FOCUS: Holiday Traditions - by Marlene Boas

Personal Mastery; Team Learning

Tradition lives because young people come along
who catch its romance and add new glories to it.
Michael Novak

Holiday Expectations

(After last month’s Musings on Expectations, my friend Marlene Boas, also a coach, came to the telegathering, a deeper conversation on expectations. Marlene suggested this is the time of year when expectations about the holidays run high and should be explored. I asked Marlene if she’d write a guest column about that, and she did! Enjoy. Sharon) 


Holiday traditions are like the sap of our family trees. They nourish us from our deepest roots and symbolize the legacy of those who were, are, and will be a part of us. Every family has a unique culture, and traditions help preserve the distinctiveness of our families. Holding on to traditions is important, but holding on with a white knuckled, clenched fist to the way things are "supposed" to be doesn't help anyone and more often than not, creates tension, stress and anxiety. Perhaps someone can't (or doesn't want to) make the annual holiday gathering. That has the potential to create a sense of unease and longing. Another part of the family feels obligated to attend multiple events on the same day so their time is cut up like a turkey. They feel like a pressure cooker ready to blow. Someone else has opted to start her own family traditions in her own home without extended relatives. How could she?! Unrealistic expectations of how things "should " be are dashed and everyone is disappointed; nobody wins. 


Family gatherings don't have to be served up with a side dish of tension and frustration. Perhaps it's time to look for a new recipe. We can do that by taking a deep look at our beloved traditions, reflecting on why we do them, and then exploring other ways to preserve what really matters and let go  of what doesn't.

Each of us is constantly growing and evolving and our families grow and change too. We must respond to these changes in ways that keep us heading in the right direction. Traditions need to reflect the dynamic nature of our lives and the lives of those we love  and call family. We have the power to create wonderful new memories by filling the glass and toasting those we love in new and exciting ways.

These kinds of changes are not easy. Some of us love change and are energized by it. Others are unsettled and resist. There's a natural tension when change is on the horizon and thoughtful consideration and communication amongst the family is essential.

Other key ingredients to redesigning our traditions are gratitude, acceptance, and flexibility. Be grateful for your perfectly imperfect family and keep an eye on what is most meaningful of your traditions. Don't let little annoyances outshine the wonderful parts.  Accept that nothing, and no one, is perfect. Understand that others' expectations of the holidays may be very different than yours. Finally, make sure that what is truly important to your family is the centerpiece of the celebration and imaginatively recreate your traditions with an open heart and open mind.


  1. What are the most important things about the family traditions you celebrate? What do they represent and why do you do them? Is it to: strengthen family bonds, spend time together, create a sense of identity, connect generations, pass on a cultural of religious heritage, or just because they have always been done that way? Once we identify what inspires our traditions, we can begin to explore the unlimited possibilities. Can it be done in another way or on a different day?
  2. Ask others in your family what is important to them? Share you thoughts with one another.
  3. Imagine building a brand new tradition focusing on what's important to your family. What would that look like? Invite everyone to be involved in co-creating new traditions.
  4. Reflect on what's most stressful about the holidays for you. How can you change that? Examine if what causes you stress is really a necessary ingredient for the holiday to be meaningful. What can be left out or moved to the back burner? Will the family really fall apart if you b uy the pies instead of baking them from scratch?
  5. Develop a personal mantra for the holidays that will keep you focused on what's most important. Something you can repeat in your mind over and over to keep you anchored to what's most important.


Be in touch with Marlene Boas. She is a Board Certified Life coach. Find her at Reach her at 724-942-4649. 

Please join Marlene AND Sharon for a 45-minute telegathering to explore more deeply the topic of holiday traditions. Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at noon Eastern (11 Central, 10 MT 9 Pacific) 

1-218-862-1300 PIN 276583.  No need to register….just call at that time!

Reach me, Sharon: 1-888-907-HOPE (4673)or e-mail I am a personal and executive coach and would be happy to offer you a complimentary coaching session by phone. Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

Sharon Eakes | 720 Maple Lane | Sewickley, PA 15143

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