Traditions and the Holidays


I grew up the child of divorced parents. Not really uncommon these days, but it can make figuring out holidays a challenge.


My brother and I were lucky, though. Our parents were really good about making sure we got to spend time with both of them, and the schedule stayed consistent when we were little. We alternated Thanksgiving and Easter, and spent Christmas Eve with my dad and his side of the family, Christmas Day with mom and her side.


When Carl and I got serious, then engaged and married, figuring out the holidays was hard! I was used to splitting time, but he and his family were not. They had their own traditions and it was very challenging to make it work. Thank God, we did, but they changed again when we moved to Arizona. It’s been eight years since then and we have a good solution in place now.


But figuring out how to adapt and still honor traditions was difficult. 


What are Traditions?


A tradition is a custom or belief that is passed from generation to generation. They come in many forms—from family or personal to cultural too. Take the example of eating turkey for Thanksgiving. The day is a special occasion for many families. Stories are told and passed from generation to generation, moments are shared and memories and created. It’s a special time to bond for families that might not otherwise get the time to connect.


No matter what, these traditions are important. They give us comfort and joy.


Norms and Expectations


Holidays also come with expectations, society’s and your own. For example, even though many stores have Christmas stuff out since November 1st, most people don’t decorate until after Thanksgiving, or right before. Christmas movies and music also start in full force around this time. Then, when it comes to taking it all down, it’s right after Christmas til about the first of the new year. If you leave your lights up much longer than that, you’re risking comments and ridicule—even a fine if you live in a community with strict association rules.


Oh, the Decorations!


I love Christmas trees! I love to see how people decorate them, and I love decorating my own. In my family, giving Christmas ornaments as gifts is a tradition. I used to get a family ornament for my godchild, grandchild and daughter every year. So, as an adult, I have tons of ornaments!


Now, as a godparent myself, I give them out to my godchildren every year until adulthood. This was not the norm in my husband’s family, but now he gets them for his godchildren as well.


Our tree is a colorful mix of special ornaments and those purchased by us that we just really liked. To me, the brighter the better! In my husband’s family and many others, they choose a theme, usually a color. Their tree is beautiful, almost like those you see in magazines.


It’s fun to decorate our tree together and see that blend of traditions.


It turns out holiday trees are not that new. When I did a little searching, I found that there are references as far back as the 1400s and 1500s, with some citing trees back even further. Kind of interesting.


Then there’s the lights. Apparently in 1890, the Edison Company offered Christmas light services. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, companies offered light rentals for the holidays so people could decorate their homes. However, it was pretty expensive so not everyone could afford it. In 1903, the first strings of lights were sold in stores commercially and at a more affordable cost. So, I guess that’s why we get out there and light up our houses. It’s one of my favorite parts of the holidays.

We love to walk our dogs through the neighborhood at night and just appreciate the quiet beauty of all the decorations. It’s very peaceful and fun creating these memories with my family.


Why cookies?


I think we all have certain foods and desserts that have become the holiday norms. My mom used to let us take a day off school to help her bake. She called it “Hookie Cookie Day”. So fun! I won’t lie, raw chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie dough was consumed.


Turns out that the tradition of baking special treats and sharing them for the Holidays goes back to Medieval times. That’s when spices like nutmeg and cinnamon began to be used, as well as dried fruits that added sweetness. I have to say, this is one tradition that I think is fantastic! It’s a way to show people you care, and share some of your favorite holiday cookies/traditions with them.


There are so many aspects to the holidays and the traditions they entail. I haven’t even touched on gifts, or why we celebrate Christmas. I think these areas are especially personal. Even people that are not religious, or those of different religions sometimes celebrate at this time of year. And gifts! Some go crazy with mountains of presents, while others choose small tokens or stockings and instead focus on time together.


However you choose to celebrate, keep those traditions alive for your family. Change them as you need or want, because those traditions can make the holidays even more special and give us comfort during these turbulent times.



Bethany Kochan started her fitness career at a local women’s fitness center at 19 years of age. This part-time job lead to a career that over 20 years later, she still loves. Bethany earned her B.S. in Exercise Science from Southern Illinois University Carbondale at the same time becoming certified as a group exercise instructor. After college, she pursued NSCA-CPT and CSCS, group cycling, mat Pilates and YogaFit certifications. In 2009, she and her husband made a big move across the country to pursue his dream job in the field of strength and conditioning. At this point, Bethany began writing and training online to be both with her husband and the fitness industry. Today, the Kochans split their time between AZ and CA, pursuing their passions and enjoying life together with their two rescue Weimaraners.