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Untraditional Holiday Traditions

By Debbie Mandel

Because our relationships serve as a barometer of personal happiness, they are always evolving, expanding or ending. What used to be known as the traditional family is now holding hands with a new cast of characters who are referred to by steps and ex-s, step-grandparents, step-children, ex-wives and husbands, and so on. Because of all the different personalities and cultures, the old family holiday traditions simply wonít be inclusive. One size does not fit all!

This gives us a wonderful excuse to let go of the old and tired to invent our own new and blended version. For example, some of the traditional recipes might be unhealthy by todayís standards, difficult to prepare and donít even taste good! Itís time to free ourselves from a past that no longer applies to embrace the present. Letís start by creating our own new rituals, step by step. It is truly amazing how these small actions will work on our mindsets to free us up from other restrictions in our lives. We enjoy expressing ourselves naturally. Accepting, integrating and participating in joint rituals creates balance and strengthens the family.

Iím not a domestic diva, but here are some suggestions for starting your own special holiday traditions:
  • Borrow elements from seasonal festivities from different cultures and decorate your home with them. Bring nature into your home. Get CDís with specific sounds from nature.
  • Food affects family mood. Come up with your own special holiday recipes that tie into the season. Create a family stew or soup of blended seasonal foods with bread that you bake together. There are so many varieties of breads you might have to take a vote.
  • If new family members come from a warm climate and now live in a cold one, spread out a blanket and have an indoor family picnic using as many props as you can instead of a sit-down dinner.
  • To keep it spiritual set up a family ďpilgrimageĒ by becoming a tourist in your own neighborhood. For example, take a gratitude walk by the sea, in a park, or to cityscapes. Consider a family walk on a clear night to look at the stars or a harvest moon.
  • Use lights: Candles with different scents for each celebration.
  • Create a forgiveness ritual followed by a sweet table.
  • Create a yearly planting ceremony from a perennial in your backyard to seeds on your windowsill.
  • Keep an album of new family milestones and set aside a special day to recite the stories.
  • If you donít want a Christmas tree or Menorah, decorate a lamp Ė hanging circles made from construction paper of your wishes and appreciation.

Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: