How to change holiday traditions

Every Thanksgiving for over a decade, Jane Darnell has packed her kids up and hopped a flight from their home in Argyle, Texas, to meet the rest of her family where they live in Las Vegas. As the season approached each year, she dreaded spending thousands of dollars on flights for herself and her four children only to face the stress and bickering once it arrived. “There’s a fight of sorts,” says Darnell, 40. “Always.”

Eight years ago, Darnell changed his mind. She said she made a conscious effort to only participate in events or people that brought her peace. This particular tradition did not. I sat by it — and continued to skip Thanksgiving parties in Las Vegas afterward. Instead, Darnell and her kids swap the turkey for a taco at a local Mexican restaurant, which is a less stressful tradition. It seems harsh, though [for] For the past eight years, I haven’t been celebrating Thanksgiving with my family, I’ve had the best, most peaceful time with, as she says, “with tacos and margaritas.”

The holiday season is prime time for the family ritual and customs. From baking and decorating to games and gift-giving, many of these traditions can unite and bring back fond memories. “It’s something we can all agree on,” he says. Alexandra CromerLicensed Professional Counselor Thriveworks in Richmond, Virginia. “It’s a really stressful world we live in, so having something to look forward to, in the form of tradition, can help us because it’s something that’s safe, it’s something that’s dependable, and we know it doesn’t change.”

Often, many of these customs become family shorthand and passed down from generation to generation without assessing their purpose, says a licensed marriage and family therapist. Mona Sheikh. However, there may come a point where family members who championed a particular ritual die, new partners and children enter the fold, or long-established customs simply don’t serve you and you want to change the way you celebrate. Broaching the topic can be upsetting to your family members, so consider their associations with certain traditions but proceed in a way that seems most authentic to everyone. Here’s what to consider.

When tradition needs an update

Holiday rituals can fall out of favour for a number of reasons, from the painful to the mundane. Coordinating travel with young children can make gathering at your out-of-state relative’s home a pain. Songs with the whole family probably lost their luster when you were twelve years old. Maybe you’re too agonizing over the game of gift exchange that your grandfather loved to continue after his death. this year, inflation Gifting makes for an expensive and potentially stressful endeavor, so continuing the tradition of buying each friend individual gifts can be futile.

Cromer recommends looking at your habits and evaluating whether they are both healthy and beneficial based on what is considered normal for your family or circle of friends. (Because what one group considers healthy may differ from another.) Although it may be inconvenient for you to get to your parents’ house for Hanukkah, their place may be the most beneficial due to its central location to most family members and the fact that they have A large living room where everyone can fit.

When thinking about an upcoming event or tradition, check your body and see the feelings and emotions that are triggered Mo Ari BrownLicensed Marriage and Family Therapist. Notice if you feel nervous, anxious, or uncomfortable. Is your heart beating fast? Are you afraid of imitation? “That’s a sign that you really don’t want to get involved if any of these symptoms are present,” Brown says.

The cause of your anxiety may be a more complex issue than simply “I don’t feel like cooking with my family.” For those who have relatives who don’t accept your sexuality, your partner, or any other aspect of your identity, Eshaiker says, seeing these people or engaging in old-school habits could hurt you. Depending on how safe you feel in the situation, Eshaiker recommends talking to your relative and letting them know how you want to be treated. Tell them how their words or actions affect you. Try saying, “It doesn’t make me feel welcome. I don’t know what parts to bring. The world is changing. I think you might be surprised if it was just me because things might end up okay.” If you know this conversation isn’t going to go well, Eshaiker says to give yourself a time limit of an hour or two of family time and leave.

Think about why the ritual triggers these physical reactions — and get specific. A tailor-made meal might not bother you, but the fact that everyone criticizes your cooking afterward will. You may love spending time with family, but feel exhausted after only a few hours. Knowing your exact pain points can help you better frame a conversation later.

Avoid falling into the commitment trap, too. Just because the holiday is always done this way doesn’t mean everyone enjoys it. If you notice that traditions cause more stress than they used to and bring up more negative feelings than positive ones, it’s worth reconsidering.

