top of page

My First Christmas Without You

The “King” Elvis Presley said it best…

“And when those blue snowflakes start falling That’s when those blue memories start calling”
GRIEF: The misunderstood human experience.
The creation of new traditions and rituals provides you the opportunity to find meaningful and lasting ways to remember loved ones. Further, it allows those who have died to play a continuous role in holiday celebrations going forward. My wish is to provide you with some ideas that might make this first year a little easier.
I'm going to provide you with a few ideas for creating new holiday traditions after a death. I encourage you to really think beyond this list and create traditions that are reflective of who your loved one was and how you want to see their legacy continue. 
New traditions can be simple things you decide to do on your own or more elaborate rituals that you create with your family. As you think about this, remember traditions are meant to be repeated year after year, so choose something that your family can realistically keep going. Even better, create traditions that can be handed down to future generations.
16 Ideas for Creating New Holiday Tradition After a Death

1.  Food:

  • Holiday dish: Choose your loved one’s favorite dish (or recipe) and make sure the dish is present at your celebration year after year.  For example, my family makes “Autie’s beans”. Why are they “Autie’s beans”? I have no idea, I’m pretty sure “Autie’s beans” are just plain ole green bean casserole!

  • Favorite dessert:  Instead of choosing a dish, choose their favorite dessert to make every year.

  • Breakfast: If the holiday dinner is crazy, crowded, and hectic, start a tradition of having your loved one’s favorite breakfast foods with your immediate family.

  • After-dinner drinks: If the person who died wasn’t a part of the family celebration, start a tradition of meeting friends and family in the evening to remember the person who died over hot cocoa or eggnog.

  • Cookie recipe: This is my personal favorite, use your loved one’s recipe to make Christmas cookies. I used my mother’s recipe this year and shared them on Facebook with my far-away family.

2. Music

  • Holiday playlist: Have a go-to list of holiday songs that remind you of your loved one.

  • Sing:  Start a tradition that involves singing your loved one’s favorite holiday songs.  My family always sings Silent Night just before going to bed on Christmas Eve and it always makes me cry.  You could also try traditions like these…

  • Have a caroling party before the holidays where you invite all your family and friends

  • Have a sing-a-long after holiday dinner.

3.  Memory tablecloth:

This is an awesome idea ... Every year, lay a special tablecloth and fabric markers or sharpies. Ask holiday guests to write down their favorite holiday memories, especially those that involve family members who are no longer present.

4. Light a candle:

As a family, light a candle at the beginning of the holiday season and allow it to burn throughout.  If you’re not comfortable with a real candle, use a fake candle or a special light-up decoration.

5.  Candle ceremony:

On the night before the holiday or on the night of the holiday, gather everyone for a candle ceremony.  Give everyone an unlit candle.  The first person lights the first candle and shares a memory.  They can share a memory of their deceased loved one(s), a memory from past holidays, or a time during the year when they felt their loved one’s presence – you decide (it’s your tradition after all)!  After the first person shares their memory, they light the candle of the next person and that person shares a memory – so on and so forth.  Once the last candle is lit, do something to close out the ceremony (for example: sing a song or say a prayer).

6.  Blessing:

If a blessing is traditionally said at any point during the holiday, add a lyric, quote, verse, poem, or saying that reminds you of your loved one.  Choose something that really reflects your loved one, even if it’s silly or out of context.

7.  Secret Signal:

Create a secret signal for your family members to give one another when something reminds them of the person who has died. This could be a signal used at any moment, happy or sad, throughout the year.

8.  Give to charity:

Every year chose a charity to give a gift to in your loved one’s name.  Keep the same process for choosing the charity each year – maybe you decide over Thanksgiving or you gather on the first Sunday of December, for example.  Allow everyone to offer suggestions and then choose as a family.  If you don’t want to just make a monetary donation, look for shelters doing “adopt a resident” programs or opportunities to