Being away from ‘home’ and loved ones during the holiday season is not for the faint of heart. How do we as mothers and caregivers cultivate a spirit of awe and wonder for the holiday season when we ourselves long to be closer to the ‘fires of home’? How do we give our children a heritage of tradition while allowing for new traditions to be born? Drawn from personal experience I would like to suggest a few things that have helped me along my way.
Grieve what is lost.
Allow yourself to go through the emotions of not sharing in the festivities with your loved ones and of not being ‘home’ for the holidays. As parents and caregivers we set the emotional tone of our households. To be genuine to ourselves, our partners and our children we need to recognize and name how we are feeling.
Remember holidays past when you were ‘home’ with your loved ones.
What activities and traditions brought joy and life to you and your family? Which ones did not? Share these memories with your partner or a friend. Consider which you would like to pass on to your children and which you would rather just pass. This is a good opportunity for you and your family to develop and/or keep traditions that define who you are as a family.
Use storytelling to pass on traditions.
“When I was a little girl my mother used to …” Storytelling is an engaging and easy way for children to enter into the wonder of the season and link them to their family heritage.
Prepare favourite family recipes.
Think back to your own childhood. What tastes do you remember of the holiday season? Were there any recipes that you were able to help in the preparations? Maybe rolling sugar cookies with Grandma or being the ‘official’ taste tester to Dad’s maple fudge are fond memories for you. Or perhaps there are recipes that are special for just your family. Include those as well.
Incorporate family heirlooms into the celebration.
Take a mental inventory of what family heirlooms you have in your house. Using your great grandmother’s china for the holiday meal or your aunt’s porcelain nativity scene to display on the mantle can be meaningful and grounding.
Start early and be thoughtful in gift giving.
Take the time to thoughtfully consider what each loved one, near or far, would appreciate. Focus more on the thought behind the gift rather than the size or monetary value of the gift. Involve your children in the purchasing or making of gifts. Know that these gifts sent to those far away, and given to those close at hand, will be appreciated. They will be a little piece of you and family between the miles to your loved ones.
Find and invite surrogate family to join in on the celebrations.
Chances are that you and your family are not the only ones away from loved ones during the holiday season. Find and invite others to join you in your festivities. You will be surprised how many others can relate to your feelings of displacement. Give your children the gift of sharing the holidays with varied types of people and community.
Plan and schedule meaningful activities throughout the holiday season.
There is nothing worse than waking up on a holiday morning and realizing that you have nothing planned for the day. This will lead to thinking about what you are missing out on being away from your loved ones. Instead, plan for and schedule meaningful activities into your holidays especially during those times that you know will be hard for you and your family. Picnic on the beach? Snowshoe through the woods? Weekend getaway? Make a bucket list with your family of the things that you would like to do during the holiday season (and do them).
Document the season.
Whether you like taking pictures, writing, art or other means, find ways to document the holiday season. Not only will this give opportunity for you to share your celebrations with your loved ones it will also force you to be present where you are during the holiday season.
Take time for quiet, rest and reflection.
Whether you are ‘home’ for the holidays or not, they can be a stressful and hectic time for everyone. Schedule in some down time for you and your family. Consider what is restful for your family and plan for this time before or after a known busy time. Take time to reflect and discuss the true meaning of the holiday season. Consider joining in some activities in your place of worship.
May you find ‘home’ this holiday season where ever you may be.
Bethany Roan lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada with her two young daughters and husband. She enjoys capturing simple beauty with her camera, working on plot and character development on several pieces of fiction and spending time hiking and beach combing with her family. You can reach her here.