Tradition’s deeper value is sense of comfort, security

Tradition’s deeper value is sense of comfort, security


By Sarah Johnson/The Parenting Place

sarah.johnson.1My husband and I thought about putting our Christmas tree in a different spot in our living room this year. But then the panic happened and we changed our minds.

Our middle school daughter was definitely not OK with this potential change to the holiday plan. The tree has been in the same place since we moved into this house 10 years ago, and putting it somewhere else was not an option, according to her. It just wouldn’t be Christmas.

She could have been having a rough day – she’s still new to the roller coaster ride of emotion that is early adolescence – and at first I was surprised that keeping the tree in the front window would be such a big deal. But the middle school roller coaster might actually be more of a factor than I realized in that moment.

She’s at a time in her life when lots of things are changing, and one of the deeper values of tradition is the sense of comfort and security it imparts. Routine is important for kids of any age, and tradition, especially at Christmas, is a heightened, more emotion-laden version of routine. Life might feel a little crazy, but at least she knows the tree is going to be in the right place.

Tradition is important to family bonds and family identity, too. Some of our favorite holiday traditions are the ones that create an undisturbed atmosphere of family fun and togetherness, experiences that not only create memories but remind us of our history together.

Take, for example, our tradition of cutting a tree on the Grand Mesa. We pack lunch and hot chocolate and our dogs, we stop at the general store in Mesa for the permit and a treat, then we take a lap on the dog-friendly loop at the County Line cross-country ski trails and have a tailgate lunch before hiking into the woods to find our tree.

During our outing someone always brings up the Christmas tree hunt that was also the first time our dog experienced snow, and we laugh about how he bounced through it with an actual grin on his face. In the car, we still play the mariachi Christmas CD that was part of the soundtrack of our family’s long holiday drive a few years ago, to the central Mexican town where we would spend much of that year; this inevitably leads to a conversation about spending that Christmas Eve on the road, eating Chinese to-go food in our Blanding, Utah, motel bed while watching Ralphie shoot his eye out in “A Christmas Story.”

These moments are part of our family history and identity, and our traditions give us an opportunity to remember. These are the shared moments that make our family strong.

Sometimes, it’s hard to know which traditions are going to stick, and even harder to know which ones are going to be most important to each member of the family. Some of ours have dropped by the wayside without much notice, and that’s OK. The ones that really matter rise to the top, becoming part of the rhythm of the holidays without a whole lot of nudging on anyone’s part.

In our house, that definitely means keeping the tree in the front window.

Sarah Johnson is married with one child. She is the coordinator of The Parenting Place and a regular Healthy Mesa County blogger. 

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