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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Do your holiday traditions feel more like obligations? - By Elizabeth Richards


Thanksgiving is upon us, and it’s time to pull out all the old traditions. Or is it? Most people can identify traditions that have been sustained by their families for years around specific holidays. Many of these traditions are beloved, but sometimes, it’s time to take a look at what you do and make some changes. If a tradition has become stressful or you simply aren’t enjoying it any longer, don’t be afraid to say so!

 Thanksgiving is often all about the food. You probably have certain things that just must be on the table, or it simply doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving. Many of these are probably great – but are there some you could do without? 

For me, it was the “green stuff” that showed up on every holiday table. My mother had been making it for years, sending it to extended family gatherings, and every Thanksgiving, there it was. This whipped Jell-O salad with canned fruit was never something I enjoyed. But for years, it was there, and somehow kept ending up on my plate. When I finally had the courage to say “No, thank you,” something funny happened – no one cared! 

When I told my mom I just didn’t care for it, she asked my siblings how they felt. As it turned out, they felt the same way. We haven’t seen the green stuff since. It can be hard to speak up – fear of offending someone, fear of family revolt if you decide not to make your famous sweet potatoes. But just like in my house, the roof won’t cave in if you change the menu up a bit, and just maybe everyone will enjoy a change of pace. 

Maybe your traditions have nothing to do with food. One of the trickiest negotiations is where a holiday will be celebrated. Perhaps you have been going to grandma’s house your entire life, and can’t imagine saying you will be spending the day somewhere else. But when we grow up and start families of our own, suddenly it’s not so simple. It can become a mad dash from one dinner to the next, a crazy juggling act of trying to keep everyone happy. Perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath and ask yourself – tradition aside, where do I want to be?
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Once you figure out where and with whom you will celebrate, what does the day look like? Does everyone sit around watching the parade or football? Do you gather around the table to play a board game after dinner? These can be the best traditions of all – the part of the day where you really spend quality time with the ones you love. But what if all that sitting around isn’t what you prefer? Speak up – suggest something new. 

With all the food we eat on Thanksgiving, physical activity is becoming a more important part of the day. Maybe it’s time to start a tradition around getting yourself – and your family – moving. One Westbrook family puts on a 5K on Thanksgiving morning to raise money for high school scholarships. This has grown from a small family event to a large community affair, and is one of my favorite new Thanksgiving traditions. And, it alleviates the guilt of that extra slice of pie! If running isn’t your thing, consider a walk in the woods, a friendly game of kickball or football, or a dance party. 

Whatever your traditions are, take the time to be sure they really work for you. Eliminating the stress of participating in something that just doesn’t work for you is a surefire way to truly enjoy your holidays!

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