Don't Get Stuck in Tradition

Today is the last day of November. Once the calendar page flips to December, it's an all-out sprint to Christmas. Our December calendar has all the normal stuff on it plus all the Christmas stuff. It's filling up fast. One thing I've yet to get on the calendar is the annual visit to "The Penguin House." There's a house in our town that has more than 100 Christmas-themed penguin blow-ups in the yard. My youngest daughter loves going to this house every year. It is at the top of her list of favorite Christmas traditions.

Yet, there are Christmas traditions that not everyone in my house likes. Nobody but me likes date cookies -- a long time family recipe. A couple of years ago, I quit making them. They're hard to make and they're extra calories I don't need. When I want some, I go see my mom who still makes them. If I have extra time, I might make a batch for me, but I no longer stress about getting the date cookies made.

Christmas traditions are great, but they're not good if they become a chore or a source of contention within your family. Make it a point this year to destress your Christmas season by planning which traditions to take part in.

Tonight is a rare quiet night in our house. No practices so we'll all sit down to dinner together, and the girls will get to bed on time. It will be a great night to do our Christmas planning.

In years past, I've decided what Christmas traditions to put on the calendar, but this year, I'm enlisting the help of the family. The days leading up to Christmas get jam-packed with all the things we try to do because we've always done them. Yet, no one ever stops to ask if we really like doing them.

Letting your family help you plan for the holiday can take a lot of the stress and all of the feelings of not being appreciated out of the mix. You don't necessarily have to have a detailed plan but get a general idea of the things that your family wants to do this season. Then get rid of the things that no one likes but that you always do. Just  because you've always done it, doesn't mean you have to continue doing it. If no one likes great-grandma's fruitcake recipe, quit making it. If your kids don't like to go to the annual Christmas tree lighting in your city, don't go.

Sorting out what your family wants to do during the Christmas season not only eliminates some of the grumpiness in your family, it frees up your time. Proverbs 21:5 says "The plans of the diligent lead to profit  as surely as haste leads to poverty." In this case, the profit is time and happiness. With a plan for the holidays, you might find you even have enough time to try something new and different.

Set aside some time with your entire family to make a plan for the holidays. Start with these questions:

  • What's your favorite Christmas tradition?
  • What Christmas tradition do you like the least?
  • Is there anything that we haven't done at Christmas that you would like to do?
  • If you had to pick one thing to do this Christmas, what would it be?

Try to pick at least one thing that each family member thinks is important to celebrating Christmas. Then, get out your calendar and schedule those things in.

When you have a plan and are doing the things your family really wants to do during the busy Christmas season, you have more time to focus on what's important -- the birth of Christ. So, break out your calendars, settle your families at the kitchen table and start planning. You'll be glad you did.