Re-published with permission from Shara Lawrence-Weiss (owner of Mommy Perks)
Many times, people think of “traditions” (or rituals) as a religious topic. It certainly can be but traditions don’t need to be religiously based at all. In fact, most of us have traditions of some kind whether we credit faith, religion, media or ourselves (even vowing NOT to embrace traditions can become a tradition, of course).
Traditions can be part of a religious/faith-based ritual or they can simply be rooted in family values and a desire to build memories.
While I was growing up, some of our family traditions were very faith-based while others were not. We attended church functions, sing-alongs, musicals, plays, charity events, food banks, soup kitchens and more. We did these things because we wanted to help others, give of our time and resources, and help the needy. My parents would say, “Although we do this during the holidays we need to carry it on year round. Charity should never be a seasonal experience.”
Traditions have numerous benefits
- They instill a sense of belonging and love
- They instill a sense of trust
- They offer a chance to bond and enjoy each other
- Traditions form memories
- Traditions give us something to hope for, long for, anticipate
- They offer a sense of family unity
- They become a part of your family legacy
My husband and I attempt to keep traditions going with our family now. Here are some ideas you might like:
Volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen
Although they need help year round, the holidays are a great time to get involved. Homeless shelters, especially, need assistance during the winter time: blanket and shoe drives, diaper drives, money for holiday meals, service volunteers, meal servers and more.
“The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake”
Does “The Nutcracker” or “Swan Lake” come to your town each year? As a kid my parents took us to one play or ballet every holiday season. For a family of six that wasn’t cheap so this only happened once, annually. We loved it and now know that it helped to build a better understanding of culture and the arts.
I have mixed feelings about the trees at the mall. Double-check which organization is running the program. Years ago I had a friend sign up once even though she didn’t really need the assistance. The group she signed up with didn’t do any financial background check. Her child received a slew of gifts from the program even though they were not considered “needy.” Personally, I like the prison program where gifts are taken to the children of incarcerated men/women. Those children are typically in the low-income realm and need coats, socks, shoes and a toy/book. In the past, we have given to this program through our local church. It’s a wonderful tradition to get involved in and to explain to your kids, “There are children with very little, and we are going to help them every Christmas so they know that someone cares.”
One of the most well-known and well-respected charity organizations in the faith-based community, Samaritan’s Purse/Operation Christmas Child takes shoe boxes full of needed items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, soap, paper, pencils and more) to children in other nations. It doesn’t cost much to help and would certainly leave you with enough money to help children in our own nation, also (if this is a political issue for you, as it is for some people). If you feel drawn to helping children in other nations, you may enjoy adding Samaritan’s Purse to your annual tradition list.
Cards or cookies to seniors
There are so many seniors living through the holidays without a spouse, loved one or family. Consider making cards or cookies for a senior center or for a lonely neighbor (even the grumpy one who says she/he hates the holidays – it’s likely such a person received little love growing up and never grew out of the need for it – even if they don’t know how to verbalize that). Your thoughtful gift or card may be the only one they receive each year. You might not even get a thank you, but that’s okay. Your kindness won’t be forgotten – I promise you.
This is a lost art now-a-days (although there are still pen pal websites around that are dedicated to hand-written correspondence). Your family (or child) could write a letter each year to someone in the family – perhaps a far-away relative who loves to receive snail mail. This is a nice tradition that encourages thoughtfulness, penmanship and fine motor skills.
Don’t like the idea of writing a hand-written note? How about sitting down with your child(ren) and sending e-cards to people in your community, church, school or charity groups? An e-card around the holidays is sure to cheer up the folks whose inboxes often sit empty.
Of course! Kids love to make crafts, and the benefits are nearly endless. Make gift toppers, gift wrap, ornaments and more. Do this every year and you’ll have a tradition that your own children will carry on with their’s. I bought numerous craft kits this year from Freckles Crafts (snowflakes, reindeer, candy canes and more). After working with children for 23+ years I can tell you this – they ALL love to make crafts during early childhood. It’s a terrific self-esteem booster.
Christmas lights tour, by car
Every year we drive around looking at Christmas lights on the homes and office buildings. We take along blankets, drinks and a snack bag each: popcorn, pretzels, gummy snacks, crackers, cheese, fruit roll-up, nuts, etc. Sometimes our kids will also carry a camera with them to take photos (the pics never work out but that’s okay – they have fun trying).
Church musical or singalong
Most local churches put on a musical or sing-along during the holidays. Depending on your style, you could choose to annually attend a choir, concert, play, audience sing-along (carols), etc. I remember these events from my own youth and think back on them very fondly. The entire family together – having fun, laughing, smiling, relaxed and happy. You can’t buy memories like that later on. You must make them now.
Whatever you choose, if anything, remember: You are building long-term trust with your children. Traditions offer a sense of self, a basis for trust and a special time to bond. Children who come from homes where traditions are valued tend to have a deeper sense of belonging. They quickly realize that their parent(s) value routine, time together and various cultural activities. These are lasting lessons that will provide them a true sense of self during adolescence and into adulthood.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
About Shara Lawrence-Weiss
Shara Lawrence-Weiss is the owner of Mommy Perks, Kids Perks, Personal Child Stories, Reliable Bloggers, Early Childhood News and Resources and the co-owner of Pine Media. She and her husband work from home, run 12 websites and are expecting their fourth child. Shara has a background in education, early childhood, nanny work, marketing, PR, freelance and special needs. She and her husband run three businesses from home offering custom children’s books, web design, development, graphics, hosting, programming, social media campaigns, marketing and branding assistance, and more. Rick has been in business for more than 23 years. Shara has owned her own businesses since 2007.
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