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Keep the holiday traditions that matter, reconsider the rest

Why do we have traditions? Why do we feel compelled to do things the same way every year, running around like crazy to get everything done just perfectly?

Does it have to be this way or can we take back control?

Even if you love traditions, it's easy to lose touch with what they're supposed to be all about. Suggesting changes doesn't have to mean that you're betraying your family or your culture. Examining old habits can mean that you value the real meaning of traditions more, because you're focusing on togetherness and expressing love rather buying the perfect gift or making the perfect meal.

If tradition is becoming more stressful than fun, it may be time to consider some changes. If you are so concerned about the food you're eating and what it may be doing to your weight that you're forgetting to connect with family and friends, perhaps it's time to tweak things.

And, if you can't wait for the holidays to be over because the pace is too hard to take, it's definitely time for an attitude adjustment.

Some tips to consider:

• Keep what you like best and change the rest. One of my clients decided she would find new versions of traditional dishes. Her objective was to find recipes that took less time to make and were more nutritious but still tasted great enough to make them worthy of new traditions.

• Simplify. Maybe you no longer have the time and/or money to shop for days all over town. If time is the issue, it's not too late to shop online. If money is the issue, perhaps the new tradition should be that only the children get gifts. Or maybe you give something small and meaningful, such as a Christmas ornament, a favorite book or an herb plant. Side benefit: The people you think you must shop for might be relieved to get off the hook.

• Give yourself a gift. Cook a memorable childhood treat, or take some time to relax in your pajamas, sipping a holiday drink.

• How about potluck? One of the best ways to simplify holiday meals is to let everyone contribute. Less work for you, and you give everyone the gift of showcasing their favorite dishes.

• Ask the kids what they want to do. Maybe they don't really like the holiday movie you feel compelled to watch every year. Maybe they have their own suggestion. Yes, It's a Wonderful Life is a classic, but Elf is a lot of fun too. Why not give the kids the chance to make great memories they'll cherish as adults?

• Get some help. If you can swing it, consider paying someone to help with cooking, cleaning or other chores. Bonus: You might be helping another family too.

• Do something totally different. Some families go camping on Christmas. Some go on a cruise or swap homes with a family that lives in another part of the country or the world. A new tradition can be as rustic or exotic as you want.

• Volunteer. Helping others can be a great tradition. Soup kitchens and food pantries always need help. Or see if your elderly neighbor could use your family's labor to clean up the yard or make small repairs.

So think about your own traditions, and consider which ones you really love, and which ones no longer fit your goals for a joyful and fun holiday season.

Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa clinical psychologist who specializes in weight management. She can be reached through her website,, or at (813) 240-9557.

Keep the holiday traditions that matter, reconsider the rest 12/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2011 3:30am]
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