Creating Lasting Holiday Traditions
It was my first Christmas as a mom, and even though my daughter was only 4 months old, I was feeling the pressure. I wanted to make this holiday season special, as special as she was, as fantastic as this being-a-new-mom thing made me feel.
And it wasn't just this Christmas, I thought frantically (postpartum, I was frantic about pretty much everything). What about the next December, when Zoe would be 1? Or the preschool years, when she'd leave cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer? And what about when she became a mom -- what would I have to pass down to her?
I didn't have a lot of ideas or a lot of money. I didn't even have a lot of my own family traditions to draw on. But I wanted to do something special that would carry us through the years, something tangible that would be meaningful to our family.
My eureka moment happened in a discount store. I found little silver-painted wooden picture frames, each hung from a ribbon. Inspiration hit: I had a bare tree, but a very cute baby. Why not hang her picture on the tree -- but also buy enough frames so I could hang a new photo every year? Thinking that I'd have at least one more child, I bought 50 identical frames, and for $100, I had a tradition in the making.
Six years later, my two daughters cover our tree: Zoe is featured in seven frames, each bearing her name and the date, and Abby's face ap-pears in five. (Even better, I have enough frames to last us through college.) When we unpack the ornaments each year, the girls love to hold each one up and say, "Tell me about this Christmas!"
There's something so reassuring about a tradition that you can hold in your hands. When there's a physical object -- an ornament, a cookie cutter -- to take out year after year, it gives you a sense that the occasion is truly being marked and that it won't be forgotten. Ways to create those mementos for your family:
One year, Sian Zelbo, a mom of three in New York City, took a bunch of candids of her kids at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The photos were so sweet that she snapped shots at every traditional New York holiday pastime that year and put the best ones in a scrapbook. She makes a new, similar book every year, and the images of all their fun outings -- not to mention the kids' wide-eyed excitement -- inspire the family to make each year as special as the last.
Have your favorite photos of the kids with Santa transferred onto plates (easy to do at an online photo site), then use them to leave Santa's snack on Christmas Eve.
If lighting the menorah together is an important ritual, snap a family picture every year on the eighth night of Hanukkah, candles aglow, then transfer each photo to a mug, better to be used for holiday hot chocolate.
Lisa Tucker McElroy is the author of several children's books, including, most recently, a biography of Chief Justice John Roberts.