The holiday season is exciting. There’s the hustle and bustle of shopping, attending parties, and decorating the home inside and out. These cultural traditions are quite often tied with family and personal traditions as well. Traditions can bring a sense of comfort and familiarity, as they conjure warm memories of happy holidays gone by. Holding traditions year after year creates a set of expectations. We might have expectations about seeing beloved family members or eating a certain meal, just like grandma used to make. One small crimp in the expected plan can throw someone’s whole experience off track from their expectation.
For people who struggle during the holidays, there’s the possibility that some traditions bring negative feelings to the surface. Perhaps there’s a sense of dread rather than joy about holiday shopping because crowds make you uncomfortable, or because finances are more strained than you had anticipated. It’s easy to get triggered into a bout of depression during a time of so many expectations.
Traditions and expectations can be wonderful when they’re positive in both intention and spirit. As our lives progress and our families expand, we make room for new members and new traditions. But an unintended consequence of traditions is that when we are not able, (or interested, or willing), to uphold them, it can make an already stressful holiday even more difficult. For some, breaking with tradition can trigger negative feelings like depression or sense of loss or failure.
Sometimes there are changes to traditions that we have no control over. The death of a loved one is an obvious change that we must adjust to. Their absence is strongly felt during times of traditional gathering. We might feel the loss more strongly during the holidays because our grief is triggered by a change in tradition. We accept these changes because we must. Perhaps we adjust by a customary role being reassigned, or maybe we just go on as usual but with a sadness or remembrance in their place. In this way, we recognize that tradition is something that has fluidity; it can change and still be a tradition.
While we are usually happy to add new traditions, we are not always enthusiastic about changing them by minimizing or eliminating those aspects that no longer bringing us joy. Consider that if we can alter our list of traditions by adding new ones, perhaps we can reasonably eliminate any that do not serve us well. Eliminating traditions can be tricky because it interrupts expectations. Hitting the re-set button on your expectations of yourself can be difficult, and so is managing the expectations of others. If you are rethinking some traditions that just don’t feel right anymore, know there is no right answer, no one-size-fits-all tradition.
Family Revelations is here to support you in discovering the best path for you. We support you when the weight of responsibility that comes with upholding traditions becomes too much. We consider it one of our traditions.