The importance of Family Traditions and How to Create Them

Family traditions are, unfortunately, one of the great casualties of the new millennium. In today’s modern world, keeping and maintaining family traditions is a big challenge. Advancement of science and technology compounded by the present economic crisis keeps everyone alive, busy, tired and stressed in many different ways. Family traditions, values and practices should be enjoyed, preserved and promoted to help strengthen family solidarity.

As families become more fragmented and disconnected, there is less time and opportunity to enjoy the simple traditions that were once a natural part of family life. Modern households often have a TV and/or computer along with iPads and iPods in every room, so even a small ritual like sitting down to eat Sunday dinner at Grandma’s is not happening anymore. Children and parents are involved in so many activities that there is not enough time to stop and smell the roses.

Twenty first century family life looks a lot different than it did fifty, or even twenty years ago. Parents’ hectic work schedules may mean that eating as a family, taking a family walk, or going on a day trip are sometimes impossible. Family vacations require strategic style planning to get everyone together and Christmas, once a holiday awash with loving, meaningful, family traditions, all too often involves a painful and complicated process of trying to balance which of two estranged parents gets the biggest slice of their kids’ time and attention over the holiday season.

Many of us remember and miss the little rituals that formed the basis of our own childhood, yet don’t see a way to fit them into a life that is so different from that of our parents when we were growing up. Christmas should be a time for family traditions, but it’s not necessary to restrict traditions to the holiday season. Sometimes holiday festivities are a good way to kick start traditions that can become seasonal favorites or that can be incorporated into family life year round. My sister has coordinated a Christmas Eve celebration in the form of a holiday cook-off. She names the ingredient and each person who plans to participate makes a dish to bring. The winner gets a prize and we all get to eat. How simple is that?

Family traditions can be a way to reconnect and create a much needed sense of belonging, and for those no longer part of a “traditional” family set-up, setting traditions can be even more important. Traditions don’t have to be time-consuming either, although it’s worth taking a moment right now to think about the fact that spending time together is what family traditions are all about. If setting aside at least a little time to create some meaningful traditions is not in your schedule, you probably really need to re-assess your priorities. Family only comes around once.

There is no “one size fits all” solution to today’s increasingly complicated family situations. Don’t think that just because you’re a single mom, part-time dad, step parent, foster family, blended family, or any variation of the “traditional” nuclear family, that traditions are not for you. Fit your traditions to your family situation and the people in it. If you only see your kids once a week, that in itself can be a tradition. Certainly you don’t have to miss out on seasonal and holiday traditions, even if you don’t always celebrate them on the exact right day.

In order to find traditions that fit your family you have to include everyone, and make it meaningful for every family member. This can be a particular challenge with large or blended families. Experiment to find activities that appeal to everyone, and where everyone can play a part. For a few years, our family has made a point of taking a family trip to the mountains which included the matriarch of the family, my mother, sisters, cousin, etc. My mother really looks forward to this whenever we go. This was started by my youngest daughter.

Starting a new family is a great time to start new traditions. Start early with your child, whether it’s reading a nightly bedtime story, or hanging the Christmas stockings. Just because the youngest member(s) of the family are too young to understand, doesn’t mean the tradition isn’t valuable.

Resurrect old traditions. Think back to your childhood. I knew that I was going to the country for the summer to visit with my great-grandparents. I learned valuable lessons while I was there, working with my uncles in the garden, feeding the chickens and hogs. Well, children don’t do that kind of stuff anymore, but you understand what I am saying. I am so glad that I had that time with Big Ma and Pipe.

On Christmas morning, my mother would cook a big country ham with gravy, make delicious buttermilk biscuits, and fix us cheese and eggs. It became a tradition until we all moved away from home. In thinking back, there is a hotdog restaurant called “Nu-Way” and it was customary whenever we went to town, my mom would buy us a hotdog. Even now when I go home, or going through Macon, even my girls have joined the act, we most always stop for a Nu Way hotdog. One of the things that I like to do now for my girls, since they are all grown-up now, is to give them an ornament for their tree each Christmas. That way, maybe they will remember me during the holidays.

If you came from a family where tradition wasn’t important, borrow from other people’s traditions. Read up on different traditions that have been popular at different times throughout history, in your own country and around the world. Be inspired by the old, but don’t be afraid to put a new twist on it if that suits your family.

Yes family traditions are important. Whether we know it or not, we are leaving a legacy. It’s what’s done between the dash that counts.


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