Why holidays evoke nostalgia
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Why holidays evoke nostalgia

The bittersweet nostalgia we experience during holidays about good times and loved ones long gone, helps us feel connected both around the vacation and at other times, an expert has claimed.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2011 17:59 IST

The bittersweet nostalgia we experience during holidays about good times and loved ones long gone, helps us feel connected both around the vacation and at other times, an expert has claimed.

According to nostalgia expert Krystine Batcho, a professor of psychology at Le Moyne College in New York, the nostalgic memories can also be a slave to those going through hard times.

"It has been defined differently by different theorists over time. For instance, it was originally coined in 1688 by a medical physician as a term to indicate homesickness in young soldiers. He viewed homesickness as a physical illness experienced by soldiers away from home for the first time. Without email or telephones, being away from home for the first time was pretty traumatic for many young men. Homesickness was viewed as an illness that caused all kinds of interesting symptoms, even anorexia resulting from loss of appetite," LiveScience quoted Batch as saying.

HolidayBatcho also explained the benefits that are associated with nostalgia.

"It seems to help people maintain a constant sense of who they are. You might refer to that as sense of self or understanding of one’s identity. And that is no small thing. From the time you are born, and as you go through life, there are so many changes, there are too many to even mention.

"At a certain point, if there is something traumatic that occurs, a crisis, it could be anything from going off to war, immigration, a death in the family, whenever there is a major change it can be very helpful to kind of keep grounded in the sense of who you are. That sense of nostalgia helps to link you to your own personal past; it helps you remember who you have been," Batcho said.

In the end, batcho explained the reason why holidays in particular tend to evoke nostalgia.

"They can do that in a number of important ways, we have been talking about continuity or grounding, one of the ways individuals ground themselves is in terms of who they are relative to other people. In other words, we define ourselves in terms of our relationships, in terms of how we are connected to other people, that helps us identify our sense of self, and nostalgia helps us maintain those connections and a sense of belonging. That is one of the primary benefits of personal nostalgia.

"Now move onto the question, as you can tell everyone from advertising to marketing to religion, everything about the holidays centers around relationships. People want to travel home to be with relatives, people are more inclined to participate in religious traditions or cultural customs.

"So in a way, holidays bring together people when they cannot be together. Nostalgia is almost like a psychological substitute for the real thing, if you think about the song, ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas,’ that is almost the quintessential holiday nostalgia that helps to re-unite us across time and space.

"For the same reason, if you think about someone who lost a loved one during the year or around the holiday season, now they can no longer physically re-unite with the deceased loved one, but nostalgia once again becomes a psychological substitute, and all of those good memories that revolve around the time spent with the person really help us to cope with loss.

"For one thing, loneliness has been shown to be a trigger for heightened nostalgia. It is interesting because then the nostalgia helps someone feel connected again. It helps to decrease the negative feelings of being alone. When you are lonely, it is because you are separate from others in one way or another; and the holidays are really notorious for making people feel alone, even when they are not physically alone," she added.

First Published: Dec 25, 2011 17:58 IST