Making Holiday Memories



    Once again it is December in Kansas City and I’m deep into my 23-item holiday to-do list. I have no time to watch the pretty lights or drink eggnog because I’m incredibly busy. Why do we do this to ourselves? 
    People, it turns out, love traditions. They are the glue that holds families together and are what help to “make memories” with our children. They are often handed down through the generations or have evolved in your family over the years. But they can also make you feel a bit enslaved to them – our kids are particularly good at reminding us that “we’ve always done it this way!” – and lead to a hectic frenzy that resembles anything but peace on Earth. 
    Trying out a new custom is not only fun, it gives you a chance to spend some meaningful time together during the holidays. And who knows, maybe it will be the one your kids will hand down to their own children many years from now. Here are a few ideas:

Make an Advent Calendar: Where I grew up, every kid had an Advent calendar for the month of December, a great tool to measure progress when time seemed to stand still. The chocolate-filled ones are great, but it’s not that hard to make your own: Hunt down bargain trinkets and treats, wrap them individually, label with names and days, and hang them from the banister. I often get creative by adding home-made tokens, such as a “no chores today” one. Trust me, the look on your kids’ faces when they come down the stairs Dec. 1 is worth the effort, and the making of it together with your spouse is great fun!

Make a Memory Tree Skirt: Make your own tree skirt...using a table cloth! Make a hole in a round table cloth to fit the tree. Each year, have your children put their handprint on the skirt (with paint) and add their names and ages. What an heirloom!

Read Holiday Stories: Set a goal of reading a different holiday story to your kids every night of winter break. This can range from the classic to the obscure. Check your local library for recommendations and have your kids help with the selections. Regularly reading aloud is one of the most important gifts you can make to your children, and what better place to start than snuggled up under a blanket in front of the chimney with a good book!

Enlist the Kids’ Help with Decorating: I am a bit of a control freak (as you might have guessed from my 23-item list) but have learned over the years that getting the kids involved is fun for everyone. Let them help decorate the house, from spraying the windows with fake snow designs to creating an annual photo tree ornament and putting up the lights. Make “un-decorating” in January an event as well, placing notes with everyone’s New Year’s resolutions in the stockings before putting them away, and going out for a treat when the house is clean again.

Eva Melusine Thieme is a freelance writer and lives in Overland Park with her husband and four children.

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