The holidays are quickly approaching and I hope that you are looking forward to making memories with family and friends. The season is so much more than just giving and receiving gifts. It’s a time to savor family traditions that can be built upon for the weeks leading up to your family gatherings.
There are really three different kinds of traditions that most families observe. As we talk about them, think about what your family’s rituals are.
First is the family patterns: the little things like what you do when the alarm goes off in the morning. Do you get a shower first, or do you need to hit the snooze 3 times and get a cup of coffee before you wake anyone else? What happens to your morning routine, if the power goes out and the alarm doesn’t go off? How does that affect your day if you don’t have your morning “time”? Think about how your routine changes when the kids are home from school as the holidays approach, what do you look forward to?
Another pattern, may be mealtime, or bedtime or something that you do as part of your family’s daily routine. All families have to get up, but your family may do it differently, by rubbing a child’s back, or singing a song, or just turning on the light. It’s the little things, as children will remember the special stories or songs you may share during the holidays.
The second are your family traditions. These are things created by individual families to fit their life style. All families have them, how they celebrate them is different. Where do you always go on vacation? What do you look forward to on winter break? This could also be like a family game night or visiting relatives on Sunday afternoon. Does your family have family meetings to discuss things? That’s another example.
The third type is that of your celebration traditions, these are the times you celebrate with family members like holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. At our home the birthday person always gets a birthday balloon tied to their chair to begin the day. They get to choose their favorite foods for the meal and decide what the dessert will be. Where do you always go for Thanksgiving, Christmas or your Holiday of Faith? Who always brings your favorite food? Those could be part of your family’s traditions.
Traditions give families a sense of identity, a belonging. All of us need to feel that we are not just a cluster of people living in a house, but a family that is unique, we have personality and a heritage to carry on. It’s the little things we do that make families unique, that’s what traditions and rituals are, some are very simple and some are more elaborate or complex, they in a sense weave the fabric of daily life.
A tradition is not something you are going to find written down. It’s carried on by generations by word of mouth or by example without written instruction. During the holidays this year, ask some of your family members about your traditions: When did they start? Who started it? Why do you still do it? What would you like to let go of or start new?
Listen to your children, reinforce the things they remember throughout the weeks to come and enjoy the season, not just the day.
Author: Melinda Hill, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences