guest blog with Jane Dutra-Salemi
When our older kids were younger, we were happiness-rich, but money-poor. Out of necessity, we needed to create for our family a holiday season that was built upon experiences and family togetherness instead of monetary things. We didn’t know it then, but we were setting ourselves us for wonderfully connected holiday seasons.
Here are a few of the traditions we’ve gathered:
HOLIDAY BOOKS: Remember those days in grade school when the teacher would read a book aloud and magically tame a classroom full of rowdy kids? She was creating a slow-down atmosphere. It works the same for families. Reading aloud together as a family inspires beautiful slow-down evenings. We used to visit our local library and check out holiday books by the dozen. Over the years we have built up a collection of our favorites, always on the lookout for a new book to add to the mix. Slowly building up a library of holiday books can be as fun as the reading itself.
MOON WALKS: There is nothing more magical than bundling everyone up, grabbing a flashlight, and talking a walk in the moonlight. Feeling the crisp night air when the world is quiet all around is a simple holiday pleasure.
LIGHT DRIVES: Piling in the car and taking a drive to see all the holiday lights in the community is tons of fun, especially if there is holiday music crooning from the car’s radio and everyone singing along.
HOLIDAY TREE: We’ve been known to haul out our tree in October. I know, crazy right? But our ever-changing holiday tree has been the focus of many connected family hours. We’ve created origami bats and ghosts together for a Halloween tree, wrote out what we are thankful for on hearts for a Thanksgiving tree, and trimmed the traditional Christmas tree together as well. A holiday tree, all lit up, quickly becomes the centerpiece for the family living space and never fails to draw everyone together in the evenings just to be together.
BOUNTY OF THE SEASON: Shopping trips for holiday meals are made less stressful by doing it together as a family. Having recipes that we pull out only at holiday time makes it special. Each person in the family has a recipe that is his or her “specialty” to add the occasion.
TEATIME: Take mugs filled with spicy holiday tea, add a few cookies and conversation, and you get a family evening to cherish.
MANDALAS: There is nothing more fun than collecting treasures from outside to create holiday mandalas. Whether it is the peacefulness of connecting with nature or the thrill of the hunt, it’s a great way to spend time together in creation.
IT’S A WRAP: With less emphasis on the spending side of the holidays, we pay more attention to making the holidays beautiful. We decorate to the hilt and create our own wrapping paper and gift tags, making each present a masterpiece. As we wrap, the conversation inevitably turns to the gift’s recipient and how grateful we are to have that particular person in our lives.
WRITING IT DOWN: When my cousins and I were children my Uncle Ray would help us write letters to Santa. After all lists were written, he would burn the lists in the fireplace sending all the smoke up to the North Pole where Santa would be then able to read our words. This is something we still do today with our own children. This just happens to be our family tradition, but whatever tradition of writing speaks to your family will work as well. Whether it is journaling, letters to Santa, or vision boards, the act of writing down all that we are grateful for is powerful. Remembering all that has happened in the year and connecting with our hopes for the year to come. It is a time to stop and savor the season and each other.
As the years have passed, I am grateful to those times of necessity as they have given us the opportunity to create family traditions that encourage us to slow down and simplify enough to focus each other and gratitude for all our blessings.
Wishing you Vibrant Living
Kate and Jane