Sunset Stories

Keeping Holiday Traditions Alive

Posted by Gayle Young on Nov 12, 2019 8:10:39 AM

The holiday season comes with strung lights, peppermint treats, gifts wrapped up in bows, and the possibility of a blanket of white on the ground. However, nearly one-third of adults agree that November and December also bring feelings of loneliness. Regardless of whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or any other holidays this time of year, holding onto traditions is meaningful. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of ways to help your older loved ones maintain their treasured traditions while creating new memories.

Create a Recipe Book

If we are not able to spend all day in the kitchen preparing a feast, creating a book of favorite holiday recipes is an excellent alternative. If possible, including photos in a recipe book can help seniors remember cherished foods, imagine their aromas while cooking, and recall who shared them on past holidays throughout their lives.

Taking the time to read this book aloud is an excellent opportunity to listen to adults share stories about what these holiday meals mean to them. What was their mother’s best holiday recipe? Do they prefer savory or sweet? Such questions can stimulate thoughtful conversation while keeping sentimental foods a part of your family’s holidays.

Decorate the Living Space

Physically bringing the holiday spirit to a resident’s living space can liven up his or her holiday season. A small tree, menorah, lantern, wreath, or snow globe can transform an area. (If you’re decorating a loved-one's space in a senior living facility, be sure to follow its rules regarding live trees and wreaths and lit candles.)  

Inviting older adults to select their favorite holiday song while assisting with the decorating allows them to remain actively involved in this holiday tradition. Hand making decorations, such as simple paper snowflakes to hang on the walls, is an excellent way to stimulate the brain. Don’t forget to save the decorations for the next holiday season.

Watch a Movie

Who doesn‘t like watching seasonal movies on the Hallmark Channel? Whether we’re binging on made-for-television film marathons or rewatching a classic, holiday movies remind us of cherished traditions.

Be it A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, or Elf, taking a break to enjoy a seasonal movie rekindles holiday memories. Additionally, watching holiday films can provide an emotional release—a chance to laugh, be thankful, and revel in the storytelling.

Shop or Make Cards Together

Regardless of our age, exchanging presents during the season of giving creates a sense of anticipation. Helping older adults select gifts for their friends and families helps keep them engaged in the holiday spirit. Walking along a seasonally decorated street or through a bustling shopping mall provides vibrant activity and aerobic exercise.

If the weather is unfavorable or shopping isn’t the best fit for an older adult, making holiday cards is equally enjoyable. After making a list of who to send season’s greetings, creating cards together keeps a thoughtful and generous tradition alive.


The pressure to achieve holiday perfection may creep in as we plan ways to continue holiday traditions. It helps to focus on what will enrich our lives rather than on trying to do it all. Start with one activity and know that engaging in a treasured tradition will make this a season of joy for the entire family.

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Topics: Holidays, Aging, Caregiving, Loneliness, Isolation