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Are family traditions important?

The Importance of Flexibility
It's a good idea to allow some holiday traditions to grow and change, just like your family does.
It's a good idea to allow some holiday traditions to grow and change, just like your family does.
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As the saying goes, it's important to give ourselves and our children both roots and wings. What that means, of course, is that -- as families and individuals -- we allow ourselves to grow and change, to accept differences and adjust traditions as the time comes. For some, that can be desperately hard to do, but it's essential.

When cleaning out your attic, the rule is to get rid of everything you haven't touched in a year. Things that have great "meaning" -- an ugly antique lamp, say, or old moth-destroyed clothes -- must be divorced from their meanings. Clutter experts recommend that you let the feelings remain and get rid of the objects.

In the same way, holding onto traditions strictly for their own sake does nobody any favors. Every holiday is an opportunity to examine your traditions and their meaning to your family as it stands today. By changing a single aspect of the holiday -- to accommodate far-flung family, for example -- have you really destroyed the holiday itself? Or have you allowed flexibility to bring your family closer together in the spirit of that tradition?

Holidays and traditional gatherings are notorious for power plays and old resentments. If you find yourself or a family member stressing about changing a tradition, it's important to be honest with yourself and your family about what that tradition means to you, and what parts of that tradition carry the most meaning.

We're always told that etiquette and manners make people feel more comfortable, never less comfortable. Like the finer points of etiquette, when an old family tradition causes more trouble than it does wonderful feelings, it may be time to let it go. We cannot be slaves to traditions any more than we should simply let them slide. The point is to keep our families warm and strong, both in our memories and in the comfort they bring us during the rest of the year. Anything less just isn't worth the ruffled feathers.

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