Traditions Around the Home
Christmas is such a beautiful time of year, filled with dazzling lights, colorful cookies, and carefully crafted ornaments. At Mercy Home, we have a few decorating traditions of our own. From the annual lighting of our spectacular tree, to our manger scene, to various wreaths hanging throughout the Home – these decorations help our kids feel the magic of the holiday season.
In addition to the decorations shared throughout the Home, each individual program decorates their own space as well. It’s an opportunity for our kids to be creative and participate in the decoration process themselves.
“It can be a lot of firsts for a lot of kids,” said Keli Shllaku, a program manger at Mercy Home. “Some of the traditions that we do here – they were never introduced to before and it’s the first time. And they might feel like, ‘oh I like that. I might want to do that again sometime with my family or in the future.”
For Fernando, a resident of Mercy Home, his favorite part about decorating is the chance to spend time with those in his program.
“I like being together and having fun,” Fernando said. “And just how we express our ideas on the tree; just enjoying it. But just the time together – it doesn’t matter if we have to spend all this money to do all this other stuff.”
“Some of the traditions that we do here – they were never introduced to before and it’s the first time. And they might feel like, ‘oh I like that. I might want to do that again sometime with my family or in the future.”
Many of us feel the pressure of material goods this time of year, including our kids. They worry about affording gifts for their loved ones, or how many gifts they will receive. That is one of the reasons our traditions are so important. They help alleviate this pressure and shift our kids’ focus to the things that truly matter during the holidays.
One of the ways we make the holiday season special for our kids is by spending a lot of community time together. Some of these activities include decorating cookies, playing board games, watching Christmas movies, drinking hot chocolate, and listening to Christmas music.
“I think it just creates a family feel to it,” Shllaku said. “For some of them, I think it’s hard to see us as family because we’re professionals. But I think times like these when we’re doing things together and we’re having fun – I feel like it does feel like a family, because we are.”
Another tradition at our Home this time of year is doing acts of kindness for others. Our kids help brighten the holidays for others by baking cookies for those with developmental disabilities or even donating their own money to buy toys for other children.
“Some of the kids really shine when they see other people down and out – they really want to help,” said Alban Fisher, the clinical director of Mercy Home. “I’m always surprised how a lot of the kids, even from tough circumstances, really want to help out.”
The holidays can be a difficult time for our children, as they serve as a reminder of the things they may have never had. Through our traditions, we hope to not only bring them comfort, but to show them that the holidays can be a magical time of year, even in the absence of material goods and a stable home.
“I think the rituals are important,” Fisher said.
“I think giving kids things they didn’t have before is important. I think the spiritual celebrations help, so it’s not just material stuff – it’s a balance. I think it’s the underlying value of community that we’re trying to teach them, to stay connected, because underneath everything – that’s what it’s all about.”