Holiday Episodic Memories


Holiday Episodic Memories

We started getting into the holiday spirit at our house this weekend by decorating and putting up our Christmas tree. My kids love going through the totes of decorations and reminding themselves about all the stuff they haven’t seen for the past year. Decorating the tree is a great time because each of the kids has their own ornament box with their special ornaments in it. My husband and I decided to carry on a tradition in my family where we buy each child an ornament each year so by the time they grow up and leave home they have a collection of meaningful ornaments for their own tree. Some of their ornaments are gifts they have received from other people or decorations they have made in school. One of my favorite moments of the year is sitting in the living room with holiday music on and opening up those boxes. The kids excitedly open each one and talk about where they got or who gave it to them, and then find a special spot for it on the tree.

Every year at Christmastime I am reminded of the power and magic of episodic memories. There are so many elements of the season that trigger memories of the past – the taste of Christmas cookies, the smell of fresh pine, the decorations, the sounds of holiday music. All of those things bring floods of memories of holidays past, of the people who are dear to us, and the special moments and traditions that bind us together as families. Here are a few ideas for making memories this holiday season:
• Purchase or make an ornament together for your tree (or a decoration for your home). At the end of the season pack it away with a little note about when and where you got it / made it. Then when you get ready to decorate next year you can review the memory of your experience together.
• Make some cookies together and take time decorating them. Take pictures of your favorite ones for a scrapbook page, or review the experience when eating them over the next few days.
• Build anticipation by making a Count-down Chain. Make a paper chain with the number of links equal to the number of days left until Christmas day, New Year’s day, or whatever day is important for you. Each day you can take a moment to tear off one of the links together and share your anticipation of the special day getting closer.
• One of my favorite Christmas books is called The Sweet Smell of Christmas, by Patricia Scarry. We had this book while I was growing up and we would read it all the time during the holiday season. The book has scratch-and-sniff stickers throughout so you can smell different things on each page while you read the text. I had forgotten about that book until a couple of years ago I found it at a small bookstore in the area. When I opened it up and began smelling the stickers I was immediately brought back to my childhood – the scents were amazingly familiar and it brought back all kinds of warm memories of the holidays with my family. I know read this book with my own children and it has created all kinds of great memories for them as well. If you can find this book somewhere I highly recommend it!

I hope these ideas get you thinking about ways to encode meaningful memories this holiday season. If you have some memory-making ideas or stories you’d like to share please leave a comment – we want to hear from you!

Happy memory making,


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