Is it time to trade in or trash a holiday tradition?

By Phyllis Picklesimer
Media/Communications Specialist, University of Illinois College of ACES News and Public Affairs

URBANA, Ill. — What happens when a holiday tradition causes more stress than the good it provides?

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

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, she advised.

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

You can also create new traditions as your family changes, she said.

Families may need to adapt and accommodate activities caused by extended family schedules,” Byers said. “If this means not celebrating the holiday 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, she said.

Families with snowbirds who travel elsewhere over the winter could celebrate ‘Thanksgivemas,’ a holiday that combines Thanksgiving and Christmas before the travelers leave for the winter,” she suggested.

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, she noted.

It’s OK to change the way things have always been in order to meet the needs of your family as it is today,” she said. “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.”

From the Nov. 14-20, 2012, issue

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