Simplifying the holidays is trending these days. My newsfeed is filled with moms talking about how they are de-stressing the season by nixing many familiar traditions. Some are finding alternatives to gifts; others are not mailing out cards; and a few aren’t even bringing out the tree and decorations. As I’m prone to do, I start comparing my thoughts and opinions and lifestyle with what I see on social media so I’ve been thinking more about our holiday traditions.
It sounds appealing to not be stressed- this time of year or ever. But is tossing out tradition truly the remedy for stress? I remember when, in my early adult years, my family decided to not do Christmas gifts anymore. I felt very sad about it because seeing the surprise and delight when my loved ones opened up their gifts from me was one of my favorites dimensions of Christmas. This year my mom sent a video of my childhood home all decorated and a flood of pleasant memories filled my mind as I recalled the stories associated with those familiar decorations and helping her decorate as a child. I think traditions anchor our lives in a changing world.
During Communion at church this morning, I reflected on all the traditions God has instituted for His people: the festivals and feasts and celebrations and daily reminders. The annual repetition of these events refreshes in our minds what is significant in this life. This is crucial in a time when anything traditional is considered a hindrance, a robber of self-fulfillment. On the contrary, however, traditions link us to our past and connect us with our faith, family and friends. Traditions add meaning to our existence as we carry on what was done by our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so forth.
This does not mean that every Christmas we have to do it all: mail 500 cards, make 20 cookie recipes, give presents to every person we have ever known, put up Pinterest-worthy decorations, and attend all the parties. But I think with careful evaluation and discussion we can find a way to curate traditions that will cultivate a heritage of tradition for the next generations to carry on. Here are some suggestions for how to do that:
- Before cutting a tradition, talk to family members about it. Consider their love languages. Different traditions speak differently to each individual and you don’t want to nix something that holds deep meaning to someone else.
- Write down priorities. Are nightly Advent readings a must-do? What about time with friends? Staying connected with long distance loved ones? After you have made your list, start jotting down ways you can touch on each priority without being overloaded. Maybe bake 4 recipes instead of 10? Or attend one social event instead of 5? Set a price cap on what you’ll spend on each child, for example.
- Put a pause on regular routines. You can put on hold the things you do all the rest of the year in order to make room for your festive plans.
- Linger over some things. We have decided to do 3 days of Christmas so we aren’t trying to cram all the special things into one day.
- Start early. I set a goal to get our cards going in November and to have all the shopping done by the first week of December. This gives me a chance to work on mailing and wrapping at a less frantic pace.
Ultimately, each family needs to determine what works the best for them. A few things done very well can be more memorable than a packed schedule easily forgotten in years to come. But more than anything: make traditions and keep them. There is more value in repetition than we may ever realize.