Traditions are beliefs, stories, principles, rituals, and customs that people in a particular society or group pass from generation to generation.  They are enjoyed not only at holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, or 4thof July, but also in families throughout the year.  Examples include visits to relatives, family vacations or reunions, themed dinner nights like “Taco Tuesday,” a special breakfast on a weekend morning, or Sunday dinner, sharing a high and low of the day at mealtime, bed-time stories for young children, family hikes, and countless others.


Some families report having too many traditions; others want to have more.  There are often differences of opinion about traditions within a family.  Numerous studies suggest the importance of traditions as a way to bond the family together and help us weather storms and tie us to our values and purpose.  


Take some time to talk about your family’s holiday traditions. Below are 5 activities to choose from: 1) Your Favorite Traditions, 2) Sights, Sounds, Smells, and Sensations of Christmas, 3) The DNA of Your Traditions, 4) Linking Traditions and Values, and 5) Choosing and Simplifying Traditions. 


Your Favorite Traditions

1.  With your immediate and/or extended families or friends, talk about your favorite holiday traditions.  Share what you most enjoy and why it is important to you.


Holiday Tradition

Why I like it?  Why is it important to me?
























Sights, Sounds, Smells and Sensations of Christmas

2.  With a group of people or by yourself, take time to identify the particular sights, sounds, smells, and sensations of the holiday season that excite you.  Do your best to incorporate the gratifying ones into your festivities this year. 




What do you love seeing during the holidays?



What smells delight your senses at Christmas?



What sounds do you appreciate at this time of year?



What sensations do you enjoy as we end the year?




It’s always fun to work through these activities with my family, and I’ll share some of our delightful sensing activities below.  

Sights that delight our senses include Christmas cards from friends and family, a candle-lit worship service, loved ones enjoying a special meal at a decorated Christmas table, Christmas lights, and live Nativities.  


Sounds that we treasure at Christmas include children singing Christmas carols, singing “Silent Night” a cappella, squeals of delight on Christmas morning, young kids talking about “Santa,” and greeting our neighbors during the holiday season. 


Smells that signal the holidays include my mother’s homemade struedel, hot chocolate, home-cooked dishes at family gatherings, Christmas trees, and mulling spices.  


Sensations that we enjoy include giving a gift that we know someone will enjoy, giving a gift anonymously, marking the days of advent, putting ornaments on a tree, and marveling at the story of Christmas and Jesus’ birth.   


The DNA of Your Traditions

3.  Examine your various holiday traditions, and write them down.  Talk about their origins.  Notice how some we have created ourselves, some come from our mother’s side of the family, father’s side of the family, our cultural or religious groups, the community in which we live, etc.  Each family has its own unique and specific “DNA” of traditions.  As you discover how your traditions reflect various parts of your past and present, you may choose to incorporate more or less of them in a purposeful manner.


Linking Traditions and Values

4.  Traditions tend to endure when they link to our values. Individually or as a family, identify your top 5 values.  There are lots of ways to do this, and one way is through a link on my website  to the “Life Harmony Values Worksheet” at


List your top 5 values below and link them to various traditions you currently practice.  


Your Top 5 Values

Related Holiday Traditions






















Choosing and Simplifying Traditions

5.  We all have limited time and energy.  At times, we may overextend ourselves in the hopes of making things extra special for everyone.  Therefore, our response to the holidays can potentially lead to anxiety, stress, frustration, and exhaustion.  By recognizing our values and need for some rest and relaxation, we may decide to be more intentional about the traditions we choose to celebrate. We may also become more creative in how we honor the spirit of the season.    


Let me offer two examples.  While some people might find this unacceptable, I recognize that I love to have a pretty tablescape for special occasions and dinners with friends at my home.  I love to decorate with pretty napkins, place cards, beautiful glasses, etc.  I don’t necessarily like clearing the table and taking time away from my guests to put dishes in the dishwasher.  As a result, I have been known to use paper plates for a special meal.  My point in sharing this is not to force my choices and habits on you, but to encourage you to consider what things you may want to adjust or tweak so that you can focus on what brings you the most joy.  


Another way that our family has chosen to adjust how we celebrate involves Christmas ornaments.  We have many lovely Christmas decorations, but we don’t necessarily like to spend all day placing them on the tree.  So, for several years, my kids and I spend about 30-45 minutes putting up our favorite ornaments from our collection.  Then, we put the rest away.  In fact, we generally decorate the tree when my husband is at work because he does not enjoy taking part in this experience.  He likes enjoying the finished product of a lovely adorned Christmas tree!    It works for us, and we’re sticking to it!

a.  Identify one tradition that you enjoy celebrating but you wish to simplify.  
Write that tradition on the line below.


b.  What is one way you can make this tradition less burdensome and more meaningful for those involved.


Wishing you beautiful celebrations of traditions that you value!


We must cherish our yesterdays, but never carry them as a burden into the future. Each generation must take nourishment from the other and give knowledge to the one that comes after.

~Ardis Whitman

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.
~Peg Bracken


1.  Newell, L. D.  A Foundation for Strong Families.


2.  Christian Coach Institute.  Life Harmony Values Worksheet.  Product of Christian Coach Institute, LLC. All Rights Reserved. ©2014


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