‘Tis the season, where all across this country, families will be gathering together in the spirit of holidays. I remember when I was younger, I had a grammar school friend who would always go visit his grandmother and when I asked him why his family would do that every year, he simply replied, “it’s our family tradition!” I had always associated traditions with this sort of grandiose activity that was usually reserved for the financially well off but, it wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that this wasn’t the case.
Today, I understand that traditions not only come in many different forms but often times have cultural, geographical or religious connotations, but more importantly, traditions can be established by anyone! I set out to form my own family traditions recently and throughout my journey, I learned a lot, not only about myself, but how to establish a meaningful and lasting family tradition. If you are interested in establishing your own family traditions, allow me to share some of the things that I learned.
Be realistic. As I had come to understand, traditions do not need to be grandiose, but I understand the desire to make them so. We look to establish a differentiation between the average family activity and an actual tradition. But, it is important to be realistic when looking for options or ideas. Be honest about your family dynamics, resources and the goal of the tradition – avoid putting too much pressure in making the tradition into something it really is not intended to be. Focus on the family and the memories that will be made – more on that later.
Choose reliability over function. Similar to being realistic, an important component in establishing a family tradition is the ability for the tradition to occur year after year. Steer clear from selecting things that don’t have a regular occurrence or relies on too many outside influences that may hamper your tradition. Consider making the tradition more broad, like gathering together to cook a family meal, or putting on a holiday family play. The whole idea is choosing something that has flexibility and frequency.
A Family affair. This one is a no-brainer – a family tradition should be decided upon by the…family! Although many families have diverse opinions, consider using these lessons learned to preface the conversation. If you have small children like I do, the concept of family tradition may be a little foreign making it difficult for them to contribute. Consider putting the tradition concept in terms that they can understand or find ways to incorporate their input in to certain aspects of the family tradition.
Make it sacrosanct. This is one of the key elements, especially when first establishing a family tradition, that needs to be adhered to. The more the family tradition is treated as a special time of family bonding, the more respect the tradition will garner. This may be easier to do in certain circumstances than it is in others but the key here is to make this time together a really big deal. Block out time, put it on calendars – do whatever needs to be done so all that are involved are committed and aware.
Memory inducing. Most importantly, make sure that whatever the family decides upon, that a lot of fond memories will be made. Why have a tradition if it isn’t memorable? Part of the fun and excitement about family traditions is remembering past years and the anticipation of the future. Whatever the family settles on, consider choosing something out of the everyday norm that your family is used to – something unique.
Although there is a lot to consider when first starting out, whether its watching a holiday classic movie or going on a family retreat, the key to forming a lasting tradition is to do whatever it is you agree upon, as a family. Doing things together will organically achieve each one of these pointers and many, many more. This year, my family will continue it’s tradition of building Gingerbread houses, playing in the snow…and a couple of more surprises. If you are still struggling in establishing a family tradition and are looking for budget-friendly ideas, send me a note or comment below. Happy Holidays!