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An anthropologist explains why we love holiday rituals and traditions

https://theconversation.com/an-anthropologist-explains-why-we-love-holiday-rituals-and-traditions-88462

theconversation.com

An anthropologist explains why we love holiday rituals and traditions
Holiday traditions – whether culinary, religious, decorative or musical – help families bond and individuals feel stable and content.

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Why Holidays Feel Special

Why Holidays Feel Special
  • Holidays are filled with family get-togethers, rituals and many things that make us smile.
  • This period is bursting with sensory treats: great food, beautiful colors and lights, sounds of bells, crackers, or whistles, and the warmth of loved ones.
  • Family rituals are valuable, offering a large number of psychological benefits, like reconnecting with our loved ones, and a break from routine.
  • We let go of our anxiety and uncertainty and recite blessings, raise a glass of toast and perform increasingly meaningful rituals.

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Family Traditions

Prayers, toasts, recitals, or singing Christmas carols are basically structured, and repetitive actions that lower anxiety and make the world a bit simpler.

Festive meals are always the main attraction, with special attention to home-cooked treats. Many cultures have elaborate rituals related to how food is cooked, served or eaten. From cooking seven different kinds of curry to spit-roasting a lamb on Easter, many cooking rituals are time-honoured and make the festival special.

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The Art Of Giving

The gift-giving ritual is not to be taken lightly and is extremely crucial to maintain social ties and create reciprocal actions filled with love and respect.

Even if the gift choices are pre-planned, the ritual of exchanging gifts has tremendous value and significance.

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Rituals: The Family Glue

Holiday rituals are a significant bonding process for the entire family, especially young children. The joyous or silly rituals, great food, gifts and reconnection become the real reason for being alive.

Group identity and belongingness play a huge factor in all the members of the family, including the in-laws. The festive rituals are perfect for family harmony and often have ‘peak’ moments that are unforgettable.

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The Appeal Of Christmas Movies

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Christmas Movies Are Beyond Religion

The fictional world that holiday movies bring to the viewers provides them solace, courage and reaffirmation to move past the obstacles in their real life.

Though watching Christmas movies during holiday season is a ‘ritual’, the movies themselves do not bend towards christaniity or God, but towards true love, the power of family, the meaning of home and relationships.

The Ideal World Of Movies And Music

Certain songs in holiday movies become etched in the consciousness of people, providing a glimpse of the ideal world which has no dark side, no war, no conflict, no poverty, and no evil.

The movies and the accompanying music create positive emotions, nostalgia and a feeling that all's right with the world, even though it is a constructed, alternative reality.

Christmas Gifting To Children: The Tradition

Christmas Gifting To Children: The Tradition

Every year, many families across the world celebrate Christmas and have a tradition of giving children with special Christmas gifts.

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The Holidays Mean Gifts For Children

Donating gifts to poor children as Christmas charity started only after gift-giving to the children of one’s own family and friends became a common ritual.

Gifting in general is not according to ‘good behaviour’ and does not have an exclusive link to the Christian faith.

Christmas Gifting To Children: The Origin

Gift giving for children during Christmas started in New York City in the 1800s when the holiday was ‘reinvented’ as a family bonding time that integrated the various home decoration and shopping rituals.

When the city’s population grew ten times from 1800 to 1850, city planners and the elites feared that the street revelry done by ‘commoners’ would be a problem for them during the holidays, and started to focus the celebrations to be done at homes only.

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Remember what’s essential about holidays

Do you care deeply about your religion? Do you care most about spending time with your loved ones? Maybe certain traditions matter tremendously to you. Maybe you love the feeling of giving (of which, ...

Start to let go of the non-essential

Talk to others about letting go of the traditions you don’t like. Yes, letting go can feel painful at times, but think of the downsides of the things you’re letting go. Think of the simplicity you’re creating. And feel the relief of relaxing around letting go.

Let’s let go of the myth that you have to spend to give:

  • Gift your family with some small experiences, such as caroling, baking, watching It’s a Wonderful Life;
  • Volunteer as a family at a homeless shelter.
  • Make meaningful gifts. A video of memories. A scrapbook.
  • Bake gifts.
  • Have an experience instead of giving material goods: do something fun together, go to the beach or a lake.
  • Give the gift of your expertise. Are you good at fixing cars? Teaching music? Teaching cooking? Magic tricks? Help or teach someone something you’re good at.