When you think of childhood holiday memories, do you envision a tree glowing with silvery tinsel and shiny ornaments, presents piled high under it? Maybe you have images of the Menorah being lit before a special dinner during Hanukah. Did your Dad insist Santa preferred a bologna sandwich and a beer each year instead of chocolate chip cookies and milk? Perhaps each Christmas you and your siblings broke out into an off-key rendition of “Deck the Halls” while your mom was rolling out dough for sugar cookies. Ah, the joys of family traditions.
Dr. Susan Newman, PhD, author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day, says creating traditions is extremely important for a family. “They create a sense of continuity and feelings of security,” she says, adding that traditions also help spouses to compromise, are fun, and give family members something to look forward to.
Carol Naughton, mother of three in Lisle, Illinois, looks forward to the holidays as a way to keep her family connected. Each year, they find the neighborhoods where the best lights have been displayed. “We pick just the right night, usually during or just after a snowfall so that the lights look a little more magical,” says Naughton. Her family also bakes “dozens and dozens” of cookies each season to share with friends, family, and teachers.
Naughton has kept a special tradition from her childhood going strong in her own family as well. “Each child gets a new ornament for the tree,” says Naughton, who picks the ornaments based on her kids’ personalities or hobbies. When the family decorates each year, Bridget, Patrick, and Matthew put their own ornaments on the tree. “It’s a fun way for them to have their own special part of Christmas, and it’s also fun because the ornaments serve as reminders of what the children were like at any given age,” says Naughton, whose mother gave her box of ornaments to her when she got married. Naughton’s children are now able to admire the ornaments that were purchased to represent their mother while she was growing up.