Tradition is what you make of it

Writing day

Throughout the month of December, I have been participating in an online event called Meet the 2020s. The 2020s is a group of authors who will release debut novels during the upcoming year. The purpose of the Meet the 2020s event is for debut authors to introduce themselves and their novels to readers by posting and answering a specific daily question or prompt. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the hashtag #MeetThe2020s to get a sneak peek at the amazing line up of new books that will be released in the New Year!

I mention this now because, on December 11th, the question posed to the 2020 authors was “What are your favorite holiday traditions.”

I’d recently read a newspaper article that encouraged readers to follow their hearts when it comes to tradition. For some people, tradition is the backbone of any holiday celebration and so, without a doubt, if there are childhood traditions that you loved and want to carry with you into adulthood and share with your own children, by all means, do it!

But as you find yourself in the thick of adulting and parenting your own kids, it’s also okay to ditch traditions that no longer fit or feel right to you. For example, as a pescatarian, I don’t envision ever serving turkey at my house on Thanksgiving or Christmas. On the years that we have hosted Christmas dinner, salmon has been the main dish on the table and, from what I hear, it’s actually not all that uncommon for families to serve seafood for the holiday feast. Bottom line: tradition is what you make it and it’s okay if what constitutes tradition is redefined over the years.

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When my daughters were young we enjoyed sprinkling “reindeer food” on the lawn and leaving milk and cookies by the fireplace for Santa. But as a teenager, one of my favorite holiday traditions was the open door policy my parents had on Christmas Eve. From the time I was in high school until a few years after college, my childhood home was open to any friends or family members who wanted to stop in to celebrate the season and share in the holiday cheer.

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Now that my own children are teenagers, we have tried to reintroduce this tradition but we find that kids today are much more obligated and committed than kids seemed to be in the eighties. By December of my sophomore year of high school, most of my friends could drive, and most of my friends stayed in town for the holidays. And so barring a requisite trek to church for Christmas Eve services, my friends were free to come and go and celebrate on the eve of the holiday. So far that freedom does not seem to be the norm for this generation, but we will keep trying!

There was also a time during childhood that my family switched from having a live tree to purchasing an artificial tree. This was not a change I liked. I missed the fresh pine scent and disliked the fact that the artificial tree lacked any personality, looking exactly the same from year to year. I vowed that I would never have a fake tree and so far have made good on that promise. As such, one of my favorite holiday traditions is gathering my daughters and my dogs and heading to a local tree farm to select and cut down our own tree. While my husband secures the freshly cut and bound tree to the roof of the car, our daughters venture to the barn on the property that doubles as a snack shack to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. At home, we put on Christmas music and laugh and reminisce as the ornaments are hung on the tree.

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On Christmas morning, we light the tree, cue some classical Christmas tunes, and take turns giving and receiving gifts while coffee brews and cinnamon rolls bake in the oven.

Another relatively new and favorite tradition is the Holiday Lights Run. For the past several years a member of our local running club—The Eldersburg Rogue Runners—has hosted this festive event. More than fifty runners alight with headlamps and colorful blinkers, and adorned with Santa hats and jingling bells descend on this house bearing food and drinks. After taking a group photo, runners set off on either a 5K or 4.5-mile loop around the neighborhood—which includes a mid-run beverage stop—to enjoy the festively lit and decorated homes, as well as our camaraderie, holiday cheer, and shared passion for fitness.

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After the run, everyone returns to the house to eat, drink and be merry. On our way home, my family stops by another house where we park the car, tune our radio to a designated station, and enjoy an intricate light show set to holiday music. By mid-December, if the wrapping and shopping and baking hasn’t already gotten us into a jolly holiday mood, this evening of running, food and festivities with friends is sure to do the trick.

Here’s wishing you all a happy holiday season and a peaceful New Year filled with good health and great adventures!


Difference between holistic, homeopathic

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In my last column, I wrote about the effects of turning back the clocks and how, in some people, fewer hours of daylight can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression related to the changes in the season.

To combat SAD, practices that develop a strong mind-body connection, such as yoga, tai chi, meditation, guided imagery and music or art therapy, were suggested and referred to as natural, homeopathic methods.


Following the publication of that column, a reader wrote to clarify that such practices would be considered holistic, not homeopathic. It occurred to me, then, that many people may not realize there is a difference between homeopathy and holistic healing, and that the topic warranted further consideration and clarification.

