The cocoa is steaming. Peppermint sticks have been set out as stirring sticks to compliment the holiday mugs.

The homemade cheese sauce is ready to mix with macaroni for a favorite lunch entrée. Christmas music is playing in the background as my Christmassix grandchildren enter the room to spend the school day with me. We gather together close to the Christmas tree and discuss what the day holds. Today I ask them each to write in their journals what acts of kindness they can do over the Christmas break for others. They come up with extensive lists, including letting mom and dad sleep in, helping mom bake the gingerbread cake (a tradition on Christmas Eve), giving mom more hugs, and helping aunt Alisa with her toddlers.

I pray that they actually remember to do some of these kind acts!

After the school day ends, and the grandkids leave, I catch my breath and look around. Evidence of a action-packed day clutters the countertops, tables and floors. I put away the school supplies and sweep the floors. Another school day is history. I am left with just the memories. I wonder (and hope) that the day’s efforts will have left some impact on each grandchild’s heart and mind.

 Around holidays, I love to put in extra effort to reinforce traditions and build memories.

Traditions have a way of binding us as families; holiday traditions are a wonderful means by which to create even deeper identity. These repeated customs may seem insignificant – even trivial. Yet they matter. The stories and activities that reoccur each year affirm faith and values and help form a place of belonging. While our own children have added new traditions in their own families, many of the traditions they experienced as children are still repeated, by popular demand, each year. They help identify who we are as a family unit.

 Teaching my grandchildren one day each week has become a tradition that I hope to be able to continue for many years to come.

While Tuesdays are exhausting – to be sure – being a part of their lives in this way also fills my heart and energizes me.  Spending time with them in this manner allows me to connect our generations meaningfully.  Studies indicate that having a sense of self that spans generations actually fosters resiliency. (“The Link Between Family History and Resilience in Students) In other words, a sense of belonging to a family lineage, with shared values and customs, makes one stronger and less vulnerable.

If you happen to be someone whose heritage is messy and filled with broken relationships, purpose to establish a meaningful family heritage for your children moving forward.

What traditions matter to your family today? What traditions can you start this Christmas season? Celebrate together often.  The memories you make do leave lasting impressions on the heart and mind of your children.

 Merry Christmas!