Tradition – we talk a lot about it during the holiday season. We usually delight in talking about the traditional event, looking forward to it and being in the midst of the creation as it is happening, and then the reminiscing about it afterwards. But is there more to tradition than meets the eye?

Tradition means a long-established custom or belief, often one that has been handed down from generation to generation. Traditions carry the past and the future in them, bringing about a connectedness to our family. It is a reoccurring, planned time and event. Because of this, family traditions build strong families.

It doesn’t have to be a big event or cost a lot of money. Whether it is eating a holiday meal together, frosting the Christmas cookies, or watching home movies, tradition brings families together. Research has shown that establishing and maintaining family traditions brings family members together in crucial ways. It is a time of togetherness and sharing that allows opportunity to strengthen relationships. It isn’t what the tradition is as much as having a tradition that brings people together.

Tradition offers security and stability as it is already etched into each person’s mind. You will find yourself saying, “Oh, I can’t do anything that day as it is the day that our family gathers to bake our Christmas cookies together.” The date is reserved, counted on, and commitment is made towards being there. The repetition allows the family to plan and look forward to the re-creation of the event. It is both the anticipation before and the memories afterwards that make it part of the ritual contributing to family traditions. It pulls you towards your family and being with them.

So, while we may already have many traditions around the holidays, traditions can continue to happen year round and are important to our family unit. For something to be a tradition it needs to have special meaning or significance, be repetitive, and coordinated.

Special meaning can be as simple as making snow ice cream after the first snow, or eating popcorn and having hot chocolate during the Christmas tree decorating. It can be small things that are meaningful. We have a 4th of July tradition at our home and everyone knows it will be a big outdoor picnic, with homemade ice cream, friends and family, and fireworks. It didn’t start out as a tradition, but became one after we did it two years in a row. It has more meaning each year and each year we all reminisce and laugh about the same funny things that happened in the previous years and continue to collect more memories as the year fly by.

Create traditions and rituals within your family. This season consider this as one of the priorities rather than an extra shopping trip out to buy more gifts. It is the bringing together of family and friends that we will find laughter, closeness and fulfillment. □

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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