<em>From right, Beth Berglund and her sister Pam, “wearing our new matching flannel nightgowns one Christmas Eve.”		</em>Courtesy of Beth Berglund

From right, Beth Berglund and her sister Pam, “wearing our new matching flannel nightgowns one Christmas Eve.” Courtesy of Beth Berglund

December: A season of meaning | Choices for the Future

Our family tradition in Wisconsin was to be home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Sometimes, our grandparents from South Dakota would stay for a few weeks. We’d open our wrapped gifts from family and friends on Christmas Eve and wait until morning to find a variety of little tokens brought by Santa that filled our hung stockings. If roads weren’t snow-covered, we’d attend a church service. Sometimes, my dad’s brother’s family would drive down from a few hours north and we’d enjoy a special family dinner, which always included homemade lefse.

Until recently, I had never considered any deeper reasons why traditions were so important to me as a child. In a “Living Differently” Northwest Earth Institute discussion course article excerpted from “Living Simply with Children,” Marie Sherlock cites author, Mary Pipher, who wrote, “Children like to be able to predict events. It gives them a sense of control.” Whoa! Perhaps we, as grown ups, forget that children have fairly little agency in the flow of their everyday lives.

One more thing: In Sarabeth Owens’ book “Rituals For Our Times: Celebrating, Healing, and Changing Our Lives and Our Relationships,” the author notes that she once saw her daughter “playing Christmas” with her dolls and marvelled at how she demonstrated every detail about how their present-opening rituals reflected the family’s values of fairness and respect in the order of gift giving — from youngest to oldest, and family members watching and waiting while one person opened his or her gift.

What do your seasonal festivities and rituals say about your family’s values? One of my favorite grounding resources is a nonprofit called New Dream (www.newdream.org), whose tagline is “more of what matters.” Their “Simplify the Holidays” video speaks to what I believe — that the holidays are a time for peace, appreciation, and reflection. Check out their website if you’re interested in ideas for starting new family holiday traditions that support stronger human connection while reducing the stress and cost of Christmas celebrations. One of their cool new offerings is a downloadable coupon book which comes with ideas for using it.

Stillwaters is grateful for everyone who supports our organization with their time and financial generosity. Holiday Blessings to all of you and we wish everyone a season of peace, fulfillment and joy.

— Beth Berglund is a member of the board of directors of Stillwaters Environmental Learning Center. Contact her at bethisgreen@gmail.com.