by Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family
Caroline Kennedy once said, “It’s true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers. But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you’ll find you’ve created family traditions and lasting memories. Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul.”
She’s exactly right.
I think most of us can think back on holidays spent with family and easily name two or three traditions that we particularly enjoyed as children. Maybe it was a special dinner, or gathering at Grandma’s house, or watching Christmas specials on TV— whatever the traditions are, they add meaning to the holiday celebrations and help unite us with those we love.
There’s a reason that we hold on to traditions for so long: they are important for building strong family bonds, giving us a feeling of belonging, and connecting us to our past. Let’s face it; we don’t put out the 1970s ceramic lit-up Christmas tree decoration every year because it is such a fine piece of art! We decorate with such pieces for sentimental reasons, and our kids probably will, too.
In My Family
Because my wife and I have a blended family with 6 teens, we are also blending our family traditions in a way that is meaningful to all of us.
One thing we try to always do is to give our kids some sort of a new experience over the holidays. It is something they maybe would have never chosen to do, but that they are willing to try at this time of the year because it is the holidays, like attending a special holiday concert in the city.
A couple of years ago we took them out to a nice dinner and had them all make a New Year’s resolution that we— as a family—could support them with. Another year it was again a dinner, but we spent time sharing the the one thing each of us love most about our family— and it was really great to hear what they came up with!
We believe it is important to make service to others a part of our kids’ holiday traditions. One favorite activity is to participate in Samaritan’s Purse “Operation Christmas Child” shoeboxes. Or we decide on a livestock animal to gift to a family in a developing country through Heifer International.
Small things can really be special, too, like stringing popcorn for the tree, or decorating Christmas cookies and enjoying Hallmark Channel holiday movie marathons together. We love to attend Christmas Eve service, and then on Christmas morning we have a traditional egg casserole for breakfast in the middle of all of the fun.
How about your family?
Maybe you feel like you haven’t been intentional enough about building these sorts of traditions and memories for your family. Don’t worry – it’s not too late to begin! Even if you came from a family background that was lacking in warmth and togetherness, the ball is now in your court to start changing that for your own children.
As Zig Ziglar said, “If you can’t take a huge step to begin with, take as big a step as you can. But take it now.”
If you need some ideas of ways to get started, try some I mentioned earlier, or here are a few more:
- Use a countdown to Christmas calendar, and let the kids take turns changing the day.
- Visit a tree farm and pick out your Christmas tree together.
- Trim the tree together, letting each child put on his or her special ornaments.
- Bake and decorate cookies together.
- Do a service project as a family, like volunteering at a soup kitchen or surprising an elderly neighbor with a visit (and some of the cookies you baked).
- Pick a holiday movie to watch together.
- Decorate a gingerbread house. (You can find kits at most grocery stores).
- Camp out one night under the light of the Christmas tree.
- Take a drive to see the holiday lights in your town.
Don’t overthink it or stress about planning it — just do it! Perfect is overrated. There’s a reason that the Chevy Chase movie, Christmas Vacation, is so popular: it’s just a regular family trying to have the perfect Christmas when EVERYTHING goes wrong, and yet the movie shows us that it’s the time spent with family, no matter how crazy and chaotic it gets, that means everything.
It’s really not what you do that’s important, but that you have fun and do it together.
[Question at end] I’d love to hear about some of your family traditions! What are some of your favorites? Comment here, so we can all get some great ideas.