Holiday Traditions- You choose!
Ah the holidays. Families and friends begin the rituals of making their holidays cheery and bright. For many people this means fulfilling traditions that have been handed down from year to year. And not just at Christmas time, but every holiday. Thanksgiving, Easter, birthdays, Halloween, and the 4th of July.
Being that this is the winter season, I recall when my kids were young doing the same traditions every year for no other reason than because that is the way we always did it. We always opened gifts on Christmas Eve. We always had clam chowder for our dinner on Christmas Eve and ham on Christmas Day. I always sent out cards, baked cookies, bought gifts, decorated the tree and the house.
I wonder in what ways did these traditions contribute to our celebration of the season. I do know that many of the traditions often brought on a lot of stress as I tried each year to figure out how to fit all of the activity into my hectic schedule. If I allowed myself the option to forego something, I would feel guilty for not celebrating enough and that perhaps someone would think ill of me. Certainly, some of these traditions had the potential to bring joy and fun to the holidays if I could do them in the spirit of joy. My lesson about traditions came to me when...
...my life drastically changed.
When circumstances in life create major changes- divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job- a new perspective happens that affects everything we have done before. Nothing appears to be the same as it was. A person begins to question everything in their life.
For me it was the death of my 19 year old son. As the first holiday approached, I found myself trying to hold onto the same traditions as if it would make my life the same as it was before. But my life wasn't the same.
And then I told myself I needed to keep things as much the same as I could for the sake of my younger son. Looking back that wasn't being fair to either of us to try to create an illusion that our lives would be the same, when the reality was that life would never be the same.
The traditions no longer felt right. Something needed to change. It was a struggle to let go of the traditions as I had bought into their value. Somewhere I had believed that these traditions would create something that I was looking for. But what I found was the opposite- these traditions took me further away from what I was searching for - me. They held the illusion that if I celebrated with these traditions, I would be or receive something wonderful! But alas, it is all an illusion.
Let's look at the meaning of traditions:
Tradition: the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice (http://dictionary.reference.com)
This means that as we hold onto holiday traditions, we buy into the idea that our ancestors had the answers about how to celebrate the holidays. We buy into a right and wrong way to celebrate dependent on who and where we came from. I am not about dismissing our ancestry or negating that they may have had some good ideas. My point in reflecting on traditions is to look at how are they serving me now.
Is there an expectation that comes with holding onto a tradition? An example might be; People are expecting me to send out greeting cards. If I don't they will be disappointed. Is this even true? Are you sending cards to keep people happy or are you sending cards because you really like sending them and they are a way for you to stay connected? The choice is yours.
The beauty of being empowered is to be able to make a choice that works for you and the life you are creating without judging others for the choices they make. And if you are an empowered parent you also include your kids in on what they would like to create.
If you struggle with letting go and doing something different, you may ask some questions about that. What are you afraid you might lose if you do something different? I wonder more about what I am missing by always doing things the same?
As my children have grown into adults and are creating their own way of being and celebrating the holidays, I have worked through being in allowance of their choices, which don't always include me. They are free not to be obligated to any expectations from me.
It doesn't have to take a life changing event for one to begin to open up to new ways of celebrating. I am grateful to now live each day as a gift to create a life where I am truly free to make choices that allow me to celebrate each day with joy and love.
Wishing you and your family the joy of creativity throughout the holiday season.
Mary offers more parenting tips in her book Empowered Parents Empowering Kids. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary shares her desire to create different possibilities for families and individuals who are looking to live a more conscious and aware lifestyle. BE YOU Parenting is for parents who want to BE all that they truly BE and to allow their kids the same privilege.