As I sat on my rocking chair unwrapping ornaments for our Christmas tree, our children gleefully hung the ornaments. Somehow, it has become a family tradition to decorate the tree this way. I sit with several shoe boxes and gift bags full of ornaments, carefully unwrapping each one as the children get excited about who’s ornament is next. Then each child puts the decor on the tree, carefully selecting the perfect branch to feature their ornaments. When all is said and done, I usually don’t put even one ornament on the tree, and it always turns out beautifully.
This tradition got started because I wanted the kids to have fun and participate in the decorating when they were little. I never imagined it would turn into an expected tradition every year, but it has become a highly anticipated event, and I don’t dare attempt to decorate the tree myself. The kids might never forgive me. They take pride in making the tree pretty, and I love to see the sparkle in their eyes as the Christmas tree comes to life.
Family traditions are an essential part of a successful family. Some traditions, as the decorating of the tree at our home, begin by accident because a family does something once, and the whole family expects it again and again. Other traditions are started purposefully, as parents desire to create their own family culture.
What is so important about family Traditions? Some people say that there is no time in our busy world to bother with traditions. I believe that precisely because of our fast paced world, traditions are crucial to holding families together.
In an interview with geneology.com, Dr Susan Coady of The Ohio State University describes family traditions as rituals that the family values, respects, and are done in the present, as well as the past and expected for the future. She adds, “Traditions are also family-specific. It means that while a culture or an ethnic group might influence the occasion that the family celebrates, the family puts their own stamp on the way they celebrate it.”
Family Traditions create family identity. As families make holidays, birthdays, vacations, and activities their own, they create an identity that all family members relate to. When I was 10 years old, my dad’s parents and siblings built a cabin for family reunions. We had family reunions at “our” cabin every year, and my grandparents named it “Nielsenhaven.” We loved the cabin and created many family memories, connections, songs, and jokes for over 20 years until my grandpa passed away and the cabin was sold. Even after the physical structure which we cherished was sold, we continue the “Nielsenhaven” tradition by gathering as a family every year. I have over 40 first cousins, and we all feel strengthened by our family identity of what “Nielsenhaven” is to us.
“The traditions that create individual and family identity need not have cosmic scope,” Dr. Lloyd D. Newell, of Brigham Young University explains. “One woman’s happiest childhood memory was her annual trip with her father to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. She and her husband, their children, and her mother were going back for the first time since her father’s death. . . “I’ll probably cry more . . . . But that’s okay,” the 67-year-old widowed grandmother said. “For years we sat through the rain and the cold and the heat and the everything; oh but it was fun. It was really fun.” The return to the beloved tradition makes a memory for a new generation and solidifies the family’s identity.”
Family Traditions create strong family bonds. Brett and Kate McKay, of the popular blog www.artofmanliness.com write, “Traditions provide an all-too-rare chance for face-to-face interaction, help family members get to know and trust each other more intimately, and create a bond that comes from feeling that one is part of something unique and special.”
Family Traditions foster family security. When children identify with and feel bonded to their family through traditions, it creates a security for them in a fast paced world that is changing rapidly. Families have many demands and activities and family traditions allow for built in family time that both children and parents can rely on. Traditions create comfort and stability even in the midst of crisis, as Brett and Kate explain, “Traditions can thus be particularly effective during times of change and grief. Maybe you’ve moved your family to a new state and everything is new and strange for your kids, but at least they know that every Tuesday is still pizza night and every Saturday morning they can still count on going on a bike ride with dad.”
Family Traditions bridge generations. Dr. Newell says, “Something that seems insignificant or begins as a simple routine can become an intergenerational tradition, as a mother noted: “We sing a bedtime song every night that my dad sang to me and his parents sang to him. . . . It was one of the first songs my kids learned how to sing.” These traditions can increase the feeling of belonging for children who understand they are doing what a parent and grandparent and even great-grandparent did.” Children innately long to know who they are. Teaching them about their ancestors. continuing traditions of the past, and spending family time with grandparents gives children insight into their own lives. They learn that their grandparents have some of the same likes and dislikes, similar talents, body type, and enjoy the same foods, etc which gives them a sense of pride and identity.
Take a moment and think about how your own family traditions have created who you are today. Implement some of your family traditions from the past and create new traditions just for your own family. If you need some ideas, see “60+Family Tradition Ideas”. Enjoy your family traditions this holiday season.