When a couple forms a relationship, they bring together two cultures. We often do not think of our relationship as separate cultures, but it is.

Dr. Harriet Phelps

My spouse and I share common ancestral cultures of English and German. Our traditions, while different, share commonalities.

We recognized the differences when we moved from our hometowns to an area removed from most of our family.

On our first holiday alone we discussed what had been taken for granted, from decorating to gifts and the meal.

We realized there were differences and, to help lift the feelings of separation, we picked our favorites and combined them.

I saw the importance of what we accomplished when our youngest adult son said, “Ah, the apple and the orange in our stocking.”

Traditions have been significant throughout history. We all celebrate in our own way.
My husband’s family did not have stockings, but mine did, and that was what my mother did for us. Something so simple was now a tradition.

We have religious celebrations that are important to any family. Mine is church on Christmas Eve at midnight, the familiar carols and the candle-lighting.

Whether it is Christmas, Hanukkah, Catholic Holy days, Bodhi Day, Kwanzaa, these traditions of our cultures are very important to us individually and as a family.

Traditions are a source of enjoyment and meaning. We feel we belong to our community or broader society. We believe in something greater than ourselves. They give life meaning.

Celebrations have been shown to reduce stress, increase emotional well-being and, in turn, increase physical well-being.

While being in a happy place, blood pressure reduces, good hormones like endorphins increase, and well-being brings positive solutions and ways of coping through difficult situations.

Traditions provide relief from anxiety we cannot identify through continuity and predictability in our current unpredictable world.

Our sense of inner peace and our acceptance of our strengths or weaknesses build grounding in our identity.

Contributions lead to feeling comfortable, belonging and lowering barriers to connection.

In many ways, we are more alike than we are different. Our values are reinforced in the commonality. They comfort us, give us a sense of belonging and make us feel safe and secure.

We wish you a happy holiday and Merry Christmas.

Harriet Phelps is a volunteer at Be Awesome and Maricopa Senior Center.