by Nancy Peplinsky – HMN Founder

Each year it seems that the holiday season creeps up faster and faster. Stores begin decorating for Christmas before the arrival of Halloween and the sheer commercialism of the season seems to take hold. Between planning, decorating, shopping, cooking, and juggling our everyday lives, the season often seems daunting and overwhelming. When we look back on holidays past, it is never this busy-ness that we recall fondly, but treasured traditions and time with friends or family that warm our hearts. It is time for all of us to let go of the holiday crazy and to rediscover the simpler, more memorable parts of the season to share with our children. Growing up my best friend always joined my family for Christmas Eve. One year we decided to bake gingerbread on Christmas Eve and, as young teenagers, thought it would be fun to get creative with decorating them. We pulled out icings, food dyes, and sprinkles, and got to work to transform our creations into entertaining characters – from gingerbread gangsters to current rockstars or cultural icons – despite our lack of artistic talents. We delighted in how crazy and creative we could get and spent the evening talking and connecting as we decorated. Each year we looked forward to our cookie endeavors as a special time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Although my best friend and her family continues to join me each year for Christmas Eve to this day, the gingerbread creations are now a holiday tradition that I share with my own kids in advance of the holiday. We decorate both sugar and gingerbread cookies in traditional and completely non-conventional designs. We have gone through teen years with Mario and superhero gingerbread characters, made special cookies for loved ones we have lost, and decorated cookies for our pets or our favorite internet memes. My older son’s artistic girlfriend has joined in the fun for the past two years and everyone begins brainstorming on new design ideas as soon as we pick a date. It is moments like this that build true and significant holiday season memories. It is a time to simply have fun, be creative, and enjoy each other’s company.

These family traditions build amazing connections and memories. They not only bond us in our relationships but celebrate cultures, communities, and cross generational storytelling. Whether traditional or non-conventional, traditions build hope and inspiration as well as routine for children. They also help children to formulate their personal and cultural identities. Engaging in a family tradition can also give you an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness and take away the many distractions of the season. Your own holiday traditions can be unique to your family and may revolve around food, music, travel, hobbies, games, or whatever speaks to your family vision.

Holiday traditions are what make the season special. It’s never too late to start a new holiday tradition or to add to the ones that you already have. Find something that resonates with your family (or your local HMN Chapter!). Go for a holiday hike, cook a favorite dish together, plant or plan a new garden or tree, volunteer in your community, have a family jam session, or do a vision board for the year ahead. Take time out of the holiday crazy to make the season special.

Wishing everyone a healthy and memorable holiday season!