Ask most anyone about their family traditions, and invariably the responses will mention Christmas or one of the other equivalent religious celebrations.

Ask most anyone about their family traditions, and invariably the responses will mention Christmas or one of the other equivalent religious celebrations. The holidays are a natural time for family, for gathering, for stories.

Many old-timers feel that tradition is lost on younger generations. Family traditions were more important, more ordered, they say. Not necessarily so, says Dr. Susan Coady, a retired Ohio State University professor in the Family Relations and Human Development department.

"I don't think we celebrate traditions any less," Coady says. "I think they're just more varied. There are more of them. There's so much more mobility in society that it becomes difficult to hang on to those of the prior generations."

Coady says that in Columbus in particular, there are many more options for traditions among families than previously. "There are a lot more cultural experiences in Columbus now besides things like 'The Nutcracker.' There are simply a lot more cultures in the city now."

Coady, who studied family traditions by interviewing 75 women from each of three generations-students, mothers and grandmothers-found that family traditions were most important to the grandmothers, but also very important to the students, who not only valued the family stability that traditions maintained in a changing world, but also because they were beginning to consider starting traditions of their own. "People marry, people divorce, people die," Coady says. "Traditions change. They can be adapted."

The mothers of her study group, she says, displayed the least enthusiasm for traditions, "I suspect because they were the ones doing most of the work to try and keep them going."

But whether starting new traditions or preserving old ones, they're worth defining, says Coady, because they provide a sense of family history and a feeling of roots, binding one generation to the next. And, as her study revealed, families that described a strong sense of family tradition scored higher on measures of family strength and family satisfaction.

So just because families now might make an annual pilgrimage to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to see Wildlights instead of heading Downtown, where parents and grandparents once flocked to see the storefront windows of Lazarus or to get photos with Santa at City Center, it doesn't mean one tradition is better or worse than another. Old or new, they're all good. However you celebrate, enjoy your holidays.