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Holiday Traditions: My Do’s and Don’ts

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I am not a traditional woman. But come the holiday season, I find myself wanting to do traditional Christmas things. And it can be hard to keep up. Christmas comes so quickly and I just can't do it all. So when it comes to keeping holiday traditions, I've learned to prioritize. There are ones I must keep, others I can do without and some I save for the days after Christmas.

The holidays are hectic and there aren't enough days to do or see everything. New York at Christmastime is a spectacular sight. It's also a major tourist attraction and it becomes more crowded than usual, but I still want Norrin to experience a little New York City holiday magic. So, I save two traditions for after Christmas: viewing the Tree at Rockefeller Center and the holiday windows on 5th Avenue and 34th Street.

When it comes to Christmas and keeping traditions, I do what I can, when I can. It should be a time of year to enjoy my family and friends, not a time to feel pressured to keep up with everyone else.

Tradition Do's:

Elf on the Shelf. We've been doing Elf on the Shelf for three years so it's a keeper and top at the list. It really doesn't take up that much time. My son, Norrin, loves it and it's helped keep the holiday magic alive.

RELATED: What I've Learned About My Parenting Style from Elf on the Shelf

Writing a letter to Santa. In a digital age where almost no one writes and mails letters, I keep this tradition because it's important to me that my son know how to write a letter. What better incentive than Santa?

Traditional meals from my childhood. Food is how I stay connected to my culture and pass on our Puerto Rican heritage to my son. I love cooking the traditional meals, such as pernil and arroz con gandules, that my mom made for us during the holidays.

RELATED: Holiday traditions through food

Christmas music and movies. When we bring home our tree, we pump the holiday tunes while we decorate. And once we're all done, we snuggle on the sofa, admire the lights while watching a classic Christmas movie. I love sharing my childhood favorites with Norrin.

RELATED: 25 Best Holiday Movies

Give back. The holidays are a time for reflection and gratitude. I have had good years and bad years but no matter what kind of year I've had - I make it a point to give back. This is a tradition anyone can keep.

RELATED: 25 Random Acts of Holiday Kindness

Tradition Don'ts:

Christmas Cards. I love the idea of Christmas cards but I just don't have the time. Truth be told, I don't want to make the time either. It's an added expense — the cards, the stamps, the time. Most of the people I want to send cards to have Facebook or email. I can just send them my well wishes or pick up the phone to call.

RELATED: Christmas Card Fails

Leaving Cookies For Santa Claus. Leaving cookies out for Santa means one thing. I have to eat the cookies. And I do not need the temptation.

Secret Santa gift exchanges at work. This year I had to take a stand and I'm not going to feel bad about it. There are people at work that I've known for years, people that are genuine friends. And then there are people that, well, just aren't my friends. That's OK. I don't want to feel obligated to give someone a gift just because I picked their name from a hat.

Wrapping gifts. The cutting and the taping, it's just tedious. And for what? Someone to rip apart and throw out without even appreciating your craftsmanship? Nothing hurts me more during the holidays than seeing people rip apart a beautifully wrapped gift that someone took a lot of care to make pretty. For my son, Norrin, I either put it out on display or use a gift bag.

Midnight Mass. This is the only thing I really don't feel bad about. I grew up going to midnight Mass and I'd love to share that tradition with my son. But I haven't been to church in years. Norrin has autism and ADHD. I don't know if either one of us could sit through a midnight Mass. But I hope one day we will.

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