If your winter break was anything like mine, you’re probably still exhausted from a straight month and a half of holiday-themed family traditions. However tedious they might feel, family traditions are valuable for the bonding opportunities they provide, and college students are in a unique position to continue them on.
Whether it’s as simple as baking cookies or as involved as cutting down the Christmas tree, family traditions bring us together. They offer opportunities for bonding that are only possible when everyone is in one place, and because they’re continued year after year, they often come with a sense of comfort, security and nostalgia. In other words, they help glue families together through the years.
Traditions are easier to keep when we’re younger and all living together, but as kids grow up and move away, those traditions are increasingly in danger of fizzling out. College students are faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to make the effort to carry on family traditions. They will soon assume the role of the “older generation" — the ones whose responsibility it is to keep traditions going. It'll be their choice to either solidify these traditions or let them die.
This is why college students should be especially present for their family’s traditions, holiday or otherwise. The survival of many of the things that likely made their upbringing special and memorable depends on them, and it’s important to understand why those things are worth protecting.
Anthropologist Dimitris Xygalatas wrote in an article for the CT Mirror that “taking part in collective rituals creates feelings of belonging and increased generosity toward other members of the [family].” Engaging in traditions together strengthens family bonds through shared experience. Doing this year after year, however, connects the experiences as time passes and builds a bond of anticipation, preparation and togetherness that exists before and after the tradition itself.
Family traditions are also worth protecting for the brief moments they offer us without the interruption of technology. By nature, many family traditions involve being fully present together, doing an activity with each other. Even if watching a movie or playing a video game together, it’s less likely that everyone is sitting on their phones and not paying attention. In this era of constant distraction, every short moment of undivided attention is valuable.
Additionally, as we age, our lives seem to speed up. As we become busier, the world around us moves faster, making moments of relief with family and loved ones incredibly important.
“Tradition gives us an opportunity to live in the moment and enjoy something that we have created as a family," Daffnee Cohen said in an article for HuffPost. "It gives us the chance to slow down, appreciate and express gratitude towards the things in our lives that are not run by technology and busy demands.”
All of these reasons are why college students should take advantage of their unique generational position and carry on their families’ traditions. If we decide to leave our parents’ and grandparents’ customs in the past, the love, stability and culture contained within will be lost with them.
This year, make an effort to be more present for your family’s annual events, no matter how big or small. Share in those common experiences that make family ties so strong, and be the thread that strings together generations to come.