Several years ago, our daughter arrived home from college in time for the holidays. The year before she had commented on how her friend’s parents did not put out “old” decorations but rather decorated their home with new, “in style” decorations. Thinking that our adult children had outgrown our traditions, I did not put out any of the old, slightly beat-up decorations that had been part of our holiday celebrations since the children were babies. Goodness did I make a mistake!
After a terse announcement that none of our holiday things were out as they should have been, our daughter proceeded to the crawl space where she dragged out every box, every light, every beat-up piece of memorabilia that had ever adorned our home for the holidays. These decorations include a Santa made out of a Styrofoam cup by our youngest child 15 years before while in kindergarten; ornaments made out of string by our oldest son; and an angel fashioned out of an issue of Reader’s Digest and sprayed gold by our daughter when she was in first grade. Of such meaningful bits and pieces are holiday memories made!
Holiday memories bind families together. Memories include the things we do together, the stories we read, and the songs we sing and can be strengthened by bringing out and displaying the same memorabilia made by our children, year after year.
It is my contention that advertisers want adults to believe that the more money they spend buying expensive toys for their children, the happier the holidays and the memories will be. This is not the case. Children need the sense of comfort provided by the structure in their lives. Establishing holiday traditions gives children this sense of structure. So, how do you build holiday memories?
- Bake holiday cookies. If you don’t have time to bake from scratch, buy a couple of tubes of refrigerated cookie dough. Let the children use holiday cookie cutters and decorate the cookies with colored sugar, candies, and icing.
- Turn off the TV and sing special songs. Repeat the words and melodies over and over so that the children learn them.
- Make holiday ornaments. Buy inexpensive ornament balls and write the name of each child and the year in white glue. Then sprinkle with glitter. When the glue dries the glitter will become an integral part of the glass ball.
- Allow children to help with the preparation of the big meal. Help your children set the table, make Jell-O, or line the breadbasket with a napkin before setting out the rolls. What is important is that the child feels that he is part of the meal preparation.
- Help your children make presents for one another rather than buying them. Rocks decorated with flowers and wall hangings made out of burlap make very special gifts. Visit your local library or look through magazines for other simple gifts children can make.
Dora Fowler is founder of the National Institute of Child Care Management and the National Association of Child Care Professionals.