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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.

In today’s world, these holiday traditions are likely to be even more important than ever before. Why? Because in our remarkably fast paced and changing world, holiday traditions may offer an important organizing and centering experience and a foil to a life full of constant change. In our often chaotic, discombobulating, and frantic world, having long held holiday traditions that offer important connections to and continuity with the past and to each other is critically important.

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.

Being mindful of the importance of these traditions and how they provide organizing, centering, and consoling benefits may help us to better respect the wishes of important others and to find ways to make the holidays a wonderful rather than a highly stressful experience. In our crazy, always changing, and fast paced world holiday traditions really do matter but we need to be respectful of the traditions of our loved ones knowing that these holiday activities often represent something very meaningful and consoling.

So, what do you think?

What holiday traditions matter to you?

Copyright 2014 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP

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