Magazine article Work & Family Life

Time for Some New Holiday Traditions

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Time for Some New Holiday Traditions

Article excerpt

By the Editors

The year-end holidays have always been a time for homecoming. But our family structures and our life styles are changing. For a growing number of Americans, it can be hard to figure out exactly where home is, let alone where and how to spend the holidays.

We tend to idealize a media-inspired image of togetherness as three generations sitting happily around the dinner table. But that's not a realistic picture for many of us. Young couples often feel torn about which in-laws to visit. "My parents live in Florida and my husband's family is in Arizona," says Julie. "We both work, we have two kids, and we can't afford to fly around the country."

Holidays put pressure on singles as well. Going to their parents' house with all of their siblings can be anxiety-producing. Reunions are great, but they're often not the warm, fuzzy experiences we hoped for. Many young people would rather go home at other times of the year-for a birthday or other special occasion-so they can spend time with relatives in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Boomers busy with their careers and their kids as well as their aging parents may be looking for some R&R around holiday time. They coordinated family celebrations for many years. Now that their children are getting older, they want to do things for themselves like go skiing or on a cruise.

Kids scattered all over the country, divorce, remarriage, stepkids and ex-in laws have also reshaped the way many families celebrate.

Whatever the motivation, one thing is certain: traditional holidays will always be with us, but many of us will celebrate in new and different ways.

The role of rituals

Rituals are important. As Janine Roberts, Ed.D., and Evan Imber Black, Ph.D., so eloquently put it, "Rituals are a lens through which we can see our emotional connections to our parents, siblings, spouses, children and dear friends. They connect us with our past, define our present and show us a path to our future as we pass on ceremonies, traditions, objects and ways of being with each other."

As comforting as it is to hang on to traditions, we don't want them to become rigid or frozen, however. We need to adapt to the changing needs and structure of our families.

We all need to make choices and compromises-whether we're married with two sets of in-laws, single with parents in another city or part of a blended family with many off-shoots. It's good to plan ahead, yet also to be flexible. …

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