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Sharing Holiday Traditions with your Grandkids

Sharing Holiday Traditions with your Grandkids
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BY KITT WALSH

My grandmother often shook her head and muttered that the world was “going to hell in a hand-basket” and one of the indications of the downfall of Western civilization in her eyes was the escalating disappearance of family traditions. Her Sunday dinners, at which she held sway from her carved mahogany “throne”, were getting more sparsely attended as her grandkids had to make soccer or cheerleading practice, or other activities kept them ever further away from her lace-covered table.

As much as that regal figure scared the pants off me when I was little, now that I am a grandmother myself, I tend to agree with her that upholding traditions (and creating new ones) passes on more than memories—family ties and our cultures are preserved in the candlelight of the festivities.

Here are some ways you can pass along this richness to your own grandchildren:

Host a dinner

(If your grandkids are very young, maybe a lunch would be easier.) Make your holiday celebrations look and sound different than the every day. Put on seasonal music and teach your grandkids the words. Make a no-TV rule.

Break out the china

Whether you have a collection or have to go out and buy china (get extras as little people and accidents go together) make the table special. Ask the kids to help. Even young kids can polish silver, fold napkins, and learn to set a place. Festivities that aren’t the 4th of July picnic shouldn’t feature paper plates. Ask that everyone dress up for this one day (Complaining is okay. Non-compliance is not.)

Give thanks

Even if you are not religious, it is a good thing for kids to see that this—when you are all together–is a special moment. Teach them to notice blessings. Ask each person at the table, including the kids, one thing they are grateful for this year.

Closeness In the kitchen

Buy a little butcher’s apron and sew (or glue) your grandchild’s name on it. Wear a matching one yourself.

Invite your grandchild over for a cookie or dessert-making session alone with you prior to the holiday. Buy two shower curtain liners. Cover your kitchen table with one and the floor beneath it with another (easy cleanup after—just throw them away.) Lay out colored sugars, silver and gold dragees, sprinkles, frostings and any cookie cutters that strike your fancy (check at online retailers like Kitchen Krafts www.kitchenkrafts.com for a wide selection.)

Whip up a homemade recipe perhaps passed down from your mother. Let grandchild mix the batter (but keep your hand on top of theirs on the electric mixer unless you want your walls decorated) or buy a roll of pre-made dough. Let your little Picasso decorate those Stars of David, Dreidels or Gingerbread People in any way they want. (If you celebrate Christmas, let each child pick which of their cookies to leave out for Santa.) Tell them stories of their parent as a child cooking with you.

Festival of Lights: Let the kids pick the Hanukkah candle colors (buy several boxes so when the year comes that they decide all the candles must be purple, you are ready.) While putting them in the Menorah, explain the Miracle of the Lights. Give each grandchild their own dreidel and/or menorah (keep both for them over the years until they can pass it on to their own children.)

Ornament traditions

Take a walk with your grandchild, searching for pine cones (if you live in the South, you might have to “plant” one along the route.) Tie a piece of yarn to it. Smother it with peanut butter, roll it in wildlife bird seed and hang in a tree where the child can see his/her Christmas ornament gift to the birds.

I gave my children (and now my grandchildren) an ornament each year to match some event in their lives (a bagpiper for when my son joined a pipe band, a polar bear after a trip to Norway.) Each reminds us of a family story to tell. Tell the stories while decorating the tree. As my mother gave to me, so will I leave the ornament collection to my child when I die.

Read a book

Since my kids were little themselves, I’ve read The Night Before Christmas aloud to them. (They even reminded me when I almost forgot—they were in their 30s at the time.) Now the grandkids will join the tradition with the smallest one getting Grammy lap privileges.

Be the family historian

Scan photos of past family celebrations into your computer (particularly ones showing several generations.) Take photos during this year’s celebrations and combine both to make a photo album. (If your grandkid is a teen, ask them to create it for you—even if you know how.) Share the photos online, but also save the photos on archival CDs (they can last 25 years—find them on Amazon www.amazon.com) and send one to everyone in the family—whether they attended the festivities or not. You’ll be creating a family archive and, as with all these suggestions, building memories that will last long after you’ve gone.

 

 

 

 

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Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs (http://www.behindblogs.com), is a regular contributor to CNN Money, a public speaker on Social Media, a book editor and ghostwriter, and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.