The holiday season can be a challenging time for many people because it puts a focus on family. People who are without family or whose family is filled with strife can feel particularly alone at this time of year. I think part of the reason that so many people struggle with this is because of how family is ordinarily conceptualized. People equate family with genetic relatives and a traditional family structure.

I think family is a feeling. Family is love, acceptance, and commitment. Family is shared values, traditions, and experiences. When thought of in this way, it becomes clear why family is said to be so important. When someone sees family as a treasured concept, as opposed to a set of people one is born or married into, that person has agency in creating her family. She can choose her family members, creating a group where she “fits in.” A group that will stand by her even during hard times. She can create traditions that will be meaningful, predictable, and comforting. She can share positive, loving experiences with others during the holidays.