When we think of the holidays, it’s always fun to pause, and reminisce to a time in our past and recall to mind special memories. Maybe for you it’s making cookies and candy to hand out to neighbors. Or decorating the house and the tree with special ornaments handed down through the years, while listening to Christmas music. The recollections can be so powerful that even certain sounds, sights and smells tie in to the memories. Like starry lights, fragrant evergreen and cinnamon in the kitchen.
Traditions contribute a sense of comfort and belonging. It brings families and friends together and enables us to have that special connection that we don’t get other times during the year. Slowing our roll to a pace that brings us to a place of peace and anticipation.
Why do traditions matter?
Traditions matter because they represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become.
Traditions help us pass on the values, morals, customs and culture of one generation to the next. They are done with a specific purpose and require thought and intentionality. And when done right, they lend a certain magic, spirit, and texture to our lives.
Our world and universe are composed of cycles big and small — sunrise and sunset, death and rebirth, winter, spring, summer and fall. Even the generations move in cycles. A circular conception of time and a desire to follow the natural rhythm of the days and the seasons is embedded deep within us, but has been flattened out in a modern age that creates its own timetable and concentrates only on the present.
December is a favorite of Janelle’s because of the magic and the traditions of the season that she loves. Some of her favorites are making snowball cookies, seeing long-time friends at an ornament exchange, and watching the movies, the Polar Express and Home Alone with her boys.
Maybe holiday traditions weren’t a big part of your family growing up. Or are you wanting to start some new ones? You know what? It’s not too late to introduce some! Below are a few to inspire you with new ways to create memories of your own this season.
Christmas ornament collection
Give back to the community by volunteering at a local homeless shelter
Bake Christmas cookies and candy
Unplug everything but the lights
Go Christmas caroling in your neighborhood or at a local senior living facility
Create a holiday greeting card
Celebrate with special pajamas
Have a book exchange with friends
Donate toys to a local children’s charity organization
Open an Advent Calendar
See the holiday lights by driving around the neighborhood
Throw a holiday party
Watch Holiday movies with popcorn and hot cocoa
In the Middle Ages, peasants had 150 days of the year for rest, feasts, and holidays; their life was hard but the cycles of work and celebration followed a steady rhythm. This day and age, we can’t take off half the year to participate in traditions, but we can establish small, regular rituals that give us and our children unchanging memories both to look forward to in anticipation, and look back on with satisfaction.
Gingerbread Man Cookie Recipe
Note: Yes, there are a lot of ingredients and it is a bit time consuming. However, that’s sometimes the point of traditions in that fun things take time! In fact, the longer the time to spend together with your loved ones, the better, right? Plus they turn out super cute and they’re fun to decorate.
3/4 C (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 C packed brown sugar
2/3 C molasses
1 Large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1. In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat butter, brown sugar and molasses until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, spices, baking soda, and salut until combined. With the mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients until dough just comes together. (Don’t over mix!)
3. Divide dough in half and create two discs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 to 3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place one disc of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll until 1/4 inch thick. Cut out gingerbread men with a 3 inch wide cookie cutter and transfer to baking sheets.
5. Bake until slightly puffed and set, 9 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of your cookie cutters. Let cool on baking sheets 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
6. Repeat with the remaining disc of dough. Decorate with icing and sprinkles as desired.
Memories last a lifetime and will be the topic of conversation at almost any family gathering. It’s these traditions we create that make the season special. So get out there and make some magic happen!
The Cassiano Design Team