Christmas, a Great Opportunity to Create Family Traditions 

Written by: Tess Robinson

Traditions help build a community environment and values, no matter if they are cultural, social or religious. All of these impact on the identity of an individual. Christmas celebration for example is originally a religious celebration for Christians. However, even non-Christians have adopted this warm and caring celebration and made it a family celebration. Family is key for creating a special environment for your kids to grow, and parents and wider family can foster good habits and values through family rules and celebrations.

The pressures of adult work schedules and our students’ academic demands can often reduce family conversations to a to-do list. The holidays offer a unique opportunity to take time out to relax and enjoy special time with our families.

Over the years our family has cultivated traditions that we still enjoy.  Some of them we have been practicing since the boys were toddlers and some are new.  Regardless of when the tradition started, they bring us great joy. Wonderful memories are created over a lifetime. There is no single event that creates a close-knit family, it happens in iterations…giggles one year, participation the next, understanding the third and slowly, slowly to our delight, the boys have taken up our traditions and adapted them to fit our new lives.

In the early days (before two sons moved off to college), we kept a very regular schedule. Cookies were baked, trees were decorated and stories were read on the same days and the same time for 18 years.

But when Miles went off to college, the whole family found that it felt strange to carry on without him. That first year, we started early and he stayed up late and we continued with him on Skype. Just the four of us and a computer – Miles set up the Christmas tree, we lit the lights, put on the star and sang the songs that we have been singing since the children first joined our family.

The following year, Spencer too left for college and while Oliver, Bruce and I, started playing the Christmas songs as we always have, we decided that the traditions needed to be altered so that the whole family could still share in them together.

It has been Oliver who has taken the lead on the needed modifications, as each of the children has always taken responsibility for his part of the tradition. Oliver instantly knew what part he could do and which part he could wait for his brothers to complete.

The three of us now act as the advance team for holiday celebrations, we decorate the house, and set up the tree together, but instead of doing all of the decorations at once, we now invite close friends to string the fairy lights on the same day we always have and light the tree. The decorations, however, are left to be done as a family when all have returned. Similarly, we begin baking cookies on 1 December as always, singing Christmas songs and dancing in flour and sugar.  We bake every weekend and now when the boys arrive home from college their favourite treats are waiting for them.

Our simple traditions have been modified to fit our new reality, but by continuing to engage in the spirit, a real sense of anticipation and excitement is built.  By the time the college boys return, the stage has been fully set and the joys of the season overflow, we then start watching our traditional holiday movies and read (aloud) from our favourite books.

We now celebrate both Christmas and the arrival of our dear family together, thus making the season even brighter and happier than it has always been!

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