For many of us, the magic of the holiday season comes from memories we have of childhood Christmases, and we often hang on to traditions in an effort to recreate those special moments from our past. Setting aside time for family, friends, and of course, our cats, during this busy season helps us add to the reservoir of meaningful holiday memories.
Psychological research seems to suggest that cherished memories from the past promote mental health and well-being. It appears that the more nostalgic people were about their past, the more they perceived their lives as meaningful. Interestingly, researchers also found that when they induced nostalgia in people who felt that their lives had no meaning, it improved their psychological well-being and reduced stress. (Source: Psychology Today.)
Most of my favorite holiday memories stem from my childhood. I didn’t have cats until I was in my twenties, and, not surprisingly, from then on, a lot of holiday memories also involve my cats. But every year, I try to add to the holiday memory bank by not only cherishing the old traditions, but by doing something new to make fresh memories.
My tried and true holiday traditions include putting up a tree, special holiday foods, and making time to reflect. One of my favorite traditions is to sit by my Christmas tree each evening, with either Allegra or Ruby in my lap (unfortunately, they won’t share my lap,) meditating or listening to music.
I also started a few new traditions this year. Several of my friends and I have done away with exchanging gifts. Instead, we make a donation to a charity of our choice in the other person’s honor.
Another new tradition, which I hope will become an annual one, is a trip to New York City. For the second year in a row, I took a trip up there in December. I spent Wednesday and Thursday soaking up the magic of Christmas that is New York this time of year.
But no matter what new holiday memories I make, Allegra and Ruby are the most important part of my holiday celebrations. Getting them a special gift, taking pictures of them in front of the Christmas tree, and simply spending time with them: those are the memories that I’ll cherish forever.
So we now know that cherished memories improve our mental health. We also know that cats have healing powers. Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that making holiday memories that include our cats would do even more to make us feel good?
What are some of your favorite holiday memories? Will you be starting any new traditions this year?