Each year my husband’s family gathers for Thanksgiving at his brother’s house. It is the one time of year everyone can count on being together. Last year, due to an illness in their family, we were unable to have that time together. We felt the loss. My adult kids said, “It just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving.”
Do you have family traditions? These can be something simple with just your nuclear family or bigger and include your extended family.
Values Parenting website had a wonderful article about family traditions. Here is an excerpt
“Almost all families have traditions, at least subconscious ones, often centering on holidays or the special occasions. But some parents come to realize the importance of traditions and the ability of good traditions to teach values to improve communication, to give security to kids, and to hold families together. Such parents can refine and redefine their family traditions and give them true and lasting bonding power.
Start by assessing and analyzing your own family traditions. What do you do on each holiday? Each family birthday? Do you have some weekly traditions, such as a special Sunday dinner? Are there some monthly traditions, such as going over the calendar and the family’s schedule for the month ahead? Make a list of your yearly, monthly, and weekly traditions.
Then, as a family, ask yourself three questions: How much joy or how much fun comes from each tradition? What values are taught by each tradition? Are there some gaps – some months without a holiday or birthday tradition? With these questions in mind, revise and redesign your family traditions. Formalize them a little by writing them up on a chart or in a special book.
Here’s a sampling of what happened to us as we went through this reassessing process:
- We revised some traditions. For example, our Thanksgiving tradition had essentially been to eat way too much and watch football all day on TV. We decided to shift the emphasis to thanks by making a collective list, on a long roll of cash register tape, of all the little things we are thankful for. Each year we try to “break the record” for the number of things listed.
- We decided it would be good to have at least one major family tradition each month, to look forward to and anticipate. Most of these centered on a birthday or holiday, but there was nothing in May or September so we started a “welcome-spring day” (a hike) and a “welcome-fall day” (a picnic).
- We listed all the traditions, by month, in a big, leather-bound book. A little description of each tradition appears on the left and a child’s illustration of that activity appears on the right.
Besides the once-a-year-type birthday or holiday traditions, there can be shorter-range traditions. Many families have religious traditions on Saturday or Sunday. There can be traditional ways of cooking a particular meal or of getting ready for school or of packing for a trip. Some traditions are real rituals, involving a particular sequence of events. There is comfort and security and identity in family rituals.
One other personal incident will illustrate the “staying power” and bonding influence of family traditions. On my (Richard’s) birthday in October, we had always raked huge piles of leaves with the kids and then jumped in them, stuffed them in our shirts, thrown them in the air, and just generally had a wild time. We thought as the kids got older, their interest in such a frivolous activity would fade. On the contrary, when they were teens, the leaf piles just got bigger. Finally, one year, four of our children were away at school or living abroad. On my birthday, four birthday cards arrived. As I opened the first, a leaf fell out and a note, “Dad, I honored your birthday tradition. Here’s a leaf from my jumping pile. I love you.” Through my tears I opened the other three – and a leaf fell from each.”
Last year at Christmas our family had a simple “photo booth” (a background hung on the wall and a camera) with different Christmas props. I actually purchased one of those new instant cameras for some extra fun. You can find one like it HERE.
I treasure the photo of my mom being so silly! We had so much fun with this that I hope to make it a tradition. I can just imagine all the photos through the year as kids grow up, our family expands and so much more. I’ll probably add a few new props each year just to change it up.
We also had our first gathering around our fire pit at our new house. I’m brainstorming how this can become part of a special tradition. As a grandparent I also see these traditions as ways to get the whole family together. That’s important to me.
I know, through conversations with you, that family is very important to you too. I invite you to add a comment to this post or drop me an email with ideas of traditions you have with your family.