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The Holidays: Obligation or Opportunity?

Posted: Fun for the Family » Entertaining » Holidays & Rituals » Gift Giving | December 16th, 2006



By Anna Stewart

The season is upon us in all its tinsel, lights and full color ads. Do you feel excitement or exhaustion, dread or delight — or all of the above?

The days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day creates fathers frantic for the red Power Ranger, mothers who never bake, sweating and cursing in the kitchen till 2 in the morning and kids who “need” every toy on TV they see. It’s enough to make a grown woman cry. We can lament the crass commercialization of Christmas (and Chanukah and Kwanzaa). We can make pronouncements that Christmas is canceled this year. We can tremble at the thought of “How am I going to get it all done?”

Where is the meaning?
Or we can take a new approach. “Many people today feel a need for festivals and meaningful celebrations or rituals in their lives,” writes Rahima Baldwin in her book, You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. “The celebration of festivals is not only important in individuals’ lives, but it is important socially for the possibility it provides us to step out of ‘ordinary time’ and be connected to something more abiding.”

In order to create traditions that feed our souls, we have to look at our expectations.

• Do you have a vision of the perfect holiday, one that Martha Stewart would be proud to call her own?
• Are your expectations from your childhood?
• Do they fit with the reality of your life today?
• What does your family want?

Opportunity vs. obligation
One way to shift your thinking is to see the holidays as opportunities instead of obligations. For most of us, work slows down, schools have a break, we have more days off. Use that time and space to create new traditions that work for your family.

Don’t do the things you don’t like to do, and focus on what you do like. Singing carols, attending services, inviting family and friends for dinner may bring you more in line with what you think the spirit of Christmas is about instead of baking umpteen cookies, sending gifts to every relative you have or writing the perfect holiday letter. “When old traditions loose their vitality or cease to serve, we should unravel them and mix the old threads with new to weave new family traditions that give us shared experiences and togetherness,” writes Susan Abel Lieberman in New Traditions.

Family traditions offer emotional support. They are foundation builders for family and friends. Without the annual Christmas get-together, we might never see our parents and siblings. If we can let go of our time together as needing to be perfect, than we can enjoy each other and appreciate our family. Children love to prepare for the holiday. For them the preparation is as important as the event.

Build fresh, new traditions
Try these new traditions along with your children.

• Make gifts and cards such as beeswax candles, ornaments or decorate frames.
• Fill a bag with food for the food drive.
• Ask you child to chose a toy or two in good shape to bring to a share-a-gift program.
• Decorate the house with paper chains, pinecones, popcorn strings and candles.
• Bake and cook and share what you make with neighbors, service people in your life, teachers and friends.
• Take a walk in your neighborhood and enjoy the decorations, or take a walk in the woods and enjoy the winter landscape.
• Make an offering for the wildlife around your home with suet, seed or cob corn.

Remember to connect to the season. While there is still debate about when Jesus was actually born, the winter solstice remains a constant. Honor the natural cycle, when the longest night of the year dawns to the sun returning.

May the holidays bless you and your family with love, laughter and light.

© Anna Stewart

Anna Stewart, B.A., C.M.T., C.H.T., mothers three young children, one with special needs. In her classes, workshops and services, she weaves her expertise as a professional writer, creative artist and student of rhythm dance. Anna offers a number of classes in the Boulder, Colorado, area. She can be reached at (303) 499-7681 or via e-mail at anna (at) motherhands.com. Her web site is www.motherhands.com.

First published Dec 2004

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