Honoring Traditions During the HolidaysBy Seasons | December 09, 2021
In our increasingly fast-paced lives it is easy to get so wrapped-up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season that we forget to be present in the moment. By slowing down and connecting with the here and now, we are more likely to feel the joy that comes from these ordinary moments. Brené Brown said, “Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we are too busy chasing down extraordinary moments.” So, what can we do to be more present to the joyful moments this holiday season? Putting a focus on honoring your holiday traditions is a great place to start.
What are holiday traditions?
Traditions are beliefs or customs passed down from generation to generation that have special or symbolic meanings and significance. If you close your eyes and take yourself back to a favorite holiday memory, you may notice that you can almost feel, taste, smell and hear what is going on. Holidays were created to honor and celebrate the things that are important to us. Because of this, we tend to have very rich memories of them. During the holiday season we can step out of the routines of everyday life and step into a space of heightened meaning and importance. Some examples of holiday traditions include:
- Giving and receiving gifts
- Lighting the menorah
- Decorating a Christmas tree
- Exchanging crafts on Imani, the last day of Kwanzaa
- Going on a sleigh ride
- Making special foods or drinks
- Spending time with family or friends
- Attending a place of worship for a special ceremony or service
Holiday traditions are often made up of rituals which give us purpose and meaning while helping us to feel more connected and grounded. Recent research has shown that rituals decrease anxiety, increase confidence and alleviate disappointment. We all could reap the benefits of performing rituals during the holiday season! Rituals related to Holiday traditions could include:
- Kissing under the mistletoe
- The oldest member of the family helping the youngest put the topper on the Christmas tree
- Lighting an extra candle at the table for someone who has died
- Singing certain songs or reciting prayers or readings that pertain to the holiday being celebrated
- The blowing of the shofar every morning of Rosh Hashanah
Many holiday traditions and rituals may have been passed down and shared from generation to generation, however this may also be a time to begin new traditions and rituals. However, it’s key to avoid putting too much pressure on yourself and become stressed out. It can be helpful to take some time to think about the holiday traditions that mean the most to you and focus on making those a priority. With a little thoughtfulness and preparation, you can honor your chosen holiday traditions in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling for you and your loved ones.
Honoring traditions in facilities
For those living in an elder care facility, holidays may look very different than they used to. Staff members can start to help residents honor their holiday traditions by simply asking, “what are your holiday traditions?” or “how do you/did you celebrate the holidays?” If possible, consider inviting residents to form a holiday committee to help plan for how these traditions and rituals can be celebrated within the facility. For residents who may not be able to communicate well, we can reach out to their closest contacts to ask how they celebrated in the past, and if they would also like to be involved in the planning or implementation of the holiday celebrations. With curiosity and sincere interest, we can make the holidays a little brighter for those who no longer live in their own homes.
A note on grief during the holidays
If you have experienced a recent loss or have a difficult relationship with your family, you may feel like you want to skip the holiday season altogether. Remember that you get to decide the extent to which you want to acknowledge the holidays you typically celebrate. Some suggestions on coping with grief during the holidays include:
- Acknowledging that grief is hard work and that you may have less energy than usual
- Planning ahead – take time to reflect on what traditions you want to give your energy to. Also, be sure to factor rest time into your holiday schedule.
- Setting limits – remember that it is ok to say “no,” or “not this year”
- Setting aside perfectionism – allow yourself to be human and give yourself grace
- Prioritizing self-care - take good care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually
- Communicating - tell others what you need and take people up on their offers of support
- Reaching out for support – read books about grief, make an appointment with a counselor, and/or join a grief support group
For more information on grieving during the holidays, click here.
Honoring holiday traditions can bring us joy and meaning during this significant time of year. Take time this holiday season to reflect alone or with your chosen family, to determine which traditions and rituals are most meaningful for you this year. We hope you find peace and joy this holiday season.
The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown, 2010
Healing your Holiday grief: 100 practical ideas for blending mourning and celebration during the holiday season, Alan Wolfelt, 2005