Sharing about warm fuzzy family traditions used to bother me. You see, I grew up in an environment with few traditions to pass on. My husband, on the other hand, had a different experience. His family had too many holiday traditions. As such, we had to sort through where and how to celebrate the holidays. Together we decided what traditions we desired to keep and we also set out to establish new ones.
Traditions are invaluable as they are the super glue that holds families together. They give children a sense of security and comfort, because they provide continuity in an ever-changing world. Traditions also give the family something to look forward to throughout the year lending to a sense of closeness within the family. As families establish and follow traditions, the family is strengthened and grows in unity and love. So make an effort to establish some significant practices that you repeat yearly.
What are Family Traditions?
Traditions are practices or beliefs that help create positive feelings, a sense of belonging, and are often repeated regularly. Many traditions are handed down from generation to generation, but every family can create its own traditions as well.
Traditions are the “we always” of families, like “We always say God be with You when we depart from each other or usually we sign “I love You” or “We always” have dinner together as a family. Because such traditions have meaning that is special to an individual family, they create feelings of warmth and closeness. By spending time together in a fun and special setting, family members grow closer. Effective traditions promote a sense of identity plus a feeling of belonging.
Make sure you have spiritual traditions and incorporate spiritual truths into your traditions. Traditions that bring family members closer to God should be a family’s first priority. Some of the simplest spiritual traditions include praying together, going to church together, serving together, etc..
Establish new traditions especially as your family dynamics change. Choose traditions that include every family member and are sensitive to the needs of all family members. Remember that every family is unique; do what works for you. Also don’t overwhelm the family with new traditions. Pick one or two and see how things go. If it does not work no problem let it go. I have tried many new traditions that never amounted to anything other than a good laugh.
From time to time, evaluate your traditions. To make sure your traditions are working for your family, it’s helpful for families occasionally to identify and evaluate traditions they already have and make plans to add new ones. Also as your children grow you will find yourself letting go of some traditions that worked well while they were younger i.e. family game/pizza night, evening devotions, etc.. My older girls are now independent and living on their own so I need to evaluate what traditions we will use with Cayley and when all together.
I will share some things my family has done and continues to do. Remember we are the Werner family and these are things that work for our family. Feel free to write down those that are of interest to you but I encourage you to talk to your husband, family and God before implementing them.
- For birthdays, each family member chooses his or her favorite menu for the day or they may choose a favorite place to eat out.
- For birthdays we play The Beatles “Birthday Song” and the birthday person dances with other family members as we videotape them.
- For religious milestones such as accepting Christ as personal Savior (Spiritual Birthday) or baptism, our girls were given a Bible or other things to remind them of that special day.
- We make eating together at the dinner table a priority. This greatly impacted our daughters and promoted openness within the family during meals. To encourage conversation, we would play “high point, low point of the day,” by each sharing what a high point of their day was, as well as any low points.
- Our family has a special RED dinner plate that says “You Are Special.” We use this plate to honor a family member who has a reason to celebrate – a good report card, promotion, birthday, etc.
- We would read our girls bedtime stories & pray with them before bed.
- We enjoyed going to church together as a family as well as sitting together.
- Another cool idea is to keep a family journal. I have an individual journal for Jon, Caryn and Courtney. I used to write in them when the girls were home and they would write back.
- Serve others as a family.
- Focus on being thankful and having a grateful heart during the month. Write thank you notes.
- Go around the table and share 3 things you are thankful for.
- Reflect back on the blessings of the year.
- Invite those without families of their own over for dinner.
- Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas by keeping it Christ centered. We’ve enjoyed Adorenaments by Family Life.
- Celebrate Advent. There are many wonderful books to guide families through the Advent season. We found Jotham’s Journey and Bartholomew’s Passage to be wonderful for school aged children.
- I have a Family Christmas Journal that I began in 1992. I write where we celebrated Christmas, with whom, and special details of the season. I also have a place where I store previous Christmas greetings (cards/letter and family photo we have sent to family & friends). It’s fun to go back and look at the photos and read the letters we wrote.
- Take a family photo to include with your Christmas letter. What fun it is to look back over these. Be sure to keep a photo for each child for when they leave home.
- When the girls were younger, we made homemade gifts and ornaments, snowman wraths, scented candles, etc…
- Collect or make one ornament each year that has special meaning to the family and each child. Our family picks out an ornament together when we are on a family vacation, or if a child played a particular sport or started a new hobby, we will find something to signify that event. As the children get older they will have their own collection of ornaments that are significant to them in some sweet way.
- Visit a nursing home to bring good cheer.
- As a family, put up and decorate the tree making it a fun event with music and good food.
- We have various movies we watch during the Christmas season – It’s Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, Polar Express, Christmas Carol, The Grinch, etc…
- Collect Christmas stories and read them. I now have a box of books that I pull out in November. A favorite read is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson.
- Act out the Christmas story or use a flannel board to let children tell the story. We bought each of my girls a small nativity and when they were young they would play with them and I’d ask them to tell me the story of Jesus’ birthday.
- Drive around the neighborhood looking at lights and listening to Christmas music. In Austin we visit the Trail of Lights.
- Have children put one piece of straw in the manger for every act of service they do in December. By Christmas it should be soft and comfortable for baby Jesus.
- Find a live nativity to visit.
New Year’s Traditions
- Write thank you notes for those who blessed you during Christmas. I include thank you notes in everyone’s Christmas stocking to make this task easier.
- Set resolutions for the family as a whole.
- Ring in the New Year with a traditional southern meal. Each of the different foods represents a good wish for the year to come. With black-eyed peas symbolizing luck, mustard, turnip, cabbage or collard greens representing money and ham for never going hungry, this tasty meal is delicious as well as lucky.
Valentine’s Day Traditions
- This is Jon’s birthday so we allow him to decide what we do on this very special day.
- Call relatives or send cards and tell them you love them.
- Resurrection Eggs – The Easter Story for Children by Family Life.
- Have neighbor kids over to make their own resurrection eggs as you tell the story.
- Host an Easter egg hunt.
- Enjoy the Passover service together, including include prayers, scripture readings, songs, hand washing, a meal (including the eating of hard-boiled eggs as a symbol of the renewal of springtime), eating of green and bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine (fruit of the vine).
In closing if you struggle to know what traditions to implement, I encourage you to be just relax and be creative. What is your favorite family tradition? How will you create a new family tradition?