Are your current traditions contributing to Holiday Burnout?
Look at the traditions currently being used and begin the process of choosing to keep the ones that work for you and your family and eliminating the ones that don’t. Check in and see how much stress adding these traditions to your life may be causing.
How did it work out?
Is it worth doing again?
How can we do it differently next time?
We can fall victim to trying to recreate the same memory each year, when in fact, we can’t. Every experience holds it own memory. And how boring would life be if we kept trying to recreate the same experiences. And yet, that often seems to be the reason for having traditions. With each tradition, what if we were willing to allow it to be just as it is in the moment without expectation from past years.
This becomes even more valid when circumstances in life create major changes- divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job or even relocation – lives change and so does one’s approach to it. Nothing appears to be the same as it was and yet there can be a deep desire to hold onto anything that could make it seem as if life hadn’t changed. This includes how holidays are celebrated.
I recall the first holiday after my son had died, 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. He even told me that he didn’t want to do the same traditions that we had before.
I began to be more willing to explore other ways of celebrating. And some years that meant that we didn’t do much of anything, we just spent time together. It was some years before we put up a Christmas tree or did much as far as decorating. This was what we needed then and with each passing year, we have been able to reflect on what we would like to do each year as our way of celebrating. We have been free to experience some new things that we wouldn't have thought of if we had just stuck to our old traditions. We found that some years we enjoy going to a movie on Christmas and some years we like to go and see lights. It was very freeing to know that if we didn't do the same thing every year, it was okay. Our happiness didn't depend on a tradition, we were in charge of making choices that would contribute to the joy of the season.
The very meaning of the word, tradition, implies that we take on the ideas that our ancestors handed down about how to celebrate the holidays. We may have decided that there is a right and wrong way to celebrate dependent on who and where we came from. This is not about dismissing our ancestry or negating that they may have had some good ideas. The point about reflecting on traditions, is to allow us the opportunity to check in and see how well they are working for us today. Are there some ways to make old traditions, more adaptable to current times?
Here are some questions that you and your family may consider:
What does this holiday mean to us?
Do my kids have the same value of this holiday as I do?
What do we want to receive from the experience of celebrating the holiday season?
Are there some other possibilities that we would like to pursue?
Are these traditions creating more stress for me and my family as we try to live up to the expectations of someone else?
What would we like to let go of and what would we like to keep as the holiday season approaches?
What new ideas of creativity, adventure and fun can we create?
What can we do that will be fun?
Ask if there 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.
If you struggle with letting go and doing something different, you may ask some questions:
What am I afraid I might lose if I do something different?
What am I holding onto that I truly need to let go of so that something different can occur?
How can I be more comfortable with change?
It doesn't have to take a life changing event for a family to begin to create new ways of celebrating. Life is constantly changing, and when we can change with it, we teach our kids to have more flexibility and willingness to do what will work best for them, whether it is choosing friends, making future plans or choosing how to celebrate the holidays. The possibilities are endless. Share your thoughts about traditions below.