Celebrating Holiday Traditions Through Life’s Changes
Many of us grew up celebrating holiday traditions that were taught to us by our parents and families. You may remember some time honored traditions such as mailing out Christmas cards, decorating with natural elements, baking from scratch and even making homemade gifts. Even as we’ve grown up and left home many of us have continued to carry on those same holiday traditions we learned as children.
However, some of these holiday traditions may have changed with time. Whether it was due to a death in the family or a move out of state, many traditions tend to adapt to the needs of our new families and life changes. But what makes these changes special as we shape our new traditions from old ones is the meaning and the stories we keep and carry on throughout the coming years.
Celebrating Holiday Traditions Through Change
Growing up and into early adulthood, my friend Bambi always made sugar cookies with her grandmother to celebrate the season. These cookies in turn were given to friends and family as homemade gifts. Using family sugar cookie and buttercream icing recipes that have been passed down through the generations, Bambi’s new tradition is making and then decorating those same cookies with her closest friends now that her grandmother is gone.
This year was the second year I able to participate in decorating cookies with Bambi as part of her new holiday tradition. That I’m able to be a part of something so meaningful to her, in turn makes it more meaningful to me. And while there was no amount of prodding, poking, coaxing, bribing or begging to convince Bambi to dish and share her recipes (sorry!) I certainly can’t imagine not participating as the years move forward.
Along with this Bambi also gave me one of the best presents she could gift me with this year – a new holiday tradition. So whether you’re looking to start new holiday traditions with your own friends or a new family, decorating Christmas cookies and holiday cookie exchanges are a longstanding tradition that I can certainly get behind.
So just how to do you go about planning a cookie decorating party? Keep reading to learn how my friend, Bambi, organizes her cookie decorating parties and for some great links to tips for hosting a holiday cookie exchange as well as a few sugar cookie recipes to get you started. Plus learn more about new holiday traditions other people have started and how to deal with holiday celebration overload.
Celebrating Holiday Traditions with Cookies
Prior to hosting her guests, Bambi prepares for her holiday cookie decorating event a few days in advance. She spends about two days baking sugar cookies using her grandmother’s recipe. Then in between the time she makes them and then everyone gets together to decorate them, they are stored in plastic storage containers in the refrigerator.
A few days later everyone shows up with a bottle of wine in hand. Typically Bambi also provides some simple appetizers like hummus, crackers and cheese. However, if we “accidentally” break a cookie, it’s like a bonus prize and gets eaten right then and there. But only after it’s been decorated, of course!
The buttercream icing isn’t made until the arrival of all her guests. New batches of icing are then made as we run out.
Annie, Bambi’s rescue dog, always manages to walk under “mom” while she’s mixing more icing. Thus we have photos of her two years in a row covered in powdered sugar spots. (My own dog, Jasper, attended this year as well.)
Once the first batch of icing is ready to go, the icing, cookies and candy decorations are laid out on her dining room table within reach of everyone.
Then we all decorate our cookies on paper plates to keep the colored sugars and candies from making a mad dash for the floor.
The cookies are then laid out on the table on top of wax paper as each one is completed.
Once all of the cookies are decorated, they are packaged in reusable plastic containers. Bambi then gifts each of her guests a box of cookies and the rest get shipped to her friends and family back home in Wisconsin.
If you’d like to host your own holiday cookie decorating party, The Kitchn has a great article with ten essential tips to know before you begin baking. Additionally, Real Simple also has a great checklist for hosting a holiday cookie exchange that also works for hosting a cookie decorating party. Sugar & Charm as well as Handle the Heat also offer some great tips for hosting a cookie exchange.
If you’re looking for Christmas cookie decorating ideas, I am head over heels for these glazed sugar cookies with buttercream “embroidery” from My Name is Yeh. You can find and print the recipe for these cookies here. I also really love the star Christmas cookies recipe from Tell Love and Party.
For gifting your homemade holiday cookies, Cranberry Bush has two super cute printable cookie gift tags. You can find more printable gift tags on my Printables Pinterest board. Or discover great gift wrapping ideas on my Pretty Packaging + Gift Wrap Ideas Pinterest board.
Starting New Holiday Traditions
I know when I went through my divorce from my first husband and my son inevitably ventured into adulthood, celebrating Christmas lost much of its luster for me. So much so that one of the best Christmases I had after getting separated was ice “skating” in my sneakers on the frozen parking lot of Market Square downtown with a friend. It wasn’t until I started making my own holiday traditions, that some of the magic of the holiday season started to come back for me.
If your old holiday traditions are no longer an option for you, then you may want to consider creating new ones. They don’t need to be religious or even fit into any particular winter holiday. They simply need to be something that brings you joy. Having something to that brings you and your loved ones together during what is typically the most depressing season of the year can definitely make cold days seem a bit warmer.
O’Boy! Organic, who moved away from his family in Michigan over twenty years ago, has a great article on the importance of holiday traditions and how they help to build unity and stability. He also shares his top five new holiday traditions. Number four is baking cookies with his kids.
There’s also a great post on HuffPost with ideas for 15 new traditions for families reclaiming the holidays after a divorce. Shared by their readers on their Facebook page, my favorites are creating a guest list for holiday get togethers to try new things, ditching the chaos of the Christmas tree tradition, taking a trip instead of giving gifts and of course, the best one yet, just finally being happy.
Does Celebrating Holiday Traditions Leave You Feeling overwhelmed?
In the midst of celebrating holiday traditions, both old and new, it’s also important to realize there is such a thing as too much tradition. Reluctant Entertainer touches on this in her post “Traditions: When Is It Time to Change?.” Women especially tend to put extra emphasis on holiday traditions which in turn can often lead to a lot of stress and guilt when they are unable to meet expectations. So this article offers some great insight into being able to say “enough is enough.”
Personally I know how it feels to be on this side of things, as I’m sure many of you do as well. And there were a few years that I especially struggled and therefore made the decision to opt out of holiday gatherings completely. And it is okay to do this. After all, your mental and emotional well being matter more than a dinner regardless of the time of year.
So if celebrating holiday traditions feel more like an obligation, it may be time to simply take time for yourself. After all, you’re not really celebrating holiday traditions if you’re spending much of that time trying to avoid a panic attack.
Additionally, if your head space isn’t where it needs to be to even attend holiday functions, much less embark on a new tradition, then you may be able to gain some insight from the article “Family Change: Don’t Cancel the Holidays!“
Are you celebrating holiday traditions this year or starting new ones? I’d love to hear how you enjoy the holiday season in the comments below.
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