Most holiday traditions started as something meaningful to only a handful of people. For instance, the first department store Santa Claus is believed to have been James Edgar, who owned Edgar’s Department Store in Brockton, Mass. Edgar donned the familiar red-and-white ensemble to entertain children while their parents shopped during the pre-Christmas season.

It wasn’t until years later that Santa became a fixture in Macy’s.

This is just one example of many holiday traditions that started as trends. Caroling is another. Long banned in England for being too reminiscent of pagan ritual, caroling made a comeback in the mid-1800s when Germany’s Prince Albert married England’s Queen Victoria. Albert brought with him the German traditions of holiday trees and caroling, both of which were initially viewed as fads or trends.

Holiday traditions and rituals often start the same way among small groups of family and friends.

However, traditions are often a reflection of far more than what a given group of people finds touching or entertaining. They tend to be indicative of a group’s collective values and beliefs. This is why some traditions eventually die out in a particular family. At some point, enough members of the group realize a specific tradition no longer “feels right” or offers any comfort or emotional nourishment.

This marks a good time to usher in new traditions. In some cases, these develop naturally. In others, a family is best served talking about what holiday rituals they would like to begin observing. To facilitate this type of discussion, gather your family and talk about the traditions that are meaningful to you and those that are not, or which contradict your values and beliefs.

In some cases, modifying an existing tradition might be the perfect step. For example, your family can tap into the legend of animals speaking each year on Christmas Eve by placing peanut butter and birdseed in the backyard to attract birds and wildlife that day and point out the different species that respond to your children. You can use this exercise to honor the Christian and pagan aspects of the holiday as well as to teach your children about nature.

Another way to combine holiday tradition with your own values is to read one Christmas story to your children each of the 12 days of Christmas. If they are old enough, take turns, having them read portions of each passage as well. This instills a love of reading in your children while celebrating the season.

Teach your children to give by enrolling them in assembling and shipping a holiday gift box to a distant relative or friend or someone serving in the military or Peace Corps. You can also involve them in creativity by encouraging them to contribute homemade items, such as greeting cards and ornaments, in the package.

As you observe your own family holiday traditions, consider which ones strike a chord with your loved ones and which seem to fall flat. There is no shame in discontinuing a tradition that no longer serves you. In fact, it makes room for those that do.

2 Responses...

Anonymous says:
November 4, 2013 at 2:47 PM
Ii'm glad these we not all about the spas. I enjoyed this e-mail
Anonymous says:
November 4, 2013 at 7:36 PM
Cooking and eating meals together are our favorite activities!!!!
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