Everyone has their own favorite holiday memories and traditions. No two families...no two people... have exactly the same view on what the ideal Holiday season looks like. For some families it is time together. For some, it is about the magic. For some, it is about the miracle. For some, it is about the memories. Some people celebrate all month long, with their lights up and music blaring the week before Thanksgiving and some people can't wait until it comes and goes and the responsibility and work of the event is over. Some people even celebrate it in July.
Sometimes as parents we don't reflect on the decisions we're making... and we don't notice that a little habit or behavior can have huge consequences. We just do traditions because they are traditions and that's what we do. Just like much of parenting is winged based on what our parents did and didn't do...so too are holiday traditions. We get caught up in the season without thinking about why we do what we do and what are the consequences of what we decide to do when we add traditions to our households. We do our holidays on auto pilot and excite mode. We often spend more than we planned to, and over-exhaust ourselves, adding a lot of additional and unnecessary stress to the holiday memory book. What if we did our holiday planning on WOKE mode?
Think of the Holiday traditions you currently have in place. Hopefully many will make you smile. What is the history behind these traditions and how they got started? How are they serving you and your family now? What lessons do these traditions teach your children? What emotions do they produce? What behaviors and beliefs are taught from these traditions?
Are your traditions maintainable over time...meaning is it something you are able to keep up over time? When the kids were little I wanted Christmas to be something magical because my parents had made Christmas magical for me. When children are 5 years old, it is easy to buy several little gifts and make a huge pile under the tree...but $5 slippers turn into $105 shoes by middle school, and over time there are much fewer presents under the tree. Opening the presents that used to take a couple of hours to accomplish, could be finished within 10 minutes. Fortunately early on I had realized, my goals for the holiday was less about the magic and more about the miracle. I did not want the focus to be about how many presents are under the tree. I did not want to teach my children that they are the center of the holiday season and that the season is about how much they can rack up for themselves. In failing to think through holiday consequences or better worded in failing to plan, parents can plan to fail. We can teach our children to love getting gifts...lots of gifts... lots of cool, expensive, nice gifts. That tradition might not be maintainable over time...especially when the college years hit. Traditions that are not maintainable lead to disappointment when they can't be maintained. Holiday standards are set early on in a child’s mind, and when the bar raises over time and is no longer achievable, the Christmas memories created in early childhood can make all Christmases that follow disappointing by comparison.
Are your traditions something that can be maintained from one generation to the next? We have several traditions that started with my parents and were kept in my home as well. My dad sitting and reading the Bible...him passing the responsibility to us kids and then the grandkids are some we all cherish. He is not here with us anymore, and not all of my children have the same belief system, but on Christmas morning, taking turns reading the Bible always bring my dad right back into the room and makes Christmas, Christmas for me. My children will always remember how I read the Bible with them, and hopefully that memory will bring them much happiness when I am no longer here to spend Christmas with them. My mum's coffee cake being baked first thing in the morning...sharing my mum's shortbread with friends...adding a couple new ornaments to the Christmas tree each year...the smell of the Christmas tree and the wreath...the music...the time together...the card games...the movies...the countless other rituals are how we define the Holidays in our household. These traditions are rich and priceless. These are the way we show one another how we love each other.
What traditions do you have in place to extend that love outside the home, past the circle of friends? Teaching our children how to be generous and thoughtful of others is an important part of raising the next generation of leaders. It teaches our children that they have power and kindness. It teaches our children they are privileged and that they have a responsibility that comes with that privilege. It teaches our children that they are necessary and that they have a purpose.
Are your holiday traditions in line with the lessons you want your children to learn as they grow up? Do we teach our children to give away their old toys to the poor so they can have new toys? If so, are we teaching them the poor get used, but the privileged get new? Or do we teach them that only rich kids can get good presents from Santa?
We are teaching our children even when we don't realize we are teaching them. The nostalgia of the holiday season has your little ones hardwired to paying attention and learning from everything you do. Just like Santa knows when they've been bad or good...your little ones pick up if your are stressed, tired, angry, arguing with family members...and those become a part of the Holiday tradition as well.
Action Step: Think about what you really want your kids to remember about the holiday season. Think about what you want your kids to learn about the holiday season. Make sure your holiday traditions reflect what it is that you want your kids to remember, learn, and experience.