Why Holiday Traditions are so Important

What holiday traditions do you cherish? At this time of year, many people have annual holiday traditions that they look forward to, and it’s the perfect time to reflect on the year gone by and to celebrate the spirit of the season. At Victoria Lifeline, participating in Home Instead Senior Care's Be a Santa to a Senior program is a time honoured tradition that we’ve cherished for the past ten years. The program provides a gift and a friendly visit to a senior who is alone and isolated over the holidays. Thanks to the Victoria Lifeline staff and their families, 15 seniors will be unwrapping a gift on December 25th.  It’s something we look forward to every year, and it reminds us that the holidays are really about giving rather than receiving.

So why are traditions so important? An online article from Psychology Today provided some context as to why traditions or family rituals mean so much to us. “They provide us with experience of shared values and mutual comfort. When they take place on a regular basis, they bring predictability and constancy to our lives.” These shared experiences help connect family members to each other, and perhaps more importantly, to past generations. In my own family, one simple but cherished tradition involves how we cook Christmas dinner! Even though she passed away over twenty years ago, we still follow my grandmother’s recipes and use her roasting pan to cook the turkey, stuffing and gravy. My grandmother painted her initials on the side of the pan back in the 1960s and it still reads R.W. to this day. Whenever we bring out the pan, my six-year-old daughter declares, “that’s my great-grandmother’s name!”. This tradition connects my daughter to a wonderful woman that she never even met and gives us the opportunity to share stories about a loved one who is no longer with us.

The online Psychology Today article goes on to affirm that family traditions help us understand who we are, where we came from and what values we share. They also provide a sense of belonging, and even some benevolence, as traditions enhance the lives of those who practice them.  And without these traditions, “it can be difficult to fulfill our profound human needs for affiliation and communing. As a result, we may feel more alone and alienated, especially in times of uncertainty.” Some family traditions may be cultural or religious in nature, while others may be special moments or activities you’ve always shared as a family. Traditions can be as simple as joining together in a board game after dinner or watching the same holiday movie on TV every year.   

An interesting study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research reported that although people sometimes grumble about spending time with family over the holidays, it’s actually the traditions that help us feel closer to the ones with love. The study found that the more rituals we engage in as a collective, the merrier we are! “Family rituals over the holidays are associated with feelings of closeness and greater intrinsic interest, leading to more holiday enjoyment,” the study found. Participants who enacted family traditions reported feeling closer to their families then those who didn’t have traditions. And even though you might complain about putting on that holiday sweater for the annual family photo, it's that shared experience that strengthens our bonds with each other. So, whatever your holiday traditions are, take a moment to appreciate them! Human beings are social creatures, and traditions are the link between us, our families and even the greater community as a whole. The annual Be a Santa to a Senior program is a testament to the value of a communal tradition.

From all the staff and volunteers at Victoria Lifeline, wishing you the gifts of the season – peace, joy and love.

Krystal Stokes is the Communications Manager at Victoria Lifeline.

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