New traditions for a changed world

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Celebration in the wake of tragedy

For many families, this year's celebrations will be different than in years past. "There may be a component of mourning and celebrating those who were lost," says Cox, even if you didn't know anyone personally. She suggests symbolic gestures like leaving an empty place at your table and saying a special prayer for those who won't be home for the holidays this year. Cox will have a "Thanksgiving tree" at her table. Each family member will attach cutout paper leaves with their "thanks" written on them to several branches that will serve as the table's centerpiece.

Cam Hedberg-Martin, a mother of three from Greenfield, WI, says this Thanksgiving she will be giving special thanks. "Current events have brought my family closer and made us think more about those we hold dearest. When you see how easily and tragically you can lose them, it awakens something in you." Her holiday celebration will include a "special prayer for the victims and survivors of terrorism" and "thanks for being a citizen of this country."

Another important change: Patriotism and charity will become a new or expanded part of many family celebrations this year, says Angela Smith, co-founder of "We won't just be stuffing ourselves with food at family gatherings," she says. People are sure to talk more about what they're thankful for; there will be special candle lightings and discussions of heroes, she says.

Staying close to home

Travel -- by plane, train, bus or car -- is usually a major part of the holiday season, but recent events have made some people reluctant to travel. Many Americans are more likely to "nest" -- stick close to home and take up soothing tasks like quilting, cooking and playing games with family, say experts.

It's not so much what you do, "but that you do it together," says Susan Vogt, editor of Just Family Nights: 60 Activities to Keep Your Family Together in a World Falling Apart. She suggests families designate one night a week as "family time." They can have fun taking a bike ride or playing a game, "or they can go one step further and pick a theme and use it to grow together."

Focusing on others

The holidays have always been a time of year of charity and helping others, but even more so this year. After September 11th, the Canny-Musal family of Pottstown, PA, opened a post office box where kids and adults can send letters that they will forward to rescue workers and those who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks.

"My sons, who are 13 and 16, were as distraught as we are. This is their way of helping," says Kathie Canny. They will continue to send letters to New York and Washington through the holiday season and beyond. "This is not to raise money," notes Canny, "just hearts."

Dr. Guarendi suggests asking your children to suggest some helpful traditions they want to start. "Children have wonderful ideas and doing something to help, no matter how small, gives them a measure of comfort and helps them feel that they're not powerless in this situation," he says. Plus, "serving others breeds a sense of inner satisfaction that kids can make the world a little better place."

Rather than focusing on what's negative in the world, Lucy Slurzberg focuses on what she and her 9-year-old daughter Eliana can give back. This year they will continue their tradition of making food packages to take to the elderly and wrapping gifts to give to needy children. Eliana has also raised money to send to the children of Afghanistan by holding a flea market and by giving relatives back massages.

"I think it's important for her to recognize that there are other children in the world who have needs, too," says Slurzberg, a New York social worker. "I like to think that Eliana feels safe in knowing that just as there are people who help her, we help others," says Slurzberg.

"It shows my child that it's in her power to create a better life and be a better person," she adds. "These traditions are important in a world where we often feel out of control -- and that's a sense of security in itself." --Bethany Kandel

Continued on page 3:  Resources


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