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University of Illinois Extension

Is It Time to Trade In a Holiday Tradition?

October 28, 2013

According to University of Illinois family life educator Chelsey Byers, holiday traditions and religious celebrations can hold a family together, create strong memories, build strong cross-generational relationships, and offer consistency to families in time of stress.

Although family traditions are a source of strength, keeping them can sometimes become burdensome, especially when there has been a change in family structure due to a wedding, divorce, or death. If keeping a holiday tradition becomes stressful, think about developing new family rituals or adapting old traditions to replace those that are no longer meaningful to family members.

Maybe there is a recipe that is difficult to make or nobody currently enjoys. Just because it was always part of your family holiday doesn't mean that it has to be. Find a new one that is less stressful to make or that everyone enjoys.

You can also create new traditions as your family changes. Families may need to adapt and accommodated activities caused by extended family schedules. If this means not celebrating the holdiay on the calendar date, so be it. Remember, it's not about the date; it's about coming together and spending time as a family.

Some families may decide to celebrate the weekend before or after the holiday so family members don't have to choose between sides of the family. This practice lessens the challenge of being at two different places on one day and can help when families have young children or live at a distance. Families with "snowbirds" who travel elsewhere over the winter could celebrate "Thanksmas," a holiday that combines Thanksgiving and Christmas before the travelers leave for the winter.

Creating new rituals doesn't have to be complicated. Newlyweds and new parents do it all the time. You create a family tradition when you do the same thing over and over. It is okay to change the way things have always been in order to meet the needs of your family as it is today. It may feel a little different at first, but be open-minded and remember that the important thing is spending time together, not stressing and arguing over how it will be done.

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