ELMS: Make your own traditions this holiday season

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Now that Thanksgiving is over — and my belly has so graciously expanded a few inches to accommodate all the food I’ve ingested — I can finally be in the Christmas spirit without being ridiculed.

The tree is up, lights are on and holiday music is playing on repeat. My roommates and I even got a festive sweater for our cat. Don’t judge us. It’s adorable.

I’m in the process of putting my shopping list together, but it’s not the presents I’m looking forward to most this year. My favorite part of the holiday season has become celebrating old traditions and making new ones with my family and friends. I couldn’t even tell you what my parents got me for Christmas last year or what I got for them. Year after year, our traditions are what I remember most.

And with the economy being what it is, there is no denying money is tight. So this year, I propose going out and doing something fun with the people you care about most rather than buying them something they are going to use for three months and then forget about. It’s a better use of your money and time, and it’s something they will actually remember for years to come.

Some years, my family and I drive through my hometown’s holiday light show. On other Christmases, we watch “White Christmas” together. But for as long as I can remember, we’ve always gone to see Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Pabst Theater.

It tells the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a humbug who doesn’t believe in the power of holiday cheer. He revisits Christmases past, sees the realities of Christmas present and catches a glimpse of the Christmas that is yet to come if he does not change his ways. If you don’t know how the story ends, you really need to go see the show.

Our family trip to the Pabst started out as just something different to do at the holidays and has turned into my favorite tradition. Even though I attend the exact same production every year, I look forward to it as soon as the weather starts to get cold.

I don’t want to sound too preachy, but I don’t think anyone can disagree that shared experiences bring people closer together, especially if they are positive ones. And honestly, it’s much more fun to go out and see a show than to sit around the tree and unwrap presents you’re probably going to return.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or another holiday, it’s important to have traditions with your family or friends. It helps build lasting relationships, and it gives you something to look forward to in the midst of the season of dreaded final exams and shortened daylight.

If you’re going to be sticking around the Milwaukee area for winter break, there are tons of productions that make for perfect holiday outings. Obviously “A Christmas Carol” is a great one, but there is also the Milwaukee Ballet’s “The Nutcracker,” In Tandem Theatre’s “Scrooge in Rouge” and the Alchemist Theatre’s “Who Killed the Ghost of Christmas Past?” Or you can always check out the holiday lights festival in three downtown parks.

If you’re heading somewhere else for the holidays, find out what the local theater, dance and music companies have scheduled, and try something new. Who knows — maybe it will turn into something you do every year.

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