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How to Cope When Traditions Change

I love the symbolism behind the holiday season and the way the whole world comes to life, and I love the way December exudes shimmering light to counter the darkness. (I recently wrote a blog post about how this very season can illuminate compassion, for others and for ourselves.)

However, I also realize that this festive of time of year can be emotionally trying for some individuals. Reasons can vary, but I can fathom how, in such cases, the holidays can be an intense setback; a real punch in the gut. And I truly empathize.

In this blog post, I want to write about the concept of tradition, and how we must cope when long-time, beloved traditions change.

While I, fortunately, still have loved ones this season, I too, sometimes reminisce and recall traditions that are no more — traditions that were very near and dear to my heart. Traditions that I deeply looked forward to once the holidays came around again.

The thing about tradition is that it’s a constant in a life that’s comprised of uncontrollable facets and unpredictability. Traditions offer a sense of familiarity and comfort, along with the valuable opportunity to spend time with those who truly matter to us. Traditions don’t necessarily have to incorporate the holidays, though for me, that’s where I’ve found solace in traditional customs and familial gatherings.

When traditions change, which can be part of life’s natural progression, we may all cope in various ways, but instead of completely shutting down and ignoring the marked occasion, there could be other coping mechanisms to consider.

Make New Traditions

I hear this suggestion quite frequently (and you may have as well), and I think there’s something to this notion. Instead of surrendering the tradition entirely, it can be really sweet to find another avenue to go down, so to speak, when it comes to celebrating a holiday or a particular occasion. I grew up with certain traditions during Christmas and New Year’s, and though it was kind of heartbreaking when they diminished, I also realized that alternative commemorations of these holidays can be cultivated and ultimately become newly-manifested traditions.

A 2014 article entitled “The Holidays: How to React When Traditions Change” highlights what many struggle with during this time of year. In regards to traditions changing, the article notes that it can be viewed as a “blank slate.”

“Many of the traditions we hold so dearly are ones we were born into. When things change, you can see this as an opportunity to be creative and set new holiday traditions that are meaningful for you and your family. One of my favorite conversations in the Starbucks drive-thru with my mom was, ‘what do we want to do this year?’ Ask yourself the same question. See this a positive time for new creation, rather than a time to regret what you’ve lost.”1

The article also discusses how new traditions can evolve from old ones as well. While new traditions are created, it’s also possible to hold onto particular elements from the past, too.

Cherish Memories:

While it can be bittersweet to look back (trust me, I know), I think it’s also important to acknowledge the simple truth that even when change occurs, old memories are not tainted. Old memories can still be cherished and savored and talked about, and they certainly served a pivotal purpose at the time, to say the very least.

Adjust Your Mindset:

This coping mechanism is a lot easier said than done, but sometimes it helps to reflect as to why such traditions had to change. Every circumstance is different, so I cannot, of course, speak to each one, but for me, it’s grounding to see why these changes make sense within the “bigger picture.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with traditions that have changed, especially when the holiday season is in full swing. Hopefully, establishing new traditions, cherishing old memories, and adjusting your mindset can soften the change and make the adjustment a little bit easier.

How to Cope When Traditions Change


  1. McCoy, M. (2014, December 16). The holidays: How to react when traditions change [blog post]. Retrieved from []

Lauren Suval

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her collection of personal essays, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” can both be found on Amazon. Lauren's latest E-Book, "Never Far Behind," a collection of poetry, is available on Smashwords, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. She loves to be followed on social media, including her Facebook Writing Page,

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APA Reference
Suval, L. (2018). How to Cope When Traditions Change. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 16 Dec 2018 (Originally: 17 Dec 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 16 Dec 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.