Choosing Holiday Traditions That Fit Your Family

Jolita Peterson

Let’s face it – the holiday season can be overwhelming for moms! Not only are we negotiating with the in-laws, stretching gift budgets, and fighting Pinterest stress (apparently this is an actual thing), we are supposed to create magical holiday memories for our precious little ones. But when it comes to family holiday traditions, the list of possibilities seems endless – how do we know what to say yes or no to?

Something old

Say yes to at least a few traditions passed down from previous generations. This develops a sense of heritage. Choose one or so from each side of the family, if possible. In my family, celebrating Advent is at the top of the list. I grew up lighting weekly Advent candles and opening daily calendars, and it’s now one of my kids’ favorite things. We also decorate our tree as a family, something both our extended families did.

Something new

Say yes to starting some new traditions. If you’ve relocated, experiencing fun Christmassy things in your local area creates a sense of belonging. We’ve lived in many different places, and have fond memories of seeing foil-wrapped palm trees in Los Angeles, the annual boat light parade in Annapolis, and pantomimes in England. New traditions can also be something that neither family did growing up, but that you want to incorporate in your own family. We love to buy ornaments from places we’ve visited. Each year when we decorate our tree, we remember all our fun travels.

Something borrowed

Say yes to adopting great ideas from others. Just because a tradition didn’t originate in your family doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own. A few years ago, a friend told us about letting her kids skip school to bake Christmas cookies. We thought it was a great idea, and so Cookie Hooky became part of our holiday traditions. Some traditions are “borrowed” for just a few years or a specific season of life. Alas, now that my kids are a bit older and missing school is apparently more frowned upon, Cookie Hooky has fallen by the wayside.

But nothing blue

Say no to traditions that steal your joy or do not align with your family identity. If something induces boatloads of stress or doesn’t reflect who you are, drop it. In our family, this includes the Elf on a Shelf, photos with Santa at the mall and most cookie exchanges. When in doubt, ask yourself – what is this adding to our holiday experience? What is it costing?

Holiday traditions can build wonderful memories that your kids will cherish for years to come. But if you try to cram too many activities into your season, you’ll be left with more stress than fond memories. By learning what to say yes and no to, we can hopefully reclaim the joy and peace of the season.

Jolita Peterson is a Mentor Mom who recently moved back to Maryland after living in Yorkshire, England. She loves chocolate, watching movies with her family and sitting on her screened porch. She blogs about their post-England life at