Holiday Rituals: Reinforcing Values through Familiarity and Consistency

Posted by on December 14, 2023

The holiday season isn’t only about decorations and festive cheer; it’s a time for family, reflection, and reinforcing the values that matter most. Every family celebrates a little differently depending on their culture, religion, or tradition passed down from generations before. Depending on what you celebrate and how you celebrate, my hope is that you look for ways to nurture the rituals that show up in your own family. 

My family has an annual tradition that involves my sons buying each other Christmas gifts for under $25. They get excited about this annual ritual; it’s often the first thing they ask to do at the mention of Christmas. Although a seemingly simple ritual, this act of giving carries meaning for them. It means they get to think intentionally about their brother, his likes and dislikes, his favourite candy, or his special interests. They often get more excited to witness their brother opening the gift they’ve given than the opening of their own gifts.  

The act of my sons buying each other gifts isn’t only about receiving presents; it’s a way of showing love, thoughtfulness, and the spirit of giving. They are giving in a different manner than how they might at other times of the year. My hope is that this tradition strengthens their bond with one another, and teaches them important values like generosity and consideration for others.

Familiar Rituals Reinforce Family Values

Why is familiarity crucial to reinforcing values through ritual? Familiarity provides a comforting and predictable context. The annual repetition of the gift-giving creates a sense of tradition, anchoring my family in shared experiences that connect us to our values. We can all relate to specific times of year when we feel connection or nostalgia for something familiar and comforting. It may be putting on a hoodie for the first time in fall, turning on an electric fireplace when the weather turns cold, or packing up the patio furniture before the first snowfall. The familiarity of these rituals roots us in a moment, a memorable time or event. It also reminds us of the people we are connected to in those places and contexts. Familiarity becomes a foundation upon which our values are built. It becomes something to return to; an event or shared experience that brings us security and warm feelings. 

Consistent Rituals are Grounding for Children

Rituals require consistency. It is the glue that holds the importance of the ritual together. When rituals become consistent, they transform from an isolated event into an ongoing narrative that shapes an individual, family or cultural identity. For me, it is the regularity of the gift exchange, the holiday dessert baking, and the hanging of Christmas lights that reinforces the values of thoughtfulness and appreciation. If I miss out on any of these routines, something feels off and my sons will certainly remind me of what’s been forgotten or lost along the way. 

Working Through Challenges

Despite the obvious enjoyment and benefits of ritual, challenges often arise around celebratory times of year. It can be tricky sticking to established rituals, particularly with the hectic nature of modern life. Busy schedules, work commitments, and external pressures can make it difficult to prioritize and maintain family rituals. It is essential for families to plan ahead and prioritize rituals. At Christmas time, I block off dedicated time for putting up the tree, visiting relatives and ensuring familiar foods are plentiful at home. By thinking ahead, chosen rituals become non-negotiable commitments, which ensures their success. This proactive approach helps to maintain consistency and uphold the values embedded in these traditions.

Some families face resistance or disinterest from particular members. Try engaging everyone in the decision-making process. Allow each family member to contribute ideas and preferences, fostering a sense of ownership and enthusiasm. Being inclusive ensures that the rituals remain meaningful for everyone, overcoming the challenge of disengagement.

Rituals are Worth the Investment

Amidst all the hectic schedules and stress leading up to Christmas, the act of my sons giving each other gifts acts as reassurance to me about what is important for the holiday season and beyond. Their enthusiastic gift giving stands as a testament to the enduring power of this tradition. The commitment to this annual tradition reflects our family’s dedication to nurturing virtues like love, generosity, and thoughtfulness.

As you navigate the holiday season, cherish the rituals that bind you and your friends or family together. What are the rituals that are important to you? What values do you want to highlight with your loved ones? The familiarity and consistency of rituals will help to serve as a foundation for reinforcing the values that you hold as important. In these shared moments, we find the true essence of the holidays – a celebration of what matters most in our lives.

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