Science Says That Family Traditions Are What Makes A Merry Christmas

Are you dreading an awkward reunion with the family this holiday season? You wouldn’t be alone in feeling that way, but it turns out that what we might see as one of the low points of our seasonal celebrations is actually quite the opposite.

According to science, family traditions are actually what makes us the happiest during the holidays!


Some might fulfill their holiday family obligations out of a sense of duty and simply hope that they survive till New Years, but a recent study suggests that it’s actually well worth the effort to get the family together during the holidays.

The More Rituals The Merrier

Hundreds of people were analyzed in a series of studies that will be published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, and the results are in! The study required all of the subjects to describe their family holiday traditions during Easter, Christmas, and New Years, and the results were surprising.

The people that had more elaborate family traditions like decorating the tree or hunting for eggs reported that they felt significantly closer to their families than those that had no such rituals. As a result of feeling closer to their families, their holidays were reported to be much more interesting and enjoyable than the other subjects’ holidays.


The studies demonstrated that it didn’t really matter what the holiday traditions were, but actually, it’s the number of these traditions that bear the biggest impact. More traditions seem to make for a merrier holiday!

Sharing An Experience Brings Us Closer

“Whatever the ritual is, and however small it may seem, it helps people to really get closer to one another,” says Ovul Sezer, the paper’s primary author and a researcher at Harvard Business School. “[With] some rituals we don’t even know why we do them, but they still work.”

Instead of introducing some grand, obvious tradition all of a sudden, why not try starting a simple ritual that the whole family can enjoy? Perhaps a Christmas Day walk or a New Year’s Day board game marathon could be just the thing to give your holidays that extra little bit of joy.


Kathleen Vohs, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota and one of Sezer’s co-authors suggests that it’s really all about sharing an experience, something that all human beings ultimately want.

There you have it: beat those holiday blues by greeting your family rituals with anticipation instead of dread and your holidays will be all the merrier for it! Then again, there’s always eggnog as a backup plan…

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