“Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, warm and safe in a confusing world.

Susan Lieberman

By Holly Richardson

holly richardson author pic

Do you have the perfect holiday season fixed in your mind? And by perfect, I mean the idealized-but-probably-not-realistic idea of what the holidays “should” look like? Maybe it’s a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Maybe it’s all about a perfectly decorated house, perfectly grateful (and quiet!) children, and beautiful, nutritious meals. Or maybe you have given up on perfection, abandoned all hope of actually enjoying the holidays. Instead, the holidays have been reduced to a series of checklists and to be perfectly honest, you are feeling a bit Grinchy – resentful of the “expectations” placed upon you – not to mention the budget-busting aspects of parties, food, and gifts – and just so tired of running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

holiday season mom

Would you believe me if I told you that you can get things done AND enjoy the holidays too? Part of it is knowing your own boundaries. Hate sewing and can’t read a pattern? Don’t volunteer to sew 30 pairs of pajama pants. Hate cooking? Great. The stores now sell sugar cookies and icing separately. On a budget and experiencing FOMO? (The “fear of missing out.”) Remind yourself that comparison is the thief of joy. There are LOTS of ways to experience Christmas joy without spending a dime.

Here’s a Holly hint for you: you can create joyful moments that turn into joyful memories without killing yourself off.

They don’t have to take a lot of money or even a lot of time. They do take presence, so put away the phone and the to-do list and really be there. Do something new. Create together, do something active, serve together and leave room to be spontaneous together. In your 5 minutes of daily stillness, consider how you might be present with and for someone that day. It might be a loved one, a neighbor, or a friend, or maybe it will end up being a stranger for whom your act of presence and kindness will be just what they needed.

Traditions and memories go hand in hand. And they’re important.

Meg Cox, the author of “The Book of New Family Traditions,” describes traditions as “any activity you purposefully repeat together as a family that includes heightened attentiveness and something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts.” They are more than just an item on a to-do list (at least I hope they are!) and they are more than just repeated tasks. Traditions can bind families together and create a sense of belonging during the holidays. As an adoptive family whose children joined us at all ages, we knew we needed to be deliberate about creating traditions that became family memories – and in some cases, family folklore!

holiday kids at window

Be intentional on which traditions are a good fit for your family and give yourself permission to only keep the ones that work for you. If you have a “tradition” you hate, dump it! Hate yams? Don’t fix them. And let’s be honest – just because “everyone else” is doing it, doesn’t mean you have to too. You won’t find an Elf on the Shelf in my home because I didn’t want the extra work. But if you love him, then awesome! Do what works for you and own it, sister! 

We love to read books together by the Christmas tree. One of my favorite books is Max Lucado’sThe Crippled Lamb.” The story is about a little lamb named Joshua who couldn’t run as well as the other lambs. He got left behind when all the other lambs were taken by the shepherd to go grazing but that leaves Joshua in the perfect place for one special night. Let me tell you – it was years – years – before I could make it all the way through that book without crying. You see, I am the mom of a Joshua who can’t run and jump like other people and has been in a wheelchair his whole life.

We also love the collections of Christmas miracles – short stories that are quick reads and that bring the Christmas spirit, the story of the Christmas Oranges and who can forget the classics: A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

holiday Santa and Christ

Each year, there is at least one night when the kids have a slumber party in the living room by the Christmas tree. We often get the party started with a movie (or two). Some of our favorites are the Santa Clause movies, the Muppet Christmas Carol, the Nativity, the Little Drummer Boy and Elf. 

I’ve been a mom for more than 33 years now and with a very large family and not a very large budget, I have had to be creative. I believe in the value of family traditions. I believe in stillness and joy. I believe in the baby in the manger, in He who was the first gift of Christmas. When, in the hustle and bustle of the season, I lose sight of Christ, then I lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. Wise men and women still seek Him, the King of King and Lord of Lords.  


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