Create holiday traditions that work for you

I love all that makes up this time of year. Still, as a parent outside of marriage I’ve sometimes felt out of place when bombarded with images of what is traditional. Everywhere I look I’m hit with pictures of children frolicking in the snow, big families laughing around a huge meal or couples exchanging gifts in front of the fireplace.

But what about those people who aren’t includedin such snapshots? What if you’re single and without little ones to decorate the Christmas tree or light menorah candles? What if you’re part of a growing number of divorced parents, or a blended family that has multiple traditions in the same house? The truth is lots of families today just don’t fit the Norman Rockwell portrait of family. As I’m hearing from many of them, they also sometimes feel like they’re on the outside looking in when it comes to celebrating traditions this time of year. That said, it’s also a great opportunity to create your own traditions or unique style in how you celebrate them.

For example, my 6-year-old son believes in Santa and looks forward to us going to see the jolly old man. Some years we’ve gone with friends and other years we’ve gone alone, but it’s a tradition that belongs to D.J. and me. The questions it inspires my child to ask are also entertaining and actually creates some teachable moments. This year’s visit included questions about whether the North Pole was a real place and if we could go there. He also told me he wanted to visit India, Scotland and Outer Space. I don’t pretend to know why, but I’ve assured him that all are possibilities, in time.

We’ve also made it a tradition to put up a Christmas tree with Granny. My mom brings such an added benefit to helping D.J. understand where he comes from. She can go back a few years more than I can and every ornament we hang seems to come with a story or memory that is significantly rooted in family Christmases that have come before.

Christmas is also a great opportunity to teach our children, and perhaps ourselves, about the traditions that various other religious affiliations practice this time of year. Most important to any Christian believer, it’s the time of year we teach our children that the real reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, another tradition I’ve established with my son that, thankfully, doesn’t have to fit in to a traditional family framework.

What are some of the holiday traditions you’ve established with your children or fondly remember from your own childhood?

1 thought on “Create holiday traditions that work for you”

  1. Larry,
    That is a great tradition to keep with your son and a good question.

    I have a 6-year old as well who believes in Santa. The traditions we have kept with her are: in addition to wishlists, a list of things to be thankful for each day since Thanksgiving, setting up the Christmas decorations including a nativity, preparing gifts for neighbors and families, getting and preparing bags for the needy, and attending mass on Christmas eve.

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