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The Power of Family Traditions

Staying home and seeing your fam may be more stressful than skipping town for the beach, but it will fill you with more joy.

December 9th, 2011

December is one of the year’s most stressful months. And a lot of that stress emerges from the holidays. There are so many obligations. First, you end up buying lots of presents.  Then, you decorate your home for the season, pulling out lots of dusty family heirlooms to put around the house. Finally, there is an endless stream of parties.  Family and friends gather together to celebrate the holidays.

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The Power of Family Traditions

Amazing how a joyous season can create stress.

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At times in the middle of all this holiday craziness, it is tempting to think about running away from it. Wouldn’t it be easier to leave all the decorations in a box, fly to a beach and spend the holidays sitting in the sun sipping an umbrella drink?

These holiday rituals serve two important functions that make them worth preserving.

First, they help to reconnect you to your past by affecting what you are able to remember.  If you are sitting on a sunny beach, then you are probably enjoying the sea, the sun and the sand. You may even think back to other times that you have relaxed on the beach. But, it is hard to remember all of the great times you have had with family (unless your family routinely heads to beach over the holidays).

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When you all get together, though, the entire situation will help you pull all kinds of memories out of you. You pull things out of memory when the situation you are in is similar to one you experienced in the past. So, the ornaments, and decorations, and relatives and familiar foods all re-create situations from your past. That helps you to remember. That is why you might have moved a thousand miles away from the rest of your family, but when you all get together at holiday time it is almost like you never left. And each holiday is also a chance to create new memories for the future.

Second, these rituals are the glue that binds you together as a family. After all, your family is the group that takes you for what you are and will do anything for you when the chips are down. Businesses want you for your money. Friends will help out, but you generally want the things you do for a friend to balance out with things they do for you.  If you do more for a friend than she does for you, then start to feel like she is taking advantage of you.   

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With family, though, you don’t keep score. Parents raise their kids without thinking about getting anything in return. As parents age, children step up to help out without wanting anything to balance out. 

Those family rituals help to keep families close. The shared experiences help to create closeness among members of the family, even if those events feel stressful at the time.

This year, focus on the power of your family traditions. That will help you to have a beautiful holiday season.

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