Building Holiday Traditions and Lasting Memories

by Stacey Schifferdecker

Spanish writer Jose Bergamin wrote that traditions mean we “continue what is worth continuing.” You may not remember why your family always opens one present on Christmas Eve or why you always eat lasagna for Christmas dinner—it’s just your tradition. Substitute Chinese food instead, and someone is sure to whine, “But that’s not our tradition!” 
Traditions are often part of the glue that binds families together, providing comfort, security, and a feeling of belonging. “These are my people,” your brain says as you join in on the traditional Christmas carols sung around the piano. “This is where I belong.” Traditions connect us with our past, our home, our memories. give us a link to the past and something to look forward to in the future.  
That being said, there are times when the old traditions aren’t working anymore. Some things you may have loved as a child just don’t work anymore, or maybe you have gotten married or your traditions clash with your spouse’s. Bid those traditions a fond farewell and look for new traditions to incorporate in their place. When I was a girl, my sisters and I always got new pajamas on Christmas Eve. I tried starting this same tradition for my , but my two sons, who generally sleep in old t-shirts, just weren’t excited about it. So instead, we started a new tradition called Pillow Books. Every Christmas night, everyone finds a new book on their pillow. We all look forward to our Pillow Books every year. Old tradition, made new again. 
If you are looking to build some new traditions with your family, here are a few ideas to try: 
Christmas books. If you already have a bedtime reading tradition with your children, great! Add to it during the Christmas season by reading Christmas books. These abound at both the bookstore and library. For younger children, you can read picture books such as Clifford’s Christmas, while for older children, you can spend several days reading chapter books such as .  
Ornament collections. Every year, your family can buy a new ornament that represents a special event of the year. For example, the year my family took a beach vacation, we chose a seashell ornament.
You can also get your children a new ornament each year, so that when they grow up and move out, they will already have a boxful of memories to decorate with.
Stocking resolutions. Chances are, you are putting away your Christmas stocking right around the time you setting goals and resolutions for the upcoming year. Write down your goals and resolutions, and then stick them inside your stocking before you pack it away. It can be fun (and humbling) to pull out that stocking the next year and see how you did. 
Advent calendars. These calendars can range from homemade paper chains to elaborate stitched Christmas trees or nativities. At our house, it’s always the cardboard Advent calendars with a chocolate for each day from December 1-24 (which we always buy at Oktoberfest—another tradition). We also have a wooden Nativity Advent calendar, to which we add a Nativity figure each day. No matter what type of calendar you choose, you are helping your children mark the passage of time and creating a new tradition. 
Of course, the best traditions are the ones that evolve naturally. One year, you enjoy driving around and looking at Christmas lights followed by a stop at the ice cream shop. The next year, the kids ask to do it again—and before you know it, you have created a tradition!
Biography Stacey Schifferdecker is the happy but harried mother of three school-aged children—two boys and a girl. She is also a freelance writer, a Children’s Minister, a PTA volunteer, and a Scout leader. Stacey has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and French and a Master’s degree in English. She has written extensively about parenting and education as well as business, technology, travel, and hobbies.

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