From birthdays to weddings and graduations, this yr has seen many private celebrations cancelled, whereas communal festivities similar to Bonfire Evening, Eid and Diwali both haven’t been celebrated or have been extra subdued. So it would really feel tempting to downplay Christmas too, particularly with considerations that individuals mixing extra freely might result in a 3rd wave of COVID-19.
Nevertheless, it is going to be extra essential this yr than ever earlier than to have interaction within the celebrations and rituals of Christmas and New 12 months. There’s loads of proof to recommend that getting into wholeheartedly into the spirit of the season – whereas retaining to 2020’s limitations – can be superb for our psychological well being. After a troublesome yr, this may be precisely what we’d like.
Christmas has essential social, cultural and non secular features. For folks of all faiths (and none), the Christmas holidays deliver folks and households collectively to replicate on the yr passed by and stay up for the subsequent.
The sociologist Émile Durkheim used the time period “collective effervescence” to explain the constructive temper we really feel once we participate in social actions that deliver collective pleasure and make us really feel a part of an even bigger neighborhood. Durkheim was writing about giant spiritual gatherings, however researchers have argued extra just lately that this identical feeling may be skilled in smaller models when household or mates get collectively.
We see this collective effervescence at Christmas time. Analysis has proven that this spirit of Christmas manifests as a mess of constructive emotions and behaviours which are skilled collectively, together with higher altruism, goodwill and generosity. This occurs to such an extent that some have argued that Christmas cheer might be an emotion in its personal proper.
Though we are able to’t do every thing we usually would this yr, restrictions can be easing over Christmas in the UK and in sure European nations. This implies we are able to, if we select to, nonetheless expertise a few of this effervescence.
The constructive energy of formality
The favored adage that the very best a part of going out is preparing – that the journey is extra essential than the vacation spot – recognises that rituals are essential in their very own proper. Routines and rituals provide construction and predictability in our lives and carry out essential psychological features to handle anxiousness. With charges of tension hovering in lockdown, something we are able to do to handle our psychological well being is to be welcomed.
Rituals have been described as particular person models of motion that kind a sequence or sample that’s repeated in a specific method, and that are imbued with private symbolism and that means. For Christmas, these particular person models sometimes embrace spiritual observances, shopping for presents, events, pantomimes, carol singing, ice skating, and Christmas markets, to not point out the foods and drinks that we love a lot throughout this time of the yr – mince pies, panettone, stollen, mulled wine.
This yr many individuals put up Christmas decorations sooner than ordinary to attempt to carry the overall temper. There’s proof that this can work, as analysis exhibits that Christmas rituals particularly can play a job in creating a way of wellbeing and satisfaction. They evoke reminiscences of different instances in our lives when we’ve gone via the identical rituals. Each time we put up Christmas decorations, our mind fires up our saved up festive emotions.
This is the reason it’s essential to take care of rituals related to celebrations: even when we received’t be experiencing occasions in the identical method, our brains will nonetheless reply positively. Even Christmas smells can evoke reminiscences of previous instances. Although we’re in fully totally different circumstances now, confronted with these stimuli our brains will make us really feel pleased by triggering pleased reminiscences.
Rituals additionally play a key position in social cohesion, as these within the UK noticed with the “clap for carers” in the summertime. When our conventional rituals are disrupted, this challenges the notion of who we’re as a social group. Following a yr the place we’ve had a lot disruption in our routines and rituals already, and other people have reported feeling more and more remoted, Christmas rituals can provide us a way of connection once more.
Festivities additionally typically spotlight the issues we’ve to be pleased about, and this gratitude may improve our sense of wellbeing. And even when we are able to’t be with family members, spending time catching up on the cellphone or on-line might help to spice up our temper. Simply reminiscing over previous pleased reminiscences can make us really feel happier within the current.
Celebrating wholeheartedly could really feel tough when the celebrations are constrained and many people have skilled loss, however the rituals related to Christmas traditions might help us to remain constructive. Celebrations can improve our appreciation for the constructive parts in our lives, and can draw upon shops of constructive emotion that we’ve constructed via reminiscence. So go forward and put up that Christmas tree. Even when there received’t be as many individuals gathering round it this yr, it ought to nonetheless make you’re feeling higher.