HOLIDAY RITUALS: A TIME TO REASSERT FAMILY IDENTITY
Well, it’s that time of year again. Time for families
to come together and repeat the traditions that remind us who
we are, who we belong to, the proper ways to do things.
Shared rituals carry powerful messages about our
membership in social groups, not just the family but the
community at large as well.
There are two ways that family rituals develop. Some
are handed down through the generations and become important
links to extended family groups who observe the ritual in
similar fashion. In our mobile society, these observances
are more important than ever to family identity as they
may be the only occasions when we communicate in depth or
visit with relatives outside our nuclear families.
Other traditions develop as the result of events,
successes, and special moments within a nuclear family group.
These spontaneous rituals may have meaning only for those
living under the same roof but still carry stong messages
about who we are and how we do things.
Holiday celebrations may contain aspects of both. In
young families designing rituals can be a challenge. When
spouses come from families with strong and engrained
traditions of how things should be done, there can be a bit
of contention about how the new family should observe the
holidays. How elaborate the preparations, how much to spend
on gifts, how much religion to incorporate, what foods to
serve, how much visiting to do and with whom, even what sort
of Christmas tree to have, all these must be decided somehow.
When a couple marries, their family traditions come with
them. They must find a way to blend, select or create
rituals together that work for them and that feel right.
Much of this will be done unconsciously and without effort.
But some may involve struggle and negotiation.
However a ritual develops, its regular repetition will
contribute to a sense of belonging, stability, predictability
and the right way to do things in our family. In this world,
we need it.
From my family to yours, here’s hoping your holidays are
full of love, togetherness and good cheer.