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In 1996, my family transitioned from our childhood home to the one we live in now. Christmas was quickly approaching and my brother and I, aged 13 and 14, had previously known only bountiful holidays. That year we put up a two foot mini tree, sat on bare wood floors, and wondered what meal we would eat, as the kitchen had not yet been finished. The only presents under the tree came from our grandparents; our parents had warned us beforehand that things were “tight”.

To many children, this sounds dreadful. At the time, we kept smiling, reminding ourselves that times would get better. Times DID get better, but we never forgot. Many children in the Houston area went through similar circumstances last Christmas due to Hurricane Harvey.

Every Christmas, my family jokes about how many presents we have compared to that one year. We laugh when we remember that our meal consisted of bagels from the only business actually open on Christmas Day back in 1996. We lovingly repeat that memory over and over - the mere mention of it has become tradition.

In the hustle and bustle of nowadays, traditions come few and far between. Their importance however, does not escape us. Traditions allow us to create our own unique human experience, allow us something to look forward to and give us peace of mind and make us happy. Each family can encourage their own unique traditions, remembering it only takes a moment to make a memory. Whether your Christmas involves the Elf on the Shelf or the family making homemade cookies for the much anticipated arrival of Santa, it is important to create those memories.

By fostering meaningful traditions, you may change your perspective on why you should appreciate the holidays, all the while making traditions for your future generations to keep for years to come. Traditions can be as simple as recalling stories from the past, creating unique recipes for meals, or giving back to your community, i.e. volunteering at a local food bank or donating blood.

Whether your family consists of the traditional parents, grandparents, and siblings, or your family consists of the close friends in your life, it’s still a family. Maintaining a sense of tradition is good because it encourages unity. When people feel like they’re a part of a unit, they’re more likely to feel cared for and secure in the knowledge that they have people they can turn to in case of emergency.

Many people feel extremely lonely around the holidays. It can be very difficult to deal with strife and problematic family members during the holidays, too. If you can be a part of a unit where love and nostalgia are fostered, you will greatly improve your quality of life and your quality of relationships. A key part of our relationships with others is memories and inside jokes. When you have more pleasant memories to remember, you have hope for more fun memories with those same loved ones in the future. Traditions are a great source of bonding. During the holidays, remember those that you know who may no longer have family or may be too far from those they love to have a celebration together. Invite them to your table and start a new family tradition of encouraging love through acceptance.

You never know what may happen to your loved ones in another year. This is why it’s important to seize these opportunities to get together and spread the love. It’s also nice to take lots of pictures and record plenty of video footage. Capturing these moments allows the memories to last forever. The next time your family decides to gather around the fireplace and sing Christmas carols, be sure to pick up the camera and record those moments. Happy memories are sweet to look back on, and these memories are also wonderful to cherish when you’re facing a rough patch in life. It helps to know that you have a family unit who loves you and looks forward to spending time with you.

If your family is new to the concept of keeping holiday traditions, consider coming up with some this year. Look up what others have done online. Think back to a fun time you had in holidays past and try to recreate it. You’ll become inspired to make important traditions that will last for generations. You might even find that you’ll want to continue fun traditions throughout the year.

From my family to yours,

Merry Christmas.

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