Holiday Traditions After a Death

Traditions are the stories that families write together. After the death of a loved one, it is important to keep the traditions going. It helps to remember them this time of year although we may have thoughts of skipping the holidays entirely. Several families shared with me this past month how they will continue the traditions. “If we do it for the children, this will be one thing they remember and they will pass it on to their children. Also, when watching them – it makes us smile remembering the many, many holidays we shared together.”


My brother traveled the world and left us too soon. He collected Snow Globes from every destination and would often bring one back for Mom & Dad. We are continuing the tradition by purchasing a Snow Globe wherever our travels take us this year. His collection of over 100 Snow Globes is on display at our parent’s home along with a map with pushpins marking every place he visited. We will each take turns shaking the Snow Globes while listening to his favorite Country Christmas songs.


From the time, we were small children, our Mother made a different Menorah each year. When we were little, we did not know about the symbolism or significance of lighting the Menorah yet, we simply had fun making this with Mother. She was so crafty and creative. We are going to continue this tradition with our families. Even though we are not as creative as she was, we have the advantage of Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest to get ideas. We will place a picture of her on the table with us while we are making the Menorah. This way her grandchildren and great-grandchildren will see what she looked like and know how much she meant to us.


It is Dad’s infamous Pepper Pot Stew that we can still smell and taste when Kwanzaa comes around. The funny thing is that he never wrote down the recipe so we are each going to try and replicate it. We decided to have our own Pepper Pot Stew cook-off with family and friends. The winner gets to choose who will host the Kwanzaa festivities next year. Our Dad had the best sense of humor, so we are also going to tell some of his jokes. We have such happy memories of our Dad, there will be laughter this year along with an empty place at our table and in our hearts.

Closing Thoughts

A death during the Holidays is especially difficult. Emotions are magnified and the chaotic craziness this time of year can be overwhelming. If keeping the traditions going is just unthinkable – create a new one. If your younger sister always wanted to go on a horsedrawn sleigh ride in the mountains – do that. Maybe have a candle lighting remembrance with cookies and hot cocoa as you share special memories with each other. Spend a quiet evening alone writing a letter to your loved one. Maybe a prayer or toast is what feels right to you. Remember that not everyone is grieving the way you are. That is OK, you are where you need to be and they are where they need to be during this grief journey. Be extra gentle with yourself and wrap yourself in the comfort of memories.

Anita Larson is a Ceremony Leader and Officiant who blogs about her experiences with Celebrations of Life. Providing uncommon ideas and encouraging her readers to “Think Outside the Coffin®” when planning a Fabulous Farewell.

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