The holiday season is a time of year rich with family traditions. Growing up, we had some fun traditions in my family. My parents would give us each a new ornament that was a symbol of something we were interested in that year. It is fun to still hang those ornaments on my tree now and think about the year I took dance and the year I got my driver’s licence. My husband’s family always woke up to candy canes placed on the tree by Santa. I’ve continued many of those traditions in my own family and we’ve added our own. My kids look forward to making and decorating sugar cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve,, opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve and reading Christmas stories at bedtime. I’m sure you have similar traditions and can think back on your favorite traditions from your childhood.
Why do we thrive on family traditions? Another name for these traditions is rituals. A family ritual is something that we repeat and has symbolic meaning. The holiday season is full of opportunities for engaging in activities with symbolic meaning. Researchers have found many benefits of rituals. They help us develop our identity, give us a sense of security, predictability, and fulfill our need of belonging. They provide opportunities for bonding and memory-making. Family rituals connect memories with fond emotions. They also connect generations by the passing-on of traditions. As Tevye from the iconic Fiddler on the Roof says, “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many many years …And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is…”
Although it is important to pass on family traditions, it’s also important to establish new ones. Here are a few guidelines to help you begin a new tradition this year:
- Keep it simple
- Make sure it is meaningful and personal to your family
- Get input and ideas from your kids