I didn't grow up attending large family gatherings around the holidays. Some years, when it was just the three of us, we'd take a mini vacation and celebrate in unique and non-traditional ways. The very first trip my husband and I took together was to visit his family for Thanksgiving. After a long weekend filled with extended family, Southern cooking, and football, I realized that I wanted the holidays to be special, particularly when children entered the mix.
It's very easy to get caught up in the busyness of the holidays. My husband and I vow each year to create unique, memorable experiences for our children, while instilling within them the true reason behind each season.
Pause...Reflect... What do you remember about the holidays as a child? What message do you want to convey to your children about the season? Think about how you can incorporate some of the magic you felt into the present day. Perhaps it was a special place, a favorite meal, a cherished song... Each year, my husband and I combine some of our best-loved memories with new inspirations for a truly memorable season.
Intermix old and new traditions. Growing up, my mom and I used to shop the day after Thanksgiving. My father would join us at the movies when we'd worn ourselves out. We plan to continue these two traditions with our family, along with some new ones we've introduced, like decorating Gingerbread Houses. Incorporating family traditions bridges generations and families. Talk to grandparents about how they celebrated the holidays throughout their seasons of life. Glean inspiration from family members to start your own traditions. Ask family members, including children, to describe one tradition they'd like to celebrate each year. Some of my favorite traditions include going around the table to state what each family member was thankful for at Thanksgiving and picking out gift exchange partners for Christmas.
Engage your senses. So many of my childhood memories of the holidays are tied to sights, sounds, and smells. I still remember waking up to the smell of rice pilaf on Thanksgiving Day and sipping eggnog while decorating the tree at Christmas. While I am not opposed to the convenience of prepared meals, I believe that the smell and taste of a home-cooked holiday meal creates warmth, promotes togetherness, and bonds families during the holidays. Brew cinnamon in the kitchen...decorate the family Christmas tree with ornaments you've created together...involve children in the process of cooking and baking holiday dishes.
Stroll off the beaten path. I will forever remember the year my parents and I spent Thanksgiving in San Francisco. We ate seafood in place of turkey and stuffing and toured Alcatraz instead of watching football. While I believe that there is value in upholding traditions, some of my most memorable childhood experiences were those that were unconventional, creative, and outside the box. Take a staycation... eat a nontraditional meal...engage in new and exciting activities.
Document, Photograph, and Record Memories. In my children's three short years of life, specific moments are starting to blur. Despite the fact that I take a ton of photos and videos of my children, there are moments I've failed to capture. Commit to creating photobooks, scrapbooks, photo montages, or videos of your annual holiday celebrations to look back on as time passes. Whether it's taking a yearly family photo or writing a seasonal family newsletter, years from now you'll cherish the ability to relive those memories you created.
This holiday season, take time to reflect on what's important to you as you celebrate with your family. With a little thought and creativity, you can create a lifetime of memories....
By guest blogger Caryn Bailey at RockinMama