Fun Tradition or Forced Obligation


When I was first divorced, one of the hardest things for me to realize was that the traditions I had started for my family had to change and that most things would never be the same. Traditions give us structure and familiarity. Sometimes when life shifts, we hold on tight to the things we know for comfort.

Traditions can include making pancakes on Sunday mornings to everyone coming over for Christmas Eve and opening presents. So, whatever’s happening in your life, whether you like it or not, you can count on Mom cooking dinner Friday nights or your brother hosting Easter Sunday. But traditions are stagnant in a changing world. Some helpful questions to ask –

  • At what cost?
  • Is everyone benefiting from these traditions?

Sometimes we hold on so tight to the way things used to be that we can’t see what’s happening now. Is it time to examine whether it’s an obligation instead of an enjoyable tradition? What if we threw out all the rules and started from scratch?

Here’s an exercise that might not only shake up your world but also open your heart. List the top 5 traditions you have with yourself and the top 5 you have with others. List everything that is part of your daily or annual set of rituals. Once you have the list, ask yourself –

  • Is this joyful?
  • Is this still helpful to the people involved?

Be honest with yourself. If one ritual is hosting Christmas morning and your family is expanding, does it serve everyone to continue with this tradition in this same way? P.S. There’s no right or wrong; it’s what works for you and yours. Forget the guilt, the should or could haves and instead do what feels good.

I’m not saying throw everything out the window; I’m suggesting a shift in perspective. As life moves on, some traditions might begin to feel confining and obligatory. It can become painful to stand rigid against the flow of changing family dynamics. As you, your family, and your friends grow, look for new ways to connect. It could be changing dates, locations, or venues of long-standing traditions and beginning new ones.

Make your time more joyful and eliminate traditions that feel like a rule to follow and not an event to be cherished. Keep in mind that while you might not want things to change, others might be ready for something new. So instead of fighting change, see it as progress and an opportunity to create a unique experience.

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