Family traditions are an important way to build happy memories and to do fun family projects. Traditions make occasions feel special and exciting. They mark the passage of time in a happy way. They provide a sense of anticipation, security and continuity.
Studies show that family traditions support children’s social development and strengthen family cohesiveness. They provide the connection and predictability that people crave. I know that I enjoy a holiday more when I know exactly what we’re going to do, and when we’re going to do it.
I decided that I didn’t need to wait for traditions to emerge spontaneously. A “new tradition” may be a bit of an oxymoron, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from inventing a great tradition. For Valentine’s Day, I observe a new tradition that I invented ten years ago, and also one that I copied from a friend two years ago.
Every year, I send out Valentine’s cards with the girls’ photo, instead of trying to mail cards in December. People seem to like getting a card for Valentine’s Day, and it’s so much easier to deal with the task once the holiday craziness is over.
Also, inspired by a friend, I now decorate for holiday breakfasts for all major and minor holidays. For Valentine’s Day breakfast yesterday, I put out heart-shaped place-mats, heart-shaped paper plates, scattered some conversation-heart candies on the table and in a heart-shaped bowl, and put some heart-shaped window gels on the windows. My mother sent a little present to each girl, so they had something fun to unwrap. Usually I try to do something like dye the milk pink, but this morning, I forgot to do that (a reader gave me a wonderful recipe for the heart-shaped cakes in the Little House books – not within my organizational capacity to prepare, though I loved reading the recipe). Even so, I got a big, delighted reaction from my daughters.
This is festive, and also fun and easy. I re-use the same decorations every year, so I don’t have to spend money or do errands (except to pick up a little theme candy). I set the table the night before, so it’s not stressful. I have a very precise place in the kitchen where I store my holiday-breakfast decorations, so I don't have to scramble to find anything. A big happiness boost, without much effort.
Have you started any new traditions for your family?
* 2010 Happiness Challenge: For those of you following the 2010 Happiness Project Challenge, to make 2010 a happier year, this month’s focus is Love. Last week’s resolution was to Fight right. Did you try to follow that resolution? Did it help to boost your happiness?
This week’s resolution is Don't expect praise or appreciation. Alas, of all my resolutions, this is one that I find particularly challenging!
* A great place to read the latest and most interesting research on psychology, much of which touches on happiness, is Psyblog. For example, there was a fascinating post on Why We Love Narcissists--At First.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.