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Holiday rituals dispel grinchiness

December 17, 2014

Holiday rituals connect family, dispel grinchiness

As published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

The holiday season can be a slog. By adding an extra dose of both joy and challenge to daily family life, the holidays can leave this father weary.

In October, we spend a month creating new and exciting costumes, which are suitable for the school parade, community parade and trick-or-treating, with the added challenge of managing candy consumption for our kids – one of whom is strongly allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, active ingredients in nearly every Halloween candy.

In November, we equivocate about Thanksgiving plans, scheduling and navigating four hours of car travel – in unpredictable weather – to gather for five hours and collectively eat a month’s supply of food in one sitting.

In December, we attempt to manage healthy expectations for the dual gift-giving seasons of Hanukah and Christmas, seeking to minimize the number of gifts with instructions that read, ‘some assembly required’ and ‘batteries not included,’ from entering our household.

By New Year’s Eve, exhausted by the seasonal demands, my wife Lori and I go to bed early – like most nights – awaking at 6:30 in the morning when our spirited kids, Zoe and Adam, scamper into our room to announce they are hungry.

While this grinchy view may suggest my heart is two sizes too small, I truly delight in the way the holidays are magical for Zoe and Adam. So, much to their credit and the festive spirit of my loving wife Lori, we collectively kindle that magic through simple seasonal rituals.

We decorate and celebrate. By providing a steady supply of art materials, Zoe and Adam lead us in creating Halloween decorations – ghosts and pumpkins, a scarecrow and a family of jack-o-lanterns – the first in an endless stream of festive hand made crafts that adorn our home year-round.

We connect with family. Long before the Halloween candy is gone, Zoe and Adam gleefully talk – almost daily – about being in the presence of their four older cousins on Thanksgiving Day. This year they whipped themselves into frenzy – for weeks – anticipating time with their three younger cousins, whom they last saw in July. So engaged were Zoe and Adam with their seven cousins, Lori and I actually enjoyed hours of sustained adult conversation with extended family and each other.

We express gratitude. Before Thanksgiving, we put a cardboard cut out of a tree on the wall next to the kitchen table and add leaves cut from colorful construction paper, on which we write messages of thanks. Then, the weekend after Thanksgiving, Zoe and Adam lead the charge as the four of us purge closets, bedrooms, and the basement of clothing that no longer fits and toys that are no longer used – boxing them and delivering them to a local charitable organization, imagining smiles on the faces of those who will put these seconds to good use.

We connect with the outdoor world. On Christmas, after gift opening, extended pajama time and a leisurely breakfast, we head to the woods to hike or snow shoe, warming ourselves with thermoses of hot team and fresh baked treats.

We foster hopes and dreams. At New Years we each create a small artistic representation of our intentions for the coming year, hanging them on the curtain rod above the kitchen table for year-round inspiration.

Our holiday rituals are simple, inexpensive and homegrown. And they bring pure joy to Zoe and Adam – to our entire family – and leave me less grinchy.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Barbara a permalink
    December 17, 2014 1:36 pm

    Thanks again for another thought provoking article, John. Happy holidays to you, Lori, Adam and my special friend, Zoe.

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