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Thomas G. Plante Ph.D., ABPP

Why Holiday Traditions May Matter More than Ever

Holiday traditions are an important organizing and centering experience for all

As we head into the end of year holiday season many people will look forward to various beloved holiday traditions. Special meals with family and friends, trimming the Christmas tree, lighting holiday candles, shopping for gifts, singing holiday songs, and so forth are experienced and appreciated by so many. They may embrace these long practiced activities, experiences, and traditions that often repeat behavior patterns maintained and treasured for generations. And of course there are special foods that are eaten sometimes only once a year (read: fruitcake!) and songs to be sung only once a year too.

Tremendous stress and family conflict can easily emerge when you mess with these traditions. For example, couples may find that their cherished and beloved holiday traditions that they hold so near and dear actually conflict with those held by their spouse or partner. For example, I have a patient in my clinical practice who just loves her homey Christmas traditions but those of her new daughter-in-law include going off to Hawaii for the holidays rather than staying at home with family. My patient’s son would love to keep his cherished holiday traditions intact but needs to respect and support his wife’s traditions and desires too.

As higher education, geographic mobility, and interracial/international/interreligious families become more and more common, these challenges to long held holiday traditions become more commonplace. Living in a multicultural world means that your cherished traditions may differ a great deal from those closest to you.

So, what do you think?

What holiday traditions matter to you?

Copyright 2014 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP

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