Keeping Holiday Traditions Alive

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Tips on MAINTAINING HOLIDAY Traditions On Both Sides of the Family

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By Susana Marquez, MFT & Mommy In Los Angeles® Magazine Wellness Columnist

The holidays are a great time to incorporate family and cultural traditions, especially in our role as mothers.  We can pass traditions onto new generations and continue creating long lasting bonds within our family. Every culture has rich traditions. My Latino culture is rich in history, rich in stories and offers a beautiful opportunity to raise my child with great memories while making new ones at the same time.

I recently watched Disney Pixar’s Coco and it was such a beautiful reminder of how important family is, the meaning behind our traditions and culture and the love that is shared among family when everyone gets together. The movie did an amazing job at portraying our culture, our family moments, our traditions and more importantly, the passion & love we carry within us and pass on to our children. 

I walked out of the movie theater feeling so proud of being Latina, so proud of the stories my parents shared with me. The Central American traditions my mother has shared with me in the kitchen, the recipes, the music we dance to, the meals we prepare on Noche Buena, the stories and Catholic meaning behind Christmas. I embraced these traditions strongly as I held my son's hand and then I realized my husband has his own traditions too. So how do we incorporate both traditions? Do we just make new ones?

Traditions may not always be easy to keep. As I got older and became a mother, I couldn't get everyone in my family together the way my mother used to when I was a child. For whatever reason, it just does not happen for us. I've had to adapt to a lot of my husband's traditions and I have not always wanted to. Now that my son is more aware, I have considered starting new traditions, especially now that my father is no longer with us. Mamas, if you pass on cultural traditions to your children or make new ones, it is always important to keep some things in mind:

1.     BE RESPECTFUL. Traditions are meant to be shared and bring the family closer but not everyone may feel the same. Some family members may feel divided or not included at all. Times change and our older generations may not always agree with newer generations and vice versa, so it's important to be respectful of others, teach our children to be inclusive regardless of race, sex, ethnicity and so forth. When our traditions respect all those involved, it makes for an even better gathering. 

2.     TRADITIONS CAN CHANGE. When keeping traditions in mind and being respectful, it's okay to acknowledge that they may change from time to time. While continuing to keep the value in your tradition or the meaning behind it, it's okay if your traditions take on new forms, are carried out slightly different or are accompanied with a twist. Just like times change, our traditions may have to change as well.

3.     KEEP AN OPEN MIND. When we become fixated and closed-minded about something, we are closing ourselves off to a whole new world. Just like our older generations taught us many things from their history and shared their stories, we can do the same with them. We're always learning and we can all teach each other, so keep an open mind, pass on your grandparents stories to your children, while taking their thoughts and ideas into consideration, not everyone will always agree and that's okay. Create a dialogue, have an open ear and heart.

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4.     MAKE TRADITIONS FUN. As young children, we didn't always understand the meaning behind the stories the older folks were sharing. We didn’t always want to be in the kitchen “learning” while others played but now that we're mothers, we realize how important those traditions were to our grandparents and parents and we want our children to have them as well. Make them fun, turn them into a game, share funny stories, incorporate your children’s thoughts in them and see what they would do differently. For example, some children may not want to sit in the kitchen making tamales all day. They may not understand the meaning behind this task, so make it fun! Ask what they would like to do differently, play music in the background, have a dance party while making tamales (just get ready for a bigger mess...hahaha). The point is to make traditions fun.

5.     IT'S YOUR FAMILY, YOUR TRADITIONS. Mamas, sometimes we pass things onto our children that we didn’t like doing ourselves as kids, but because our parents and our grandparents grew up this way, we feel pressured to do the same. For example, in the movie Coco, Miguel wanted to play music but his parents did not support this and he was being forced to be a shoemaker.  In other words, they were crushing their son’s dream of being a musician and instilling in him a family tradition he did not want to be a part of. As mothers, our job is to nurture and motivate our children. Traditions have to be adapted to fit our family.

Traditions are beautiful, heavy in culture and history but as moms our priority is to make sure our children are happy and comfortable. With that said, if you're passing on old traditions, making new ones or if you simply don't follow traditions religiously, just enjoy your holidays and may they be full of love and peace! Merry Christmas and Feliz Navidad!

Feel Empowered. Feel Strong. Feel Validated Mamas!

Anabel Marquez