The holidays cause us to reflect on things we don’t normally stop to think about. Things like traditions. That’s a part of their beauty; we don’t have to think about them. We just do them because we’ve done them the same way over and over again for years.
That is, until a death occurs. Then, our traditions become efforts and the joy we once felt in doing them may be gone. How can we celebrate in the same ways when so much has changed? We can’t. There is no going back to the way things were and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise; but here are a few ways to keep your loved one’s memory strong while building new traditions.
- Find your identity as a family. Are you a musical family? Consider doing a holiday concert for family, friends, and neighbors, or at a local nursing home or skilled facility in honor of your loved one. If you’re athletic, how about starting an annual family football game? Call it the First Annual <insert loved one’s name> Fabulous Family Football Game, and let the tradition grow from there. Snowball fights, snowman building contests, board game challenges, bring the best pie, create together in the kitchen—all these can be new ideas to incorporate into your holidays. Get creative.
- If you don’t normally travel during the holidays, you might consider starting the tradition of an annual getaway to a cabin on a lake, a bed-and-breakfast, or a downtown stay. Sometimes new traditions require new surroundings.
- If you have children, buy a number of craft items like felt, beads, glitter, and Styrofoam pieces and allow each one to make a special commemorative ornament or wall hanging. These can be hung each year as a part of your new tradition.
- Set an honorary place at the dinner table with an embroidered napkin or calligraphy note that says, “We Remember.”
- Consider a private family ceremony based on your religious or spiritual practices. You don’t need a synagogue, church, temple, or building of any kind to gather in faith and love. Sharing words of faith, and candle lightings are often meaningful ceremonies for many families around the holidays.
You don’t always have to start new traditions either; you can continue to build on the old ones. If everyone gets together for a holiday dinner, after the meal suggest that everyone (who is able) participate in a charitable service in memory of a loved one.
Finding new ways to bond with your family is important. Holding on to some traditions while creating new ones is important too. Just remember, any event that comes from your heart can become a way of memorializing your loved one while keeping them a part of your holiday traditions.