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The holidays are upon us and so is the hustle and bustle of getting ready for the celebrations!

As I sit here and think about all the things I have to do between now and New Year’s, I get overwhelmed.  Buying gifts, decorating the house, sending our holiday cards, the list goes on and on.  But, when I sit back and think about past holidays, I don’t really remember all those tiny details and errands.  What I really remember are the fun times I spent with family and the traditions we always do each year.  My favorite one is decorating our Christmas tree.  We turn on Christmas music and decorate the tree as a family the weekend after Thanksgiving.  I try and make it a special event by serving hot chocolate and cookies and making a fire in the fireplace.  I look forward to that day every year because I used to decorate the tree with my mom when I was a little girl. Now, I try and make it a special event each year so my two daughters can have fond memories like I do.

Have you thought about what holiday traditions you are going to include during this festive time of year?  Annual traditions provide comfort, character and meaning to a family’s holiday celebration.  Traditions cultivate connection between immediate family members and between generations.  Traditions are the “we always” of families, like “We always make cut-out cookies when school gets out for winter break.” or “We always go sled riding the first big snowfall.”  Because such traditions have meaning that is special to an individual family, they create feelings of warmth and closeness.

Whether your family is new or the composition has changed, such as children getting older or going through a divorce, traditions should still continue.  Traditions should be flexible and be modified as circumstances change and should enhance the sense of family no matter how the family changes.

Enrich your holiday celebrations by enjoying your own family traditions or with these few suggestions….

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  • Adopt a special cause each year.  For instance, pack up old toys and clothes and donate them to a needy cause.  Or bring the children or teen with you to places like Goodwill, a soup kitchen or homeless shelter so they can experience the value of giving.
  • Start a Holiday-themed puzzle somewhere in your home.  Place a table in a quiet area of your home where anyone can get away from the action and retreat to work on the puzzle.  Puzzles are great stress-relievers and are perfect for guests who always need to be doing something.  They are nice alternatives to non-stop television watching on winter break.

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  • Keep a family journal and let everyone write in it.  Sharing fond memories with each other as well as re-reading old ones in the journal is a great way to experience the holidays.  It will become a treasure for the generations year after year.
  • Each year, add a special emblem to stockings signifying an important event from that year.  Or if you celebrate Hanukkah, have a special box for each person and add a trinket in the box yearly.  Reliving and discussing the emblems or trinkets annually can add special meaning to the holidays and can be a tradition that is carried on.

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  • Have each family member draw a name of another family member and make a handmade gift for that person.  Gift giving is a nice expression of thanks, but handmade gifts can be even more special.