Trips to the pumpkin patch, front porch coffee-sipping under a big blanket, endless group texts for holiday meal planning, multiple trips to the grocery store – Do these sound like some of your holiday season family traditions? This time of year brings some of my favorite memories, but It can also cause a bit of worry. There’s a fine line in finding balance between obligation and keeping family traditions alive.
Why are traditions important?
1. Traditions provide a sense of identity and connection.
Traditions bring people together. Whether it is a holiday celebration with family, annual trip with friends, birthday celebrations with Grandparents, monthly dinners with “framily” – traditions provide people with a sense of connection and belonging. Many traditions involve passing down cultural shared traditions, which offers a unique way to connect children and individuals to a greater macro sense of belongingness. On a smaller micro level, traditions provide a person with a sense of security, love and connection.
2. Traditions bring anticipation
For me, holidays have always been tied to family traditions and the joy and excitement of participating in the various activities. Since having a family of my own, I’ve found a very special joy in making our own family traditions and the excitement and anticipation that comes with each new season. Reminding my daughter of the fun things we have planned is just as much fun as participating in the event itself!
While there can be anticipation and excitement surrounding traditions, these times of the year can also bring worry or anxiety related to additional family time, feelings of grief and sadness for family members no longer with us or stressful/toxic relationships. Being aware and sensitive that these times of the year can feel different for every individual is important to keep in mind when planning events or upholding various traditions.
3. Traditions bridge generations and create and unite family culture
I couldn’t write about traditions without referencing one of my favorite musicals – Fiddler on the Roof. Fiddler on the Roof is the story of a Russian family forced to flee their home. In the song “Tradition”, the father, Tevye, says that without traditions the community of mankind would lose its grounding, explaining “because of traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years…and because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is…”
Many traditions are passed down through the generations. Continuing them in your own way is a great way to share cultural and religious heritage. This can be particularly impacting to children and young people who are in a stage of finding their personal identity.
Traditions allow us an opportunity to be intentional with the time we spend with those around us – particularly with our children and the little ones in our lives. Traditions allow us to share where they came from — the families they are a part of, what they are made of, and what they can be!
4. Traditions bring memories
Traditions bring memories – both positive and negative. As I mentioned above, holidays and various family traditions can bring forth upsetting or traumatic memories of family interactions and relationships that can cloud the creation of new memories and new traditions. Identifying past family traditions that no longer hold a place in your present life is an important part of creating new traditions that can help heal old wounds.
Traditions can also provide positive memories to reflect upon fondly. Looking back at childhood memories with nostalgia can ease loneliness or provide a connection to family members no longer present.
Creating new traditions
Reflection on traditions and family memories can also be an opportunity to assess and develop new traditions. Traditions, just like families, grow and change – since you were likely not involved in the planning or carrying out of your childhood family traditions, you get a unique opportunity to assess the implementation of family traditions in your own family, or even eliminate them all together!
To create a new family tradition, you should identify “What do I want the purpose to be?” and “How can I make it Personal?”
In identifying the purpose, answer questions like:
What do I hope my children and family will get out of this? Is there a certain value or cultural importance I want to emphasize with this tradition?
Once you have thought about these questions, you can begin thinking about WHO will be involved in your traditions, and making it personal! Most likely you are incorporating new family members, friends and close relationships into this tradition as well as finding a blend of your spouse/partner’s traditions.it unique to these individuals will provide the opportunity for new family traditions.
Now don’t go overboard – it can be tempting to create a new tradition for every holiday or event. Start slow, and pick a few. But also be willing to adapt and change those as time goes on!