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Why Holiday Traditions Matter

With the holidays nearing upon us, this could be a time of stress for a lot of people. However, they're also periods that can lead to stronger relationships, togetherness and beautiful memories with the family. This piece could help creating a shift in outlook towards the festive season and all the traditions that go along with it.

I love the holidays. The decorated streets, cheer in the air and of course, the discounts on pretty much everything! They’re usually all about pigging out, lazing around and spending time with your loved ones.

It was a recent conversation with a friend from the Thrive community that prompted me to write this piece. We were speaking about what customs we usually follow at our homes during the holiday season. She’s from Buenos Aires, so December is usually holiday season for her.

In India, we start things up a bit earlier in the year with Diwali. Diwali is traditionally a festival that signifies the homecoming of Lord Ram after a 14-year long exile and is celebrated by lighting lamps, distributing sweets and conducting small religious ceremonies at home. It is one of the biggest festivals in India, and brings a lot of pomp and festivity along with it. Various states in India celebrate Diwali in their own way, but generally, it’s a period of one big party across the country.

While living in the States, this was the time I missed home the most. Growing up, I’ve always loved the run up to this festival. Schools would be shut for a brief period and there would be festivity in the air. My parents, sister and I went shopping for Diwali together – buying oil lamps, small firecrackers and all kinds of sweets. We had our assigned tasks every year – cleaning a specific part of the house, polishing the silver or helping with the sweet making. After Diwali, our next celebration would be Christmas, for which we had similar traditions. Till date, those times together take me back to my happy place.

Today, my husband and I have our own set of traditions that we do along with our daughter. Every year, we go shopping for family gifts and other items together, put up lights around the house and make Besan ladoos (an Indian sweet made out of gram flour). The few weeks leading up to Diwali is packed with action at our home. On Diwali day, we wake up early, and start the day by connecting with our extended family on phone/video calls (thank goodness for free international calls).

My grandmother would always say that wishes should be sent early in the day so people feel the love & start their day knowing you’re thinking of them. It’s something I try to follow till today. After our multiple phone calls, we decorate our home with flowers and rangoli (an art form in which colorful powder/rice is used to make designs on the floor), followed by a huge lunch. Evenings we have a small religious pooja (prayer ceremony) followed by a large family dinner at home. To end the evening, a stiff gin & tonic is highly recommended.

It may sound tedious from the outside, but is actually a really fun time. You may wonder why we continue following the age old traditions for this festival. When I worked as a Child Therapist, a lot of parents would want to understand ways to bond with their kids better. In fact, even today, so many within my network reach out to me with similar concerns. So I thought I’d share a few reasons why the festive season can actually have a bigger purpose than just being there for the sake of it.

Traditions make the children closer to their culture – With a global age like the one we’re living in and access to travel/education around the world, one of the common struggles that many of my friends in college had, was not having a strong connection with their culture and background. During the holidays, many families have some traditions they may like to follow.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but could be a simple dinner or an outing. It makes the children relate to a culture – which could be something you define for yourself. It makes them have a sense of belonging to home and in the longer run, contribute to a stronger sense of self. It helps them remember that wherever they go in the world, that 1 day in the year is for a specific tradition that will always make them feel ‘at home’, wherever they are. And nothing beats that warm, fuzzy feeling.

The family gets to spend quality time together – My husband and I are working parents. Hustling a job with a baby and managing the home can get busy. But during Diwali, Christmas or other big holidays, we take out time to do everything together. Whether it’s shopping, cleaning the home, taking our baby out or cooking a meal – we try to do it together. It gives us an amazing opportunity to spend time together as a family, making our own traditions along the way and creating lifelong memories.

Once kids get older, it may be difficult to spend as much time together through the year. But the holidays are a time when everyone is home and pretty much in each other’s faces. Using that time well can help create some valuable family time.

Children get time to get to know their larger family – Children should get an opportunity to get to know their families. I come from a very close-knit family where we grew up knowing everything about each other. The concept of giving each other space was pretty alien and till today, I will most likely know what my sister ate for breakfast (even though she lives in another continent). It also helps in making children understand their position at home. It will help them grow while respecting the adults around them, voicing their opinions when required and making time for the people that matter to them.

This doesn’t have to be the norm for all families. What works for you may not work for another. Try to find what is do-able for you, and go along with it every year. You’ll see how your kids get excited at the thought of following tradition every year – leading to more joy in the household.

It will help reduce the stress around the holidays – While the holidays are a great time for many, it can also lead to stress and feelings of isolation. Especially in a world where every family dinner is more of an opportunity to take the perfect picture for social media versus actually spending time with one another. Create traditions that lead to minimal stress for your family. If you think cooking up a huge Thanksgiving meal is more of a chore for you, then alter the tradition and do you. Book a table at your favorite restaurant instead and let the kids eat ice-cream for dinner. Or get take-out from your favorite Chinese place. Make your own set of rules and own them.  Do what floats your boat.  This will lead to your kids and you, look forward to the holiday every year – because they’ll also know that this is truly a time to be together and have fun in the way that’s most authentic to you.

Times are changing rapidly and the world is becoming smaller. It is important to make an effort to find your normal and thrive in it, and not get too swayed with everything around you. Use this holiday season to enjoy precious moments with your people. And of course, as a reason to finally let go off your diet and drink those extra margaritas.

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