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Choosing Christmas Traditions

Under topic: holidays

Each family is unique in its holiday traditions. Some traditions are handed down from generation to generation, and many family members become very upset if they are not strictly followed. It behooves families, therefore, to be very careful when establishing their traditions because they may get stuck with some they wish they did not have. The following are just a few examples. 

In my family, it was important that the children be surprised and awed on Christmas morning by coming down the steps and seeing a table full with presents and a beautiful tree. In order to accomplish this feat, my parents needed to stay up all night wrapping presents and trimming the tree. As a result, the image that stays in my mind is my mother asleep on the couch on Christmas morning too tired to join in the festivities. 

The holiday season should be a time of peace and joy.

Our presents were in separate piles on the dining room table. Each pile had to be the same height. We opened our presents together and nobody really saw what the other person received because each was busy with his own pile. It was all over rather quickly. Now I have my sons decorate the tree before Christmas. 

I decided a long time ago that Santa Claus did not have to have that burden, we would do it for him ahead of time. Also each present is opened one at a time. In this way everyone can ooh and ahh and those who spent time and effort picking out just the right gift can feel satisfaction that they chose well. It also makes the process more fun and it lasts longer. When the number of children in an extended family increases, gift giving becomes a burden if you are expected not only to give gifts to the children but also to the adults. One solution to this is for families to agree to give gifts only to the children and not to the adults. Adult gift giving could be in the form of a donation to a charity agreed upon by the whole family. 

Another variation is to have the adults pick the name of another adult from a grab bag and only have to buy one present. Still another variation is for the adults in the family to contribute to a family gift like a camcorder or a VCR. Older adults really do not need to accumulate more things. The best gift for them is the gift of time. Younger adults can volunteer to do something for them. Another possibility is for family members to put together to buy a book of senior citizen airline tickets for them. 

One Christmas I was taken aback when one child said I liked the other one better because I bought him more things. After counting, we discovered that his perception was correct. One did receive more gifts than the other. The situation arose because one child had a list and knew exactly what he wanted and the other one wanted to be surprised and we ran out of ideas on how to surprise him. Try to avoid this situation by deciding ahead of time how much money you want to spend on presents and then divide the amount equally among the children. It also helps if you have the same number of presents for each child. 

The best tradition is to have a few well-chosen presents rather than the expectation of many presents. Quality not quantity will make Christmas much easier for you. In the same vein, it helps to accumulate Christmas presents all during the year and not just in December. In this way, you take advantage of better prices and better choices. 

The holiday season should be a time of peace and joy. This can only be accomplished by the adults in the family planning ahead by keeping the traditions that work, getting rid of those that are a burden and introducing ones that add to the joy of the season.

First published in 1993