Enhancing Family Rituals and the Holidays

By Brittany Watkins, (CBI Intern) 2/14/2022

     The holidays can be the perfect opportunity to start, enhance, or simply continue family traditions. It doesn’t have to stop at family. Friends, co-workers, and even neighbors are perfect candidates to start or enhance rituals as well. “Friendsgiving” (Thanksgiving with a focus on friendship) and secret Santa with co-workers have become popular ways to celebrate the holidays with those you love and appreciate. Some rituals and traditions are now held virtually but still have the same effect of bringing people together. Life moves at a fast and unpredictable pace. Instilling and keeping traditions provide a sense of belonging and security, especially for children when you consider the importance of consistency in their lives. 

     You may reflect on your traditions now and realize that rituals are far and few between. Not to worry, rituals are whatever you make them, and you start whenever you decide. You may also reflect and realize that traditions and rituals in your life are overwhelming and begin to feel a sense of dread. Not to worry again, traditions can always be altered or enhanced so that it doesn’t have to be a time of worry or stress. It should work for everyone. 

     There actually is research on this topic and the findings concluded that participants who reported having family rituals on holidays were associated with greater enjoyment. The study went on to add that those that actually enacted the family rituals had significantly greater enjoyment than those participants that simply spent the holiday together (Sezer et al., 2016). I’m sure we can all speak to enjoying time with our loved ones but consider how much more enjoyable that time would be by enacting with intent. The positive effect of traditions and rituals on our mental health may be just some of what we need in the era of social distancing. 

     So how can we make a move to enhance or start traditions? On a simple scale, be open and enjoy your time. You may have an experience with others that is later decided it will be held on a weekly, annual, or other preferred schedule. The traditions may find you. If you’re looking to lead with more commitment, consider a few tips to during the holidays. 

Be simple.

Rituals can be as easy as your morning cup of coffee together. However, if simplicity is not an option, ask for help. Remember, this should work for everyone. You should leave with a sense of enjoyment while also looking forward to the next opportunity to keep the tradition going. 

Create rituals with meaning in mind.

A meaningful ritual is likely to last and should include the whole family or group. 

Include your children in the planning.

This is a great way to include everyone and also enhances the emotional well-being of children. 

Be different.

Do what works for you and your family. Lean into what feels natural and don’t be pressured to do what others do. 

Don’t strive for perfection.

Things may not turn out the way they are planned. If appropriate, invite humor into the situation and try again next time. 

When you succeed, talk about planning the next one.

Talk about what you liked, how you felt, and the next opportunity to create or enhance your time with the ones you love and appreciate. 


Sezer, O., Norton, M., & Gino, F., & Vohs, K. (2016). Family Rituals Improve the Holidays. Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, 4(2), 509 – 526. DOI:10.1086/688495