Holism encompasses the idea that various systems should be viewed as wholes and not merely as a collection of parts. According to, a holistic approach means thinking about the big picture and, in a medical setting, “holistic refers to addressing the whole person, including their physical, mental, and emotional health, while taking social factors into consideration.” In short, holistic healthcare focuses on the health of the entire body and mind, not just parts of the body.

The Integrative Cardiology Center of Long Island explains that holistic medical treatments, through the use of antioxidant rich foods and vitamins to enhance healing and prevent future illnesses, are designed to improve the body overall.

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“Holistic medicine is beneficial for long-term health because it will not only help an existing problem but will help prevent other problems down the line,” notes.

Yoga—given its physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions—along with other natural practices that develop a strong mind-body connection is, therefore, according to, considered to be a holistic approach to well-being.


Homeopathy, on the other hand, is a system of alternative medicine based on the belief that the body can cure itself. The overlap, or confusion between the two, is often derived from the fact that homeopathy itself is considered to be holistic because, according to, “it treats the person as a whole, rather than focusing on a diseased part or a labeled sickness.” defines homeopathy as “an alternative medical practice in which extremely dilute amounts of certain natural substances are used to treat various ailments.”

Red onion, for example, makes your eyes water which, according to, is why it’s used in homeopathic remedies for allergies. “Treatments for other ailments are made from poison ivy, white arsenic, crushed whole bees, and an herb called arnica,” the site adds.

The active ingredients used in homeopathy are traditionally plant, animal or mineral-based. lists fresh or dried herbs, activated charcoal, vinegar, garlic, caffeine and stinging nettle plants as commonly used homeopathic ingredients, the active ingredients of which are extracted and processed into tablets, ointments, gels and drops.

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So whether you are exploring homeopathic medicines to treat a variety of ailments including allergies, migraines, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis and premenstrual syndrome, or you are considering adopting a healthier, more holistic lifestyle that promotes healing through natural remedies—including homeopathic medicine—note that you are embarking on a unique way of living that encourages you to view your body as a whole.


To get started, has outlined eleven ways to live a holistic lifestyle without sacrificing your daily routine: practice mindfulness, recognize and respect the powers of your body, eat clean foods, focus on positive relationships, recycle energy, let yourself grow, enjoy life and be respectful, connect with others, be aware, meditate, and be active.


SAD can be a rough part of season


In addition to disrupted sleep cycles that may have occurred earlier this month as a result of Daylight Savings Time coming to an end, the decreased amount of daylight may also be wreaking havoc and having a negative impact on some people.

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Turning the clocks back an hour and losing that extra bit of late afternoon/early evening daylight—which is during waking hours for most people—at a time of year when the northern hemisphere naturally experiences fewer hours of daylight, can trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

According to, SAD is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons, beginning and ending at about the same time each year.

“If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody,” the site notes.

So if you find yourself feeling down, it may not only be disrupted sleep cycles or wayward hormones causing your blue mood, but lack of sunlight.

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Signs and symptoms of SAD may include depression, loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed, low energy, changes in appetite or weight, feeling sluggish or agitated, difficulty with sleeping or concentrating, and feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty.

To help ease the symptoms of SAD, recommends light therapy, psychotherapy, medications, and establishing a mind-body connection.

Light therapy, or phototherapy—in which you sit near a special light box, exposing yourself to bright light within the first hour of waking each day—mimics natural outdoor light, causing a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. Light therapy generally has a positive effect within a few days to a few weeks, and appears to be effective for most people in relieving symptoms of SAD.


Psychotherapy, or talk therapy—also known as cognitive behavioral therapy—is another option to treat SAD. This type of therapy helps to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be making you feel worse, and helps you to learn healthy ways to cope with SAD and manage stress.

For some people—especially those with severe symptoms—antidepressants may be needed to combat SAD, though it may take several weeks to realize the full benefit of this treatment, and experimenting with different types of medication may be necessary to find the specific antidepressant that works the best for you and has the fewest side effects.

Developing a strong mind-body connection is a natural, homeopathic method to help cope with SAD. This may include implementing relaxation techniques, practicing yoga or tai chi, meditation, guided imagery, and music or art therapy.

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Be sure to consult with your doctor to determine which treatment is right for you to help alleviate the symptoms of SAD. And take heart: the shortest day of the year is just around the corner, after which begins the slow but steady climb toward the warmer days of spring and more hours of sunlight.