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Holiday Traditions: A Reason For Cheer

Did you know holiday traditions build good memories that outlast personal disagreements? That information could come in handy this season or anytime families gather together.

Anthropologists, psychologists, family science experts and academics agree that holiday traditions provide deep connections for families and boost the sense of identity, security and order in the world for adults as well as children. Respecting and including the different traditions of new family members in later generations while maintaining predictability and stability can be a challenge. But despite the stereotype of quarreling in-laws at the holiday dinner table, the memories of the best times and the parting well-wishes will endure long after the differences of opinion are forgotten.

Holiday Traditions Offer a Sense of Stability

Glenwood Springs holiday traditions include Winter on the Mountain at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park“Having a special time of the year when we know exactly what to do, the way we’ve always done it, provides a comfortable sense of structure, control and stability,” Anthropology Professor Dimitris Xygalatas at the University of Connecticut said. “Laboratory experiments and field studies show that the structured and repetitive actions involved in such rituals can act as a buffer against anxiety by making our world a more predictable place.”

Xygalatas says a Nobel Prize psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, believes the “peak-end rule”—which says the best and last parts of an experience are the memories that endure—means that people will remember the happy rituals and the loving goodbyes from the event rather than the disagreements. 

“Traditions offer family members an opportunity to feel included, share values and connect with each other in meaningful ways,” Steve Brotherson, Extension Family Science Specialist Steve Brotherson at North Dakota State University said. “It’s important for families to recognize that traditions vary widely and often change over time. Sometimes, a little bit of change in family traditions is not a bad thing. At different times, families need to assess their situation and identify those traditions that they can reasonably maintain, along with the traditions they may need to modify or abandon.”

Holiday Traditions Can Be a Source of Healing

The number of rituals, even small ones, associated with the holidays can be more important than the particular content of the ritual, such as attending religious services or eating certain foods, Matthew Hudson in Scientific American said. The rituals, which should be natural rather than forced, can even overcome personal differences among individuals in the group. The report involved a series of studies published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research where hundreds of people who practiced holiday traditions said they were closer to their families and enjoyed their holidays compared to those who did not have such practices.

Holiday Traditions Encompass a Wide Variety of Activities

Holiday traditions can range from baking cookies to singing carols, writing holiday cards or ringing the bell for the Salvation Army. They can even include visits to special places—a hotel to see the lights, the symphony or a ballet performance. For some families, their holiday tradition includes a visit to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park for Winter on the Mountain festivities and fun.

Make family holiday memories at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Plan a visit today!

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