Five ways to freshen up your family’s Christmas celebration

If you’re bored by the holiday traditions, find new ways for all the family to have a memorable time

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 December, 2015, 5:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 December, 2015, 12:23pm

The holidays are coming, and that often means falling into routine get-togethers with family and friends. While there are undoubtedly cherished traditions that everyone looks forward to, others are as welcome as stale Christmas cake.

First, lose the guilt if you would rather take a pass on the communal viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life, making holiday cookies nobody seems to want, or hosting that December party whose lustre has faded. People who have holiday burnout shouldn’t feel bad, says Samuel Gladding, professor of counselling at Wake Forest University, in the US state of North Carolina.

“People get tired of doing the same thing year after year, day after day, holiday after holiday,” he says.

Consider introducing new activities, adding a new dish to the holiday meal or modernising your decorations.

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When considering a change, revisit why a tradition exists, says Francine Rosenberg, psychologist with the Morris Psychological Group in the US state of New Jersey. Is it based on convenience? Where the family is located?

Although it may be tempting to completely jettison tradition, P.J. McGuire, owner of Modet, an etiquette and interpersonal skills training firm in Chicago, advises against anything too extreme.

“Try infusing the parts you enjoy about the holidays with new ideas to make an updated family tradition,” McGuire says. “Revise the recipe no one really likes, change dinner to brunch or suggest a potluck at a fun location.”

Here are a few more tips to liven up the holidays:

Change the time frame. Routines don’t have to have strict timelines, says Gladding. “Rearrange how you approach the season – such as when you do the baking, the shopping, when you send cards.”

Make new memories. One idea, says Susan Palma, co-author of Sophistication Is Overrated, is to make cookies together – but keep the recipes as simple as possible. “Get people over ahead of time to make them, and choose easy ones everyone can make, like thumbprint cookies,” she says. “It’s a great way to spend time together.”

Add new activities. As families grow, it’s good to add something new, says Rosenberg. “Younger generations are going to want to add new traditions and take ownership. Children feel very proud when they participate in adding a new family tradition that sticks and becomes part of their holiday for years to come.” That may mean letting go of activities that no longer appeal to everyone.

Share family history and accentuate the positive. Pull out old family photographs and gather to look at them and talk about achievements, says Gladding. Sharing family history “strengthens individuals, and strengthens families. If you know the past, you are much more likely to benefit from it and be inspired or determined to make the future better — or at least as good as the past,” he says.

Add some personality to the tree. A Christmas tree “should reflect the person it belongs to,” says Jung Lee, co-founder of Fete, an event planning and design production firm in New York. “Think of what brings joy and excites you; that’s what the tree should be.”

Communication is key before updating traditions. “No one likes being left out of the loop,” McGuire says. “If you’re going for a complete overhaul of holiday traditions during your turn as host, let everyone know what to expect and how they can be involved. You never know, your great-aunt may have some amazing ideas she was afraid to try.”

Tribune News Service