Defining New Family Traditions for the Holidays By Karen Ulvestad In the time of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents to world was a different place. There may or may not have been cell phones. Technology in the past 50 years has taken us from developing the television, microwave ovens and room-sized computers to smart phones, GPS and portable computers. Our lives have become constant contact with the world, 24/7. We text our friends, hang-out on social network sites and keep moving non-stop. The information available to us is a hundred or thousand fold compared with 50 years ago. Our holidays have changed too. Our families are scattered across the country or world. We purchase more gifts and other consumer goods throughout the Holidays. It seems like the expectations grow with each year. Who to visit? How to afford the travel? The must give gift, or a feeling we are disappointing someone we love. Where does it stop? We put ourselves under all this pressure at this time of the year. We have choices to make, and sometimes they are difficult. As we try to slow down for a day or two, we find that the cell phone follows us. Whether it is our own phone, or family members’, it disrupts the calm of slowing down. So, what do we do? We create new Traditions for the Holiday Season. One idea is that everyone turns off their phones and computers for a day. If you want to be closer to your family, there needs to be conversation. Conversations can be awkward, because we have become so accustomed to “texting” or email or Social Media or . . . remember, it is much easier to speak with others, when we are not facing them. Another idea is to take a day outing, and take a drive or go for a hike. It could be to the beach, park or mountains. This is a great way to bring people together. The benefits of these activities are an opportunity to enjoy family time, and not fall into the stressful trap of “trying to get everything right.” The biggest idea for change is finding gratitude. If all the “stuff” was taken away from us, what are we truly grateful for? What is really important? As for me and my family, we do celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. Our 11-year-old son does believe in Santa, because he represents selfless giving to others who are less fortunate. We have a different dinner every year, and it usually does not require someone to be in the kitchen all day long. We live simply, and encourage making gifts. There are store-bought gifts, but it’s about giving and receiving. It is an attitude or philosophy that allows for sharing time, instead of “things.” Our traditions are based on family time, without the phone, computers or video games. We focus on giving, whether we spend the holiday at home or with others. We find blessings in all aspects of our lives, and share that with each other. We always find time to take a little road trip during the Holidays, and enjoy the time with each other in nature. Remember . . . it comes down to choices, and the only person that needs to be appeased is yourself. . .