Holiday Traditions

Most people who celebrate the winter holidays here in the US will probably agree that sending and receiving greeting cards has decreased during the past decade or so. While I was growing up, my parents would hang the Christmas cards people sent us along the base of the railing around our stairwell. Nowadays, they receive only a handful of cards, barely enough to frame a quarter of the stairs. We also send out far fewer. I used to send cards out to the friends I met at summer camp, but with the creation of social media platforms, such as Facebook, many of us no longer exchange mailing addresses and convert our correspondence to digital formats.

Social media, online shopping, and other internet-based conveniences have killed off many of the holiday traditions I grew up enjoying. Some people see this as a bad thing, while others view it as a relief. Fewer crowds to deal with at malls, restaurants, and on the roads creates financial uncertainty for brick-and-mortar businesses but forms a less overwhelming atmosphere for those who find dealing with strangers intimidating.

But the death of some traditions can’t be blamed on the increasing use of technology and web-based services. My family no longer does as much cooking and baking due to the loss of numerous relatives to old age and physical distance both. There’s no need to prepare as much food when there’s not enough family around to eat all of it. While some traditions are lost, my family has also picked up new ones, such as taking a Christmas day hike or celebrating Christmas breakfast rather than dinner with extended family.

Some traditions continue even as we reshape them to suit our changing needs. Our visits with remaining extended family on Christmas Eve has been moved forward by an hour or so due to early church services. While I enjoyed staying up half the night on Christmas Eve as a child, going out and coming home earlier in the evening is something of a relief now, because my current work schedule demands a more diurnal lifestyle than what my night owl preferences allowed for back then.

Time changes everything. Some things change minutely. Others change in extreme ways. Traditions, even if we define them as unchanging routines which occur year after year, will change to accommodate how our lives changes. The important thing about any tradition is that we remember the purpose behind it. Engaging in a tradition just because it has always been done turns it into a chore rather than something to look forward to each year. Holidays can be stressful enough with the amount of preparations which go into them. Why compound the stress with inflexibility?


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