If you’ve ever seen the movie Fiddler on the Roof, then you’ve heard the word “tradition” sung with a verve that you’ll likely never forget.
The film is about change and the unraveling of traditions, but strangely enough, it is also about celebrating many of the traditions that make up the characters’ lives. This odd duality—a love of tradition existing beside a resistance to it—is not only a part of the movie’s world, it’s a common aspect of life, particularly for caregivers.
Traditions provide a structure to life. They can bring comfort, rhythm, and connection into your world. On the other hand, they can also add extra burdens to a life that is full up with challenges already. So, as you move forward into the rest of the holiday season, it’s a good time to consider your family’s traditions and how they may be approached this year in a way that brings less stress and more joy into your family’s world.
If the holiday season feels like an endless slog of tasks instead of a joyful time to reconnect with those you love, how can you reimagine your traditions to enhance and bring further meaning and connection to your life?
Here are some ideas to sprinkle some delight into your holiday traditions:
1) Amp Up the Love
The best thing about the holidays is the opportunity to reconnect with people you love, but sometimes caregiving makes that a challenge. So what can you do? If your family is spread out, schedule some group holiday calls or Zoom sessions. If they live nearby, plan an easy gathering. Each person can bring a dish so no one has to cook. Maybe add a gingerbread house or graham crackers, frosting, and candies for an easy and fun activity for both kids and adults. Or call up a restaurant and arrange delivery for your meal so no one has to do a thing. The important thing is to connect, so whatever makes that the most fun for everyone is the best choice. Don’t feel like you have to cook for days. Relax and reconnect instead.
2) Consider Your Likes
The good thing about the holidays is that there are lots of options. Do you enjoy holiday movies, hot chocolate, decorating the tree, or cooking latkes? Do you treasure presents or does the act of buying them and getting them overwhelm you? Whatever you like, make those your go-to holiday traditions and perhaps change the ones that aren’t working for you. If it would be fun, set up a night to watch It’s a Wonderful Life with those who are similarly minded. Or maybe go see A Christmas Carol with a friend at a local theater. If you’ve got everything you need and the last thing you want is another present, maybe ask people to give to a favorite charity in your name instead and consider donating to one of their favorite charities as your present to them. It doesn’t matter what you like, just find a way to bring the traditions you enjoy into your holiday season, and take a step back from any that don’t bring you joy.
3) Relax the Expectations
Sometimes people get so caught up in what they want to happen that they can’t enjoy the actual event. Do the holidays in your home tend to devolve into moments of grand disappointment? What can you do to change that? Remember that even if you imagine your holiday movie night as a time of joy and tears at the predicament of George Bailey, and instead what you get is a bunch of family chattering over the movie so you can’t even hear what’s happening, that’s ok. The point isn’t the movie. The point is your family. The movie will always be available for enjoyment, but your family won’t. Even children won’t be their same chatty selves for long. They may soon become sullen teens or absent 20-somethings. So no matter how the planning of a special tradition goes awry, treasure whatever occurs. The point is to be together. A disastrous event may even become a cherished memory. One friend’s favorite holiday memory centers on the time a four-year-old hung a fire engine as an ornament and pulled the entire tree down. So take a breath and laugh at whatever disaster or disappointment occurs. Some disasters can be good fun.
Remember, if you let them, holiday traditions can provide a warm and splashy end to the year, so allow yourself to find ways to enjoy this month in your own way. Maybe if the normal activities leave you cold, think of some new ones. For instance, you could call an old friend who you or your loved one has lost touch with. Or do something wildly different at least once during the month, even if all you can manage is a trip to a restaurant that you and your loved one have never tried. You have the power to create traditions you love, so savor the old and experiment with the new. You and your loved one are worth it.
Copyright © by Kathi Koll
Image Credit: Photo 126178186 / Tradition © Golubovy | Dreamstime.com
Kathi Koll, Founder of The Kathi Koll Foundation: Supporting Family Caregivers in Need
Kathi Koll is the founder of The Kathi Koll Foundation, dedicated to supporting caregivers in need, and author of the award-winning book Kick-Ass Kinda Girl: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Caregiving. She also has a podcast Care for Caregivers. Her experience caring for her late husband, Don, after his debilitating stroke, was the inspiration for creating the foundation and writing her memoir. Kathi has been committed to civic, community, and healthcare organizations within and outside the United States for decades. She currently serves on the Hoag Hospital Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute advisory committee and on the Boy Scouts of America Orange County Council Board of Directors. She has previously served on the board of trustees of Casa Cuna, an orphanage in La Paz, Mexico, the boards of UCLA Health Systems and American Ballet Theatre, and as a trustee for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Kathi grew up in Los Angeles where she attended Loyola Marymount University. She lives in Southern California, and is the proud mother of three children and extremely proud grandmother of nine grandchildren, who all lovingly call her KK.