By Hana Kone

In Doherty’s book, “The Intentional Family” (1997), he emphasizes the importance of formal and informal rituals of connection in families. The Gottman Method Therapy is inspired by this approach, encouraging people to review how these rituals are handled in their own families and examining how they were managed in their primary families.  These rituals can be both a great source of connection and a potential cause of misunderstanding and unresolved conflicts.

Rituals of connection are activities and interactions that provide consistent, predictable ways of engaging. Family rituals mirror important values, roles of members, goals, and symbols within a couple. Rituals play an extremely important role in family and couple’s life, helping to create emotional and meaningful connections. They symbolize who we are as a couple and as a family, honoring our heritage, faith, and values. Formal rituals, such as Christmas celebrations, help build family traditions and add meaning to them, creating a strong sense of belonging.

In our busy schedules, we often tend to leave important events of emotional connection as the last things to do or exchange them for the stressful tasks of buying presents, cooking dinner, and rushing to meet all visits on time with a “get this over with” approach. Consequently, emotional connections rarely happen because people don’t make enough time for each other. By establishing Christmas as a ritual, it becomes a dependable time when people can foster contact, connection, and meaning in their families.
Reflecting on the rituals experienced as a child may bring forth painful memories of loneliness, stress, trauma, hurt, and arguments. It’s crucial to discuss Christmas with your loved ones, understand the meaning each person is seeking, and then prepare a script to make it happen. Building it as a ritual ensures that everyone can connect, feeling safe, relaxed, and happy. Establish your own unique holiday traditions, keeping in mind that it’s not about how extravagant or social media-worthy your celebrations are, but rather about spending quality time together and creating memorable experiences.

Here are some refined ideas on how to create connections during Christmas:

  • Crafty Afternoon: Organize a crafty afternoon to decorate the Christmas tree and the house as a family. Engaging in creative activities together fosters a sense of togetherness.
  • Santa Trip and Annual Picture: Take a local trip to see Santa and capture an annual Christmas family picture. It’s a delightful tradition that creates lasting memories.
  • Gingerbread Baking Fun: Bake up some fun with a gingerbread man baking session. It can be a relaxing coffee time for parents and a significant source of enjoyment for children.
  • Movie Night: Host a movie night featuring classical holiday movies. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the films together, whether it’s in the comfort of your home or at the cinema.
  • Storytime Moments: Share storytime moments by reading classic holiday stories such as “The Night Before Christmas.” Take turns reading, adding a cozy and traditional touch to the season.
  • Spread the Love through Volunteering: Teach your partner and kids the joy of giving back by volunteering together or donating gifts or food. It’s a meaningful way to spread love and gratitude during the holiday season.

Remember, the essence of these activities is not just in the event itself but in the shared experience and connection they create.