When you ask your kids what your family holiday traditions are, do they give you a blank stare? If so, don’t feel bad. You aren’t the only one who may have forgotten to be purposeful about creating memorable traditions. In fact, creating family traditions is something I’ve been working on for the past year. But don’t think holiday traditions have to be complicated. Heck, Pinterest gives me hives! All they need to be are meaningful to your family and done together.
Traditions are important for everyone to have because they create a sense of identity and security. With the right kind of traditions, military families can rely on something special happening no matter where they live, or whether or not their family member is away.
So if you have ever longed to create traditions your kids will remember, let’s get started brainstorming some ideas that might work for your family and mine.
Our easy tradition: Making the same holiday cookies as grandma.
Multi-generational cooking is a memory that many of us have from our childhoods. While this may seem like an impossible tradition to recreate when you live faraway from family, think about ways you can include recipes you grew up with in your holiday meals.
When you are home with extended family, ask if you can assist making one of their traditional dishes so you can make it when you are apart. If you invite other military families over for Thanksgiving, ask each to make a dish that they grew up with so everyone can share their tradition (and recipe!). Maybe you’ll adopt one as your own. Oh, and don’t forget to ask your mother-in-law for her recipes too!
Our easy tradition: Collecting holiday ornaments from each duty station or place we travel.
The holidays are a great time to celebrate the people and places from your military life. Visit an event that is a holiday tradition in the area where you are now living. Do something special for another military family that you don’t know (like dropping off a treat to the gate guards or cooking dinner for single soldiers). Pack up care packages for friends who are deployed. These traditions are not only mobile but they can help to identify the joy that can come with living different places and the people we meet along the way.
Our easy tradition: Finding the tackiest gift in the store while doing Christmas shopping.
There is no law that says your holiday tradition can’t be something that makes your family laugh. Who can tell the funniest joke at the Thanksgiving table? Why not wrap a gag gift that someone new ends up getting each year? New Year’s Eve is the perfect time for a crazy hat contest. Tell funny stories on Christmas Eve around the fireplace or in the dark with lit candles (or even flashlights!). Does a family dance party sound like a fun idea? How about an annual viewing of a funny holiday movie? Injecting laughter as a tradition can also bring a stress release during what can often be a stressful time.
It’s never too late to begin creating holiday traditions for your family. But remember:
Don’t make them too complicated. The harder something is to do, the easier it will be to “forget” to do it.
Make sure everyone in the family is onboard. A tradition should be something the family is looking forward to, not dreading.
Don’t compare your traditions to another family’s traditions. Someone will always be doing it “better” or “bigger” than you but what works for one family may not for another.
Are you excited to create some traditions that will work for your military family? Or just bummed to add another “to-do” to your holiday list?
If the latter is true, start small. One idea might be to do a random act of kindness as your tradition. It’s easy to do on the road and it is a good one for every holiday. Have your family come up with a list of ideas or have each person improvise and act as they desire, then report back with what they did. Or go for a family hike. We’ve done this on many holidays.
Traditions are a way to celebrate a special day in a meaningful way for your family. Now, go out and buy your ugly sweater and prep your holiday table jokes to be told while eating Aunt Janelle’s famous sweet potatoes.
Tell us, what holiday traditions have you found stand the rigors of military living?