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Caroline Rules: Traditions

How to Keep Holiday Customs Alive Through the Years

Caroline Manzo puts the real in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her fans relate to the reality star's no-nonsense attitude, focus on family and, above all, abundant common sense. Check back at Glo every Monday as Caroline helps solve your most pressing dilemmas.

The Dilemma: With Thanksgiving this week, we can't help but think about family and the traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. As the years pass, however, keeping up these yearly customs can be tough. What's the best way to successfully pass along family traditions? How can we continue our long-standing ways of celebrating the holidays as well as incorporate new traditions? Is it best to elect one family member to help keep these customs alive? Or it is better to have everyone pitch in and share the responsibility? What are some traditions that work for your family?

Caroline's Ruling: Great topic! I'm a huge fan of tradition. Unfortunately, I feel like it's becoming an endangered species. I don't buy the excuse that it's tough to keep up with them. Is it tough, or are we just getting lazy? Why do I feel like the whole concept of family, values and tradition is being diluted?

Think about it: How often do you sit around the table with your family and have dinner? How many days a week do you cook versus getting takeout or ordering in? I understand that life can be chaotic -- we find ourselves juggling our time between work, family and social obligations. But are we losing sight of what's important? Traditions don't have to be extravagant or even time-consuming. They're a taste, a smell, a moment … something that resonates with you on a very personal level that you want to pass on to your children in hopes that they will experience those same emotions and ultimately pass them down to future generations.

I don't believe one person should be the “tradition keeper.” It's a family affair -- the more the merrier. Not only does it take the burden off of one person to carry out the tradition, but it also makes the circle larger, the experience richer. Times change, people change, and sometimes life gets in the way of cooking that huge dinner or traveling to spend the holidays with family. I get it. Guess what? Work around it; make up new traditions that work for you and your family.

I'll give you an example of one tradition I started years ago with my own children. When they were very young I explained to them that Santa needed my help in displaying their gifts on Christmas morning. Every year I would take the kids to Friendly's for dinner and then go to the pharmacy and have each of them choose their own wrapping paper for Santa to wrap their gifts in. On Christmas morning they knew what gifts were theirs by the wrapping paper. It was an inexpensive meal, followed by a trip to the pharmacy. My kids are 21, 22 and 24, and we still do it. Lauren always chooses a paper with Santa Claus all over it, Albie is very traditional and conservative, and Christopher is over-the-top crazy and fun. I know they humor me and allow me this one little luxury at this point in the game. The bottom line is this: Life is short, children grow, and the world keeps on turning.

Take the time, capture the moments. I smile to think that someday my kids will be wandering into a pharmacy somewhere with their children, picking out wrapping paper to make Santa's job easier. Priceless.

  • From marriage dilemmas to family issues, Caroline's got the answers!

    Photo by Michael T. Greco
Caroline Rules: Traditions
How to Keep Holiday Customs Alive Through the Years
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