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Holiday traditions bring meaning, fun, connections
MISSISSIPPI STATE – In the rush of parties, shopping and decorating, families can enjoy traditions that bring some predictability to the craziness that often comes with the holidays.
Carla Stanford, Pontotoc County agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said a tradition can be almost anything, but smaller is sometimes better.
“I caution families not to overachieve in this respect,” Stanford said. “In other words, if tradition means getting up at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning, taking a 30-minute walk together, making breakfast together, singing carols in the neighborhood, helping at a homeless shelter and then ending up at home for gifts, that might overwhelm.”
Instead, consider what activities the family enjoys doing together, and make a point of doing them every year. A tradition can be as simple as sharing hot chocolate on Christmas morning after the gifts have been opened, or gathering around the computer to place a video call to a distant family member.
“Traditions do not have to cost one cent to be meaningful,” Stanford said. “Family traditions afford a feeling of consistency, stability and continuity -- that warm, fuzzy feeling we like.”
Beth Bell, Extension agent in Tallahatchie County, said it is this enjoyable feeling that keeps most family traditions alive.
“Families often look forward to carrying out these traditions each year because of the closeness they feel during the occasion,” Bell said.
She said family traditions are especially important in fast-paced lives, giving people an opportunity to slow down and remember good times and enjoy the closeness of those they love. Some people will carry on traditions they followed as children in their own families, while others intentionally establish new traditions.
Some of the best traditions are simple and even goofy, like dressing in matching pajamas to watch home movies or reading a holiday-themed book together. Others are meaningful, such as volunteering at an outreach center or meeting needs of a less privileged person.
Creating a new holiday tradition can be an excellent way to make a blended family feel like one unit. And participating in a family’s tradition can make a visitor, foster child or adopted child feel like family.
Bell encouraged newly married couples without children and mature couples with grown children to make or continue family traditions.
“Traditions help us recognize our roots, and we don’t have to have a crowd around us to enjoy a special tradition,” Bell said.
Since the goal is to enjoy a special moment with loved ones, stress is not welcome in a family tradition.
“Some traditions can be passed down from generation to generation, just like a family heirloom or recipe, but if it causes anxiety each year, it is most likely a tradition you should replace with a better one,” Stanford said.