From birthdays to weddings and graduations, this yr has seen many private celebrations cancelled, whereas communal festivities corresponding to Bonfire Night time, Eid and Diwali both haven’t been celebrated or have been extra subdued. So it’d really feel tempting to downplay Christmas too, particularly with considerations that individuals mixing extra freely may result in a 3rd wave of COVID-19.
Nonetheless, will probably be extra vital this yr than ever earlier than to have interaction within the celebrations and rituals of Christmas and New Yr. There’s loads of proof to recommend that getting into wholeheartedly into the spirit of the season – whereas preserving to 2020’s limitations – shall be superb for our psychological well being. After a troublesome yr, this could be precisely what we’d like.
Christmas has vital social, cultural and non secular capabilities. For folks of all faiths (and none), the Christmas holidays deliver folks and households collectively to replicate on the yr passed by and sit up for the following.
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 group. Durkheim was writing about giant non secular gatherings, however researchers have argued extra lately that this identical feeling might be skilled in smaller items when household or buddies 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 larger altruism, goodwill and generosity. This occurs to such an extent that some have argued that Christmas cheer may very well be an emotion in its personal proper.
Though we will’t do every part we usually would this yr, restrictions shall be easing over Christmas within the UK and in sure European international locations. This implies we will, if we select to, nonetheless expertise a few of this effervescence.
The constructive energy of formality
The favored adage that the most effective a part of going out is preparing – that the journey is extra vital than the vacation spot – recognises that rituals are vital in their very own proper. Routines and rituals supply construction and predictability in our lives and carry out vital psychological capabilities to handle nervousness. With charges of hysteria hovering in lockdown, something we will do to handle our psychological well being is to be welcomed.
Rituals have been described as particular person items of motion that type a sequence or sample that’s repeated in a selected approach, and that are imbued with private symbolism and which means. For Christmas, these particular person items usually embrace non secular 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 regular to try to elevate the final temper. There’s proof that this may work, as analysis exhibits that Christmas rituals particularly can play a task in creating a way of wellbeing and satisfaction. They evoke recollections of different occasions in our lives when we have now gone by way of the identical rituals. Each time we put up Christmas decorations, our mind fires up our saved up festive emotions.
Because of this it’s vital to keep up rituals related to celebrations: even when we gained’t be experiencing occasions in the identical approach, our brains will nonetheless reply positively. Even Christmas smells can evoke recollections of previous occasions. Although we’re in utterly completely different circumstances now, confronted with these stimuli our brains will make us really feel completely satisfied by triggering completely satisfied recollections.
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 have now had a lot disruption in our routines and rituals already, and other people have reported feeling more and more remoted, Christmas rituals can supply us a way of connection once more.
Festivities additionally typically spotlight the issues we have now to be glad about, and this gratitude also can improve our sense of wellbeing. And even when we will’t be with family members, spending time catching up on the cellphone or on-line will help to spice up our temper. Simply reminiscing over previous completely satisfied recollections could make us really feel happier within the current.
Celebrating wholeheartedly might really feel tough when the celebrations are constrained and many people have skilled loss, however the rituals related to Christmas traditions will help us to remain constructive. Celebrations can improve our appreciation for the constructive components in our lives, and can draw upon shops of constructive emotion that we’ve constructed by way of reminiscence. So go forward and put up that Christmas tree. Even when there gained’t be as many individuals gathering round it this yr, it ought to nonetheless make you are feeling higher.