The pandemic has changed the dynamic of the holidays and holiday traditions for families this year. There are many who are struggling financially and cannot afford gifts. There are those who are grieving over the loss of loved ones. Many are saddened by the lack of being around family and friends who are usually with them to celebrate. Whatever your set of circumstances, I want to share some traditions that I have incorporated during the last few years.
the power of giving and receiving as a holiday tradition for families
I remember the first time Brielle was old enough to appreciate presents. We celebrate Chanukah, which means 8 days and nights of celebrating. In our case, we gave gifts to Brielle for each of those nights. The first few nights Brielle was visibly grateful for her new gifts. By the last few nights, she basically had her hand out expecting to receive something. After the holiday ended, Brielle continued to ask for gifts. She thought the new holiday tradition was getting nightly presents. My husband and I were saddened that what she had taken away from the holiday was expecting gifts instead of appreciating the ones she was fortunate enough to get.
We decided giving large amounts of gifts was not the way to go. We wanted her to appreciate what she has and recognize that there are others who are not as fortunate. It was important for us to instill in her that there was more to the holidays than getting materialistic things.
The following year, we implemented a holiday tradition of four days of giving and four days of receiving. That meant that of the 8 nights of Chanukah, she would get something for four of them. The other four nights were about giving back and coming up with ways to show support for others. If you celebrate Christmas and do gift giving on Christmas Day, you can still have your kids give back as part of their holiday celebration.
Some of the things Brielle has done over the years to give include: making cards and cookies for our local firehouse, volunteering at an animal shelter, donating toys and items to Goodwill, writing letters to people who work at hospitals to thank them, donating food at homeless shelters, and putting together packages of toiletry items for the homeless.
This year she was unable to volunteer anywhere because of COVID, but Brielle sent out letters and cards to various hospitals, assisted living and nursing homes, and to our fire department. She also sent out a get well soon card to a teacher. She felt good knowing that she was bringing joy to others, and she valued the presents she received.
creating cherished holiday traditions for families
Another holiday tradition we started incorporating was prioritizing making memories. I know that memories might have involved other people in past years, but memories can still be made. I notice that when I ask Brielle what she liked most or what stood out most to her, she will talk about the times we spend together.
Past memories included taking a road trip to NY while stopping at a hotel in Virginia to spend the night, going ice skating, and taking mini-vacations. Although we can’t have the same experiences this year, there are COVID friendly memories that can be created with your children.
An experience Brielle really enjoyed this Chanukah was watching “The Family Man” in matching pajamas while eating popcorn. Snuggling together in front of the TV was a great memory, and one that I think she will remember far more than any gift.
I also let her pick a dessert (she picked cookies) and we baked them together in our aprons. She made a mess, but she was so proud of herself when the cookies were ready. We also drank hot cocoa in front of the fire and sang Chanukah songs. Another thing Brielle loved was hours of playing dreidel (it is a spinning top). We play using pennies and depending on what side it lands on will determine if you give money, get all the money, get half the money, or everyone puts in money. We also played a TON of board games.
gifts can create memories also
The gifts we gave Brielle this year also involved creating memories. She received a jewelry box that she decorated herself using stickers and play dough. She designed in advance which color she would put on each side, which stickers she’d use, and what designs she’s use. I made some of it with her, and we spend the whole time laughing and enjoying our time together. I also got her a rock painting kit, which had stickers on it that were kindness stickers. She painted them and put them on people’s mailboxes and by their yards. It was a very special activity.
Another memory that we create on the holidays is a scavenger hunt. I write short little clues (Dryer-I go here when I’m wet, I spin round and round, located in the laundry room is where I am found), and Brielle goes around the house collecting the clues. When she finishes she then gets a present. Brielle loves the scavenger hunts so much that the present is secondary.
I hope that when Brielle grows up, she will remember the holiday traditions and times we spent together. Presents will come and go, but it is the time we spend with our children and the values that we instill in them that truly matters.