Holiday traditions can be beautiful things that add to your faith and strengthen your family life. Traditions, after all, are a part of what solidifies the culture of each unique family. But as life isn't static, neither are traditions. Family changes, like children becoming adults, marriage, divorce, the loss of a loved one, or the addition of a new family member can cause a shift in priorities and desires for your loved ones. When high expectations and a hang-up on keeping a tradition alive start butting up against these family changes, holidays can start to overwhelm, cause guilt, and steal joy. Don't let holidays become a burden to you or your family. If you find that what worked in the past is no longer working, here's how to switch up the tradition to work better for your current family dynamic.
Evaluate what is or isn't working
Whenever you start on the path of, "we have to do it this way because this is the way we always have done it," stop and ask yourself if it's really still serving you and your family best, or if your desire to recreate the same perfect family holiday every year has become an obstacle to actually enjoying the time with your family. Is it something you have to do, or something you want to do? A tradition that's working helps strengthen your family; a tradition that is no longer serving your family's best interests can force people apart. If you find that trying to keep a tradition alive causes anxiety and guilt rather than joy, it's time for a change.
Communication is key to happy holidays
When something needs tweaking, don't let it fall solely on your shoulders to figure it out; get everyone involved. You might not even be aware that some things have become a burden to others until you ask. Keeping communication open and honest can relieve guilt and prevent the hurt feelings that come from unspoken expectations. Sit down with your loved ones and ask them what traditions are important to them, let them know which ones are important to you, and together you can create a plan on how to do as many of those things as possible together. Forming new traditions together can be enlightening, fun, and renew a sense of wonder and excitement for the holidays that might've been waning.
Be flexible and set attainable expectations
If you get too hung-up on recreating the holiday magic year after year, your expectations can build to the point of becoming unrealistic. When those high expectations inevitably fail, stress, guilt, and unhappiness can arise. Remember that holidays should be a heartwarming time filled with smiles and creating new memories. Instead of struggling to hold on to what "once was," relax and focus on what the holiday is truly about: spending time with loved ones. If a time-consuming tradition stresses you out, simplify it. If someone can no longer make it on a specific day, don't take it personally. Changing decades-long traditions is not without some angst, but learning to set reasonable and attainable expectations and be open to change will go a long way towards an enjoyable holiday for all.