How to talk about changing a tradition with family and friends

Before engaging in a conversation with your family, be prepared for a wide range of emotions and responses. Holiday traditions can mean a lot to some group members. Brown says you should focus on the positive feelings the habit has brought you. Open up the conversation to your family members and ask them for their thoughts on changing the ritual. Inviting others to build new traditions is a way to attract and excite everyone. Try saying, “I love the way the family gift exchange brings us all together, but my finances won’t allow me to buy gifts for everyone. How can a white elephant or Secret Santa where everyone has to bring an item they already own?” It might be helpful to emphasize that Change doesn’t have to be permanent, but you’d like to see if there was something else that would be more enjoyable for the whole family.

Keep your interests focused on yourself and your experience, Cromer says, by saying something like, “I feel like this tradition has lost its luster,” or, “This tradition is hard for me to partake in,” and explaining why. The cost of these events can be a huge factor in whether you are able and willing to go through, so make that known to your loved ones.

It’s common to fall back into old dynamics when talking to family members—such as parents treating their adult children like toddlers—and it can be difficult to ask for what you need, Eshaiker says, but it’s important to set boundaries around the holidays. “This is an opportunity for us to show them how we are treated and what is acceptable and normal,” she says.

What to consider when starting a new tradition

As families grow and change, so will the ways in which they celebrate. Brown says if your parents used to have a big breakfast on holiday mornings but you have your own kids now, take the opportunity to build a new tradition rather than harping on how things have changed. Acknowledge how difficult it can be for parents to experience these new dynamics while still finding ways to realize the positive feelings that imitation has brought. “What have you always wanted to get out of this tradition?” Brown says. “There are ways you can access that even if you don’t have it [parents]. Perhaps you could offer to host breakfast at your house instead.

Be prepared to meet family members halfway. When Darnell starts skipping the family’s Thanksgiving, her grandmother is upset. To compromise, she says she and other family members visit her throughout the year.

When suggesting new holiday rituals, think about your audience, Eshaiker says, both in terms of logistics and finances. You may not want to suggest a long day of baking with a group of kids. A lavish warm-weather getaway may not be the best option for a loved one who recently lost his job. Also, keep any ideas light and fun because “people have enough ideas in their lives,” says Eshaiker.

After the event, you might want to ask for feedback to see if everyone enjoyed the demo, Eshaiker says. “I actually have a family member who, after he organizes something, will send us a one-on-one text and be like, How was that? Could I have improved anything?” she says. “Which feels very work, but I remember really appreciating it.”

Don’t be upset if some family members aren’t bothered about trying something new. Take that feedback and adjust it for next year. Or if you are really loyal to your idea, make it an imitation of one. “Maybe we used to have an ugly Christmas party, but now that Grandpa’s dead, everyone hates it and they don’t want to have it,” Cromer says. “Maybe I’ll put on my ugly Christmas sweater and be like, ‘Hey, this is a tradition that makes me feel festive.'” “

How to manage the feelings that come with changing traditions

Because holiday traditions are rooted in family history and cherished memories, some may not be thrilled about the idea of ​​changing them up. Cromer says he can expect feelings ranging from anger and blame to sadness and nostalgia. Respect your relatives’ reactions and approach the conversation with curiosity. Ask them what imitation means to them, then offer what it means to you, Brown suggests. What is the middle ground that focuses on those feelings and memories? “It’s important for us to be clear about what our desires are,” Brown says. “So if it’s about connection, joy, love, to really put that up front so that member knows…we’re not trying to change all the things you want to keep, it’s about wanting to connect deeper with you.”

A change in holiday habits can be distressing for you, too. This could be the first vacation without your loved one or after a breakup. acknowledge these feelings; You are probably not the only one feeling it. It can also bring you and your loved ones closer together.

The goal of family rituals is to promote closeness and warmth, not commitment and resentment. Remember to keep the lines of communication open, focus on the feelings you hope to achieve with Traditions, and be open to renegotiation.

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