“This,” declared my 13-year-old, looking me straight in the eye, “is the year we bring back all the holiday traditions we’ve abandoned.”
“Abandoned” felt like a bit of a strong word, but I knew what he meant. Over the past five years or so, our family’s celebration of the holiday season has undergone a lot of small changes – or what seemed like small changes to me at the time. We’ve had good reasons: illnesses and deaths in the family, changed travel plans, new commitments filling the calendar, and pandemic restrictions all played a part in our decisions. But what felt like sensible updates to me, apparently felt like a series of cruelly discarded traditions to my son.
I wondered how other families deal with the need to make changes to seasonal celebrations. After all, people grow, families change, and life sometimes takes unexpected turns. The annual cookie decorating party or 40-person dinner at Grandma’s can’t go on forever. So I turned to our Executive Director, Dr. Anne Fishel, to ask: What can families do when the holidays have to change?
First, Dr. Fishel says, it’s important to remember that change is inevitable. “We tend to think of holidays as being about tradition, doing things exactly the same way year after year,” she says. “But with creativity, flexibility, and reflection, families can shift their weight and reinvent when change is needed. It’s the balance of familiarity and novelty that keeps the holidays feeling meaningful.”
She points out that there are a number of reasons, many of them positive, why families may feel the need to adapt their celebrations. Aside from obvious life transitions like a death in the family or a divorce, there are lots of milestones that might cause a shift in holiday plans. “Maybe, an adult child has gone to spend the holiday with his girlfriend’s family,” she says. “Parents who have hosted the holiday for decades are passing the mantle to the next generation. Or, a grandchild is expected around the holiday, so other plans are put on hold.”
Whatever the reason, as family life evolves, so can our traditions. Here are some of Dr. Fishel’s tips for dealing with change this holiday season:
A Special Holiday Gift for You!
Throughout the month of December, you can get 30% off your purchase of our book, “Eat, Laugh, Talk: The Family Dinner Playbook” at Familius.com! Enter discount code FamilyDinner at checkout to redeem the offer. The book makes a great holiday gift, or a wonderful addition to your family library as you prepare for a year of family dinners in 2023!
Make breakfast, brunch, or dinner extra festive with this quiche recipe from our friends at GoodCook!
Even in times of change, there’s always something to be grateful for! Enjoy these gratitude-inspiring movies together this holiday season.
Dinner and a Movie: Holiday Movies
Talk about your family traditions, old and new, with these conversation starters.
2023 The Family Dinner Project