Creating Meaningful Traditions
When you look back on your childhood, what do you remember most? What do you hope your family will remember? Traditions begin whether we plan them or not, but intentional traditions can quickly become some of our sweetest memories with our families. In this post we’ll talk about how to have family traditions, how to keep them, and maybe most importantly, how to remember them!
And if you aren’t already humming some Fiddler on the Roof under your breath, then I haven’t done my job!
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How to Have Traditions
Family traditions are so important. They can be an incredible way to stretch back in time to your ancestors and forward to your posterity. They create intense family bonds and an exciting yearly structure that is necessary for kids to feel most stable. Not only that, they are FUN.
Where do you even begin with starting traditions that can last a lifetime? How do you even choose which traditions are important to you? I’m going to suggest choosing from the three H’s: Holidays, Hobbies, and what makes you Happy!
Holiday traditions may be the simplest place to start. They happen annually whether we ask for it or not, and having special traditions around the holidays makes them feel extra special. Here are a few fun suggestions for holiday traditions you can start with your family:
- Christmas in July: Turn traditional Christmas upside down and throw a summer-themed Christmas on July 25th! Don’t forget the summer tree and flip flop stockings!
- Reindeer Food: Make some “reindeer food” with oats and glitter and sprinkle it outside in the snow on Christmas Eve.
- Be Someone’s Easter Bunny: Bring your kids and hide Easter eggs in someone else’s yard to make their Easter egg-stra special.
- Throw Your Own St. Patrick’s Day Neighborhood Parade.
- Cousin Christmas Movie Night: Bring over the cousins (built-in best friends) for sledding, hot chocolate, and a cozy Christmas movie. Jammies required.
- Cheers the New Year: Get some sparkling cider and fancy glasses and let everyone toast to the New Year.
- Valentine Mail Boxes: Have each family member create their own Valentine mail box (just like in grade school!), and deliver letters to each other all through February!
- 4th of July Game Night: Gather some friends for a BBQ and then board games until fireworks start!
- Summer Bucket List: Create a summer bucket list every year, and try to complete it before fall!
- After School: Celebrate with chocolate chip cookies on the first day of school or a big surprise summer bash on the last day!
- Anniversary: Forget traditional anniversary gifts–instead, write each other letters, and every year read each other last year’s letters before you write a new one.
Hobbies Turned Traditions
Hobbies aren’t always looked at as traditions, but why shouldn’t they be? If it’s something you enjoy doing (especially together as a family) consider making it a tradition that can carry on! Here are a few hobby ideas:
- Camping: Visit the same place at the same time every year, or invite extended family and create a tradition out of camping together each year.
- Hiking: Take an annual hike to your favorite location.
- Gardening: Bring the whole family in on the chores! Doing them together can make them fun and feel like tradition even when it’s hard work.
- Spring Cleaning: Speaking of chores… it’s got to be done, so why not get the whole family involved, teach them about donating things, and get the house sparkling in the process?
- Stargazing: Wake kids up in the middle of the night for an epic meteor shower all viewed from the back of a truck or air mattress in the driveway. Hot chocolate and donuts are also a must!
- Canning: When you’ve gathered the fruits of your labors from all that gardening, spend the day canning together! Learning how to can is really fun!
Traditions That Make You Happy
Happy is my favorite of the three H’s! Why should you make traditions out of things that make you happy? Because why wouldn’t you want to feel that happiness over and over again? If you stumble upon something your family loves, make a point to recreate it over and over again! Let it not just be a wonderful memory but something they can look forward to again. Here are a few examples:
- Breakfast and Mario Kart: Throw an early morning breakfast and Mario party–everyone dresses cozy and goes home before lunch!
- Random Acts of Kindness: Focus on service–let everyone come up with different ways to serve, and spend the day spreading sunshine wherever you go.
- Surprise Hotel Stay: Secretly pack some bags, pretend you’re all going out to run errands, but stop at a hotel instead! Swim in the pool, eat some free breakfast, and be tourists in your own town.
- Family Vacations: Find a place your family loves and can’t wait to visit again… and then visit again!
How to Make Traditions
I’m sure just about everything on those lists sounds fun–but how do you actually make something a tradition? It may seem simple to create traditions with your family, but the fact is that if you don’t make a point to do something over and over, it’s not really a tradition! It can still be a fun memory, something your family loved doing together, but if it only happened once or twice, it doesn’t really qualify as a tradition.
If you want to create something that lasts, you can’t (usually) just do it on a whim. To create traditions your family will cherish, plan it! Write it down, talk about it, and look forward to it before the actual event arrives.
The movie Yes Day does a great job illustrating this. Leading up to their “Yes Day,” the kids mark off a calendar and count down the days. They also plan what they are going to do on their Yes Day, make posters, plan with friends, etc.
Planning ahead for the big day will make it easier for the entire family to remember it next year! Remember that most traditions require a little preparation and planning–and let that be half the fun.
Of course, the other part of a wonderful memory that matters is actually remembering it! It’s so easy to look back and think, “Oh, that was a fun idea we did once that would have made a great tradition… how could we forget?”
- My first tip: take pictures! Not only are they a great way to look back and remember, but they can also pop up on your Memories in your phone–another great way to jog your memory and keep the tradition alive!
- One of my favorite traditions is making a family yearbook. Use any photo book printing service (mpix is one of my favorites), and print all your best pictures from the year. I also like to write on the back all of the big changes we went through that year.
- Second tip: set a reminder on your phone. It’s such a simple way to remember something important to us. Set a reminder months before to get something planned. Set a reminder for the day before and the day of the big event. Use all the help you can get to remember the tradition.
- Don’t worry: the second year of keeping a tradition is the hardest. Once you gain a little traction, remembering your traditions is a cinch. We all just need a little help remembering them in the first place!
For much more on this topic, I highly recommend Jessica Smartt’s book “Memory Making Mom.”
If you loved this post, you will love… well, just about everything on our site! So many of our date ideas would make awesome traditions, but check out Fun First Day of School Traditions, Christmas Eve Traditions, and Diva-Style Holidays.