Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.
I love the opening song Tradition for the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. In the song, the main character, explains the roles of each social class (fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters) in the village and how the traditional roles of people like the matchmaker and the rabbi contribute to the village. Throughout the show, villagers try