Tara Bone, contributing writer

Do thoughts of the busy holiday season fill you with dread? Does a gift-eating Elf on the Shelf haunt your dreams? Is anyone else tired… before the festivities even begin?

Life is full with many good things, but the holidays put it into overdrive. We’re all working hard to create magical holiday memories, but sometimes we add too many traditions and feel that “tradition overload.” If this is the case, it may be time to evaluate and prioritize. Our family had to do this for the first time a few years ago when my husband wanted to introduce another holiday tradition.

Every year of his childhood, he and his siblings created luminaries that lined their neighborhood street on Christmas Eve. They spent hours filling small paper bags with sand and candles and lighting them during the night. It was a gift to their neighbors that included a Christmas message and even cleanup the next morning. For years, I heard them bemoan the task and laugh about luminary experiences. I assumed they didn’t enjoy it, but to my surprise my husband did.

I consider the following three things when evaluating holiday traditions:

Is it something that will create lasting memories? Will the tradition get family members to talk about it for years?

Is it focused on service? For example, my husband’s neighbors loved the luminaries and often shared their feelings about them. They saw the luminaries as a meaningful neighborhood gift.

Is it feasible? Doing luminaries when my husband was a graduate student, or when our children were young wasn’t feasible. But now it’s the perfect tradition to get our boys moving and focused on something besides themselves. We have illuminated our small lane for two years now, and they want to do it again.

In 2016, get the most “bang” out of every holiday tradition. Evaluate where you’re spending your time this season. Remember, if you’re not feeling the Elf on the Shelf this year, don’t let it out… and feel no guilt about it!