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The Season of Traditions

‘Tis the season of traditions

‘Tis the season of traditions. Some I love and some make me feel incredibly rebellious. As I don’t identify as much of a rebel, I tend to pay attention when I feel the urge to dig in my heels or push back against expectations.

In my mind, that’s exactly what sets apart traditions that add to a holiday experience from traditions that feel onerous, burdensome, and just “extra.” They feel like expectations – expectations that add effort without the payoff of meaning.

The hard part, at least for me, is telling the two types of traditions apart before I get in too deep and get a chip on my shoulder. After all, a chip on my shoulder is the last thing I (or my loved ones) want during these festive weeks at the end of the year.

So how do we navigate this celebration-filled time of year without allowing tradition to become a tyrant that drives away the seasonal joy? Seriously – I think (hope and pray …) it’s possible.

We practice moderation

I suspect my family is not alone in bringing together many traditions from two sets of parents and four sets of grandparents, plus mixing in traditions that we’ve formed on our own. There is absolutely (positively) no way that we can bake all the things, put up all the decorations, or do all the activities that fall into the category of tradition (read: “things we always do this time of year”).

So we pick and choose. Some years we go into Philadelphia for the Thanksgiving Day or the Mummer’s parade. Some years we go to hear The Messiah. Some years we go to see the Christmas lights at Longwood Gardens. Some years we go into Manhattan to soak up the festivity of Rockefeller Center. Some years we drive up to Bethlehem to explore its German christkindlmarkt.

But we don’t do it all. Because we’re not just trying to stay cheerful. We’re trying to stay sane and loving and kind.

We practice generosity

As we pick and choose how we will fill our holiday season, we do so while being mindful of one another and our respective families. We are willing to give and take. While it can be hard to skip something I really love, I remind myself that it is the act of blending traditions from both mine and my husband’s childhoods, as well as staying open to new ideas, that has created the new traditions our kids call their own.

In addition, as always, we receive when we give. Even when we don’t “get our way,” we still get to enjoy the whole point of the holidays – which is being together. And that is a good thing no matter what we’re doing.

We practice self-care

As much as we’re being mindful of others – grandmothers, grandfathers, and adult children – we need to be mindful of ourselves. We need to be ruthlessly realistic about our available time and energy. We need to feel free to sit something(s) out when we’re feeling tired or in need or some peace and quiet.

Self-care can involve saying, “That sounds great! Would you like to take care of that?” when another item is requested for dinner. Or “I’d love to do that with you. Let me know when you’ve got it planned.” Or “I’m maxed out, but hope you have a great time.”

Please note that when we say all these things, we must mean them. I don’t know about you, but I am quite capable of handing over a project to someone else and still trying to control it. This is not self-care. This is self-crazy-making. You will also drive your loved one who is trying to help crazy.

You will know you have truly handed something off (whatever that something is) when you are grateful for whatever is done however it is done. And, by the way, it’s perfectly OK if some of the gratitude you’re feeling is for the simple fact that you didn’t have to do it yourself.

Quality not quantity

Which brings me back to my opening epiphany. Traditions that feel like expectations are not traditions I want to hold on to. I’d rather take care of myself by letting go of some of the things I or we have “always done” for the holidays and choose instead to invest my energy and time in a smattering of activities that make my family happy.

This is how the most important holiday tradition of all – being together – will be treasured and passed down. Remember, it’s not what you do or make or eat that matters. What matters is how you feel when you are doing it, making it, or eating it — together.

Don’t forget that mindfulness practices are self-care that allow you to better enjoy your family and friends. Make a commitment to you and keep practicing. Those you love will be grateful that you do! Explore the Yoga With Sprit website for ideas.