In the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof, humble Jewish farmer Tevye describes his family’s recipe for unity and stability: “How do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition! Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof!” While tradition brings the family together, one of the themes of Fiddler is also that over-rigid adherence to tradition can sometimes drive family members apart; flexibility is paramount.

This is especially true during the holiday season. Annual traditions can provide something for family members to look forward to, create memories that are cherished for a lifetime, and fortify familial bonds. However, if compromises can’t be made to adapt to maturing children, family members living apart, scheduling conflicts with in-laws, or the realignment of family boundaries due to divorce or marriage, then conflict and resentment may occur. As with most things in life, a healthy balance is key.

What holiday traditions do you share with your spouse, children, family, or other loved ones? If you don’t have many (or any), what would you like to do? Perhaps I could be so bold as to offer a few suggestions:

– Christmas, Hanukkah, and other winter holidays are often a lonely time for many who are estranged from their families or who live alone. Perhaps you are one of those people. One of the best ways to enjoy this time, I’ve found, is to reach out to those who may be struggling and invite them to any activities you may be participating in, even and especially if you feel isolated or alone yourself.

– Visit holiday light displays, such as the enormous one at Calloway Gardens.

– Read (or even better, recreate) the stories behind your holiday. Christians can re-enact The Nativity. Jews can act out the story of Hanukkah. Involving children as actors (even if a narrator provides the dialogue) is both fun (who doesn’t love to dress up?) and a great way to teach them about their heritage.

– If shopping is a pain, have each family member draw another member’s name out of a hat; everyone is only to buy a gift for the person they drew, with a budget cap set on how much can be spent (e.g. $50 max). This simplifies the gifting process, allowing for less stress and more family time.

– Have a family dinner (if your kids are grown up, a potluck can help simplify things).

– Have a family game night to enjoy one another’s company. Get-together games, like Scattegories and Balderdash, are excellent ways to lighten the mood, bring out a competitive spirit and teamwork, and make fun memories.

Happy Holidays, and enjoy!

Jono Decker



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