By Lisa Cossey, MSW, LCSW
We’re in the midst of the holiday season. It is nice to look forward to time with family and friends and participate in ongoing family traditions.
A family tradition is something that is recreated year after year, enhancing family involvement and strengthening family bonds.
Each year at Halloween, my husband’s family will get together and spend an evening visiting haunted houses. It’s perhaps not a typical family tradition, but it’s one they’ve done for years and everyone looks forward to. A less frightful Halloween tradition observed by several of my friends and their families is camping Halloween weekend. My own family has planned fall camping trips two years in a row now; perhaps this will turn into a yearly tradition for us.
Another tradition in my own family that I look forward to every year is gathering in my mother’s kitchen to bake pies and other desserts for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. It’s always a good time with much laughter, and now that my own children are older they are officially part of the family baking team as well.
Sharing traditions provides a sense of comfort and security to a family, especially the children involved. Children love routine and consistency; a family tradition provides this year after year. It also helps the children manage the changes in the year and gives them something to look forward to.
In addition, family traditions enhance family and personal well- being and add to the family identity. Strong family bonds are created and reinforced with traditions that are upheld and maintained. As children grow and mature, traditions can be altered to accommodate each family’s needs. For example, perhaps a family with young children has a tradition of singing Christmas carols around their Christmas tree. As the children age, their tradition could evolve into caroling around their neighborhood.
In recent years, my own family has added time to video call with our relatives after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. These are family members who may not have been able to travel in for the holidays or are stationed out of state or overseas due to military commitments. It gives us all a chance to stay connected as a family, even if we can’t physically be together for the holiday.
Family traditions don’t have to be formal, fancy or cost money. They don’t even have to revolve around the holidays. You can share in a family tradition any day or time of the year. My own family enjoys baking together to prepare for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; perhaps your family opts to take a walk every Christmas morning or enjoys exchanging white elephant gifts during your celebrations. Traditions are what you want to make them.
Other ideas to create family traditions include:
- Read a book, such as “The Night Before Christmas,” aloud prior to opening Christmas gifts
- Weekly or monthly family movie night
- Have a yearly family talent show
- Create crafts together
- Make candy or prepare meals together
- Have an annual family camping trip
- Have your own family sporting tournament with a traveling trophy to be awarded to the winning family each year
No matter what your family tradition is or what your family chooses to create, just having something for all family members to look forward to each year is important. Traditions help create warm, positive memories that can be recalled fondly and draw family members back to one another year after year.