
Before I started my own family, the holidays were a little simpler. I had grown up and was doing my own thing: Working, spending time with friends. Family grew older and moved away. Really my biggest concerns were: Where do I need to show up for dinner? And who do I need to get gifts for?
And while that was simpler, I missed those traditions from my childhood.
I missed going with my mom and choosing a tag from the Gift of Giving Tree. I missed gathering in Massachusetts at my grandparent’s house with my Dad and Step-mum along with all of the cousins, aunts, and uncles. Christmas caroling at local nursing homes that we did with our After School group. Without those traditions, I just felt the overwhelming commercialism of the Holidays. My grandparents had moved down to Arizona so it was a small get together now at my Mom’s house which as much as I enjoyed it, wasn’t the same as the traditional spread with the entire Provencher Clan.
And then, I became a parent when I married my husband. The holidays changed from being about me to being about the my daughter. And as time went on, my son joined our family. I started thinking more and more about those holiday traditions that I had loved and saturated my memories during November and December.
My holidays were about to get less simple, but imbued with that Holiday magic that I realized I had missed, regardless of any stress that naturally comes with them. It was time to incorporate some of the traditions I had loved so much with new ones.
Giving back. Commercialism is runs heavy during this time of the year and it is almost impossible for our children to not suddenly transform into commercial watching toy demons. But the one thing that I find most important at this time of the year is remembering that there are those who are struggling. Children who aren’t going to get what the want or need. It’s heartbreaking – but there is something that we can all do to give back – not only for the good karma it brings to our souls, but also teaching our kids that the holidays are more than just about getting stuff. Two traditions that we have incorporated into our family are the Give a gift tree which as I mentioned I use to enjoy with my mother. I take my daughter and let her choose a card from the tree and together we find the gift for a child in need. We also at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, participate in Hannaford’s Hunger Box Program. Don’t have the extra money for this? Gift old jackets to Jackets for Kids. Bring a few canned non-perishable items to your local food bank. Take part in Operation Christmas Child which is a program where you can put together a shoebox full of small gifts for children in third world countries. The important part of this is including your children, letting them know that there are others out there who don’t have the same advantages as them, and showing them, even if it’s small, that we should be giving back to the community, especially at this time of the year.
Holiday Decorating. While we aren’t big on Elf on the Shelf (though we do greatly enjoy all the pictures of elves on facebook), we do celebrate Christmas and a have a tree. Typically, I will put up the Christmas tree and on Sunday when my daughter comes home from her Mom’s house, we will decorate the house as a family. This is something that is new to me, as I never had siblings, so I didn’t really have to worry about things getting decorated without me. It’s very important to me, just as it is important at her Mom’s house, that even though life continues when Emmy isn’t with us, the important stuff we will always wait till we are together as a family to do.
Christmas Portraits. While costly, this is one of my favorite things at this time of the year. While typically stressful (getting everyone together, dressed, out the door without messing up their Christmas outfits, finding the right time, etc) the finished project always brings a smile to my (as well as the family’s) face all year round.
Holiday dinners. Whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, this is one of my all time favorite events. It goes beyond all the delicious food (though being 21 weeks pregnant – this is pretty important at the moment to me) and really comes down to the entwining of our extended family. I love getting together and seeing the kids play together, seeing how they’ve grown, catching up with the family, and seeing everything we have to be truly thankful for. Whether it’s Holiday prayers, going around and saying what we are thankful for, or just telling stories from the year that has gone past, it warms my heart just as much as the food warms my belly (if not more).
Do you have a holiday tradition you’d like to share? A program that you love giving back to? Leave us a comment. You never know what new tradition you might be introducing to someone’s family!