The Value of Traditions
As the daylight hours grow shorter, the days seem busier than ever. People are shifting their wardrobes to access heavier layers and hustling to complete favorite traditions like decorating front stoops with pumpkins or getting a pumpkin-flavored treat to eat.
Some of those reading this column will have had an especially busy week getting Halloween costumes ready. I am always a bit in awe of the creativity and extra effort that goes into getting all those little ones properly outfitted. Even though our children are now grown, we have not forgotten how important this annual ritual is and we will still have our porch light on for any of the little magicians, mermaids, scientists and fabulous fantasy creatures who ring our doorbell on Sunday night. My heart is warmed by the communal trust and generosity manifested in such abundance by the exchange of treats to any and all who knock no matter what they look like – or if they are recognized or not!
The annual cycle of customs and colors enriches our lives and is not diminished by the way our seasonal habits and rituals change with the times. In fact, the traditions and rituals that we share with one another help build our own identities and our communities. We remember what we did from year to year and who was part of our best moments. We start imagining and planning right away for the next time we will share a tradition or experience, and we begin to anticipate how our experiences will be deepened or changed.
Relationships are strengthened when we share important moments together. Knowing that we have moments already marked on the calendar that we intend to share with those we care about can generate positive emotions and hopefulness. It might seem trivial at first glance, but the simple act of helping someone plan their Halloween costume, look up a Thanksgiving recipe or hunt for the perfect Christmas tree is a way to help us focus on a shared and positive future.
During the pandemic, we have all scrambled to save our most valued rituals from being lost – and so we have found ways to adapt them. In healthcare, we know that our patients do best when they are able to stay connected with their families through as many of the normal happenings as possible. The importance of being able to connect emotionally with those we love is affirmed again and again through the Zoom calls and the selfies that are shared, and the visits that can happen through personal or virtual means. Our clinicians and caregivers have been absolutely amazing at doing all they can to keep those traditions and rituals vital and alive.
When I was young, Halloween was a special day on the calendar because of the chance to wear a great costume and score a big bag of candy! These days, I recognize Halloween as one opportunity of many possible moments to share in a memorable experience with the people I love – and to imagine all the ways we can build on that which we share for an even more satisfying and rewarding future.