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Festive Celebrations: Crafting Healthier Traditions for a Joyful Holiday Season

Crafting Healthier Traditions

 

The holiday season is upon us, and what better way to celebrate than by infusing our traditions with a touch of health and wellness? Let's not just celebrate but create a holiday season that is both joyous and healthier for our families. As the enchantment of this season unfolds, take a moment to ponder your cherished traditions. What is it about this time of year that makes it special for you and your loved ones? 

A few years ago, I found myself homeschooling my boys amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic. To take a break from our normal studies, I decided to turn our attention to the global holiday traditions in December.  I crafted a lesson on holidays around the world and together, we explored these traditions, discovering the myriad of ways different countries celebrate this season.

From St. Nicholas Day, to the vibrant Dia de las Velitas, and the festival of lights during Hanukkah, our journey included St. Lucia Day, Las Posadas, and the Winter Solstice.  

One of our most cherished aspects has been the joy of reimagining these traditions to align with our commitment to a healthier, non-toxic lifestyle.   Plus the beauty of these celebrations transcends religious boundaries. Whether or not you follow a specific faith, everyone can partake in the joy, love, and well-being that these traditions offer.

With each passing year, these celebrations have become our steadfast favorites, creating an annual tapestry of joy and well-being that elegantly weaves together the richness of diverse cultures and the commitment to a healthier way of life.

Here are our favorite celebrations and how we have transformed them into healthier versions:

1.  St. Nicholas Day (12/6) - St. Nicholas' Day is derived from Saint Nicholas of Myra, who served as a bishop in the fourth century. Saint Nicholas was a famously giving figure, caring for children in need, struggling families, and the ill.  Children leave their shoes out in the hopes to find small gifts on the morning of December 6th. Oranges and chocolate coins have been traditional treats for Saint Nicholas Day because they are reminders of how generous Saint Nicholas was with others. The spirit of St. Nicholas Eve and day is one focused on giving over receiving, remembering those less fortunate and that St. Nicholas loved children.

  • How we celebrate it: We transformed classic sugary treats that have artificial food dyes and preservatives into wholesome delights that satisfied our sweet tooth without compromising on health.  
  • My boys leave their shoes out in front of their rooms and I fill them with an organic candy cane, chocolate coins & an organic orange. 

 

2.  Dia de las Velitas (12/7) - Little Candles Day or Immaculate Conception Eve is a widely observed religious holiday in Colombia. It is celebrated on December 7 on the eve of the Immaculate Conception, which is a public holiday in Colombia.  On the Noche de las Velitas, people around Colombia light colorful candles and place them on sidewalks, balconies, and windowsills in honor of the Virgin Mary.

  • How we celebrate it: I chose this holiday because I am Colombian and wanted a fun way to celebrate it with my boys in the US.  The first year, we made our own paper lanterns out of gift bags and cut out a festive design.  Instead of candles that burn and emit harmful chemicals into our indoor air, we opted for LED candles that can be reused every year.  Each year, after dinner,  we light up our lanterns, turn off all the lights and make a wish for the coming year.   

 

3.  Hanukkah (dates change annually) - Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish festival that reaffirms the ideals of Judaism and commemorates in particular the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of candles on each day of the festival.  From shallow-fried potato latkes to deep-fried jelly doughnuts, traditional Hanukkah foods hinge on oil, because the jar contained only enough oil to burn for one day, but miraculously the oil burned for eight days until new consecrated oil could be found, establishing the precedent that the festival should last eight days.

  • How we celebrate it:  We usually just celebrate the first or last day of Hanukkah (depending where it falls that year).  We embrace the culinary traditions with healthier swaps to traditional ingredients, like making sweet potato latkes and jelly filled donuts called Sufganiyot with healthier oils like coconut oil and using organic & wholesome ingredients.  

 

4.  St. Lucia Day (12/13) - In Scandinavia, Saint Lucia Day marks the start of the Christmas season. A procession of young women in white robes, red sashes and wreaths of candles on their heads lights the way through the darkness of winter. Honoring Saint Lucia, this festival incorporates pagan winter solstice celebrations marked by bonfires. Gingersnaps, saffron-flavored buns and glogg are traditionally served.

  • How we celebrate it:  St. Lucia Day became a time to indulge in homemade, healthier versions of traditional Scandinavian treats, ensuring our celebrations were both delicious and mindful.  I make homemade treats and hot cocoa for an after school snack for my boys since it usually falls on a school day.

 

5.  Las Posadas (12/16-12/24) - Las Posadas, celebrated yearly from December 16-24, is a religious festival traditionally held in Mexico and parts of Latin America. Translating to ‘The Inns’ in Spanish, Las Posadas is an important part of the Christmas festivities. Over the nine nights of celebrations, parties are held at different people’s homes. Before each gathering, all the guests form a procession to mark Mary and Joseph’s search for an inn on the night of Jesus’s birth. The march is usually led by an angel as a symbolic act of Mary and Joseph finding shelter in a stable when they were unable to find lodging in Bethlehem. The parties are joyous occasions, including prayers, food, music, fireworks, and piñatas!

  • How we celebrate it: As we explored Las Posadas, we incorporated fitness into our festivities, turning the traditional processions into family walks that kept us active and connected. We also made traditional Mexican dishes like enchiladas without additives or preservatives and organic produce and meats.  We even made our own piñata one year filled with organic treats.  

 

6.  Winter Solstice (12/21) - The first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is marked by the winter solstice.  

  • How we celebrate it:  We infused our celebration with nature, taking the opportunity to embark on a winter hike, or cross country ski outing, or have a cozy, toxin-free bonfire with homemade hot chocolate made with healthy ingredients.

 

Crafting Healthier Holiday Traditions: A How-To Guide

The holiday season is brimming with traditions, each holding a special place in our hearts. As a non-toxic living enthusiast, I've discovered joy in transforming our family's cherished traditions into health-conscious celebrations. Now, let me guide you on a journey to do the same with your beloved customs.

 

Step 1: Reflect on Your Traditions

Take a moment to ponder the traditions that define your holiday season. What makes them special, and how could they be infused with a touch of well-being?

 

Step 2: Identify Health-Conscious Elements

Consider the elements of your traditions that align with a healthier lifestyle. Whether it's the joy of togetherness, the warmth of homemade treats, or the delight of festive decorations, pinpoint what already contributes positively to your well-being.

 

Step 3: Explore Mindful Alternatives

Next, explore alternative approaches or ingredients that align with your health goals. For instance, if baking is a tradition, consider healthier ingredient swaps. If it involves decorations, opt for eco-friendly and non-toxic choices.

 

Step 4: Infuse Physical Activity

Introduce a physical element into your traditions. Turn a holiday walk into a cherished annual event or incorporate simple exercises during family gatherings to promote well-being.

 

Step 5: Share the Experience

Make your health-conscious journey a shared one. Communicate with your family and friends, and collectively explore ways to make your traditions not just joyous but also health-oriented.

 

Step 6: Document and Celebrate Your Changes

Document the changes you implement and celebrate the positive impact on your well-being. Share your journey with others, inspiring them to embark on their own health-conscious traditions.

 

Step 7: Embrace Evolution

Recognize that traditions can evolve while maintaining their essence. Embrace the process of creating traditions that resonate with your values and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

 

What makes your holiday season bright and memorable? Let's embark on a radiant journey together, exploring ways to make our traditions not just heartwarming but heart-healthy too. Here's to a season of wellness, joy, and the magic of healthier celebrations!

This December, let's not only embrace our cherished holiday traditions but also elevate them by making mindful choices for the well-being of our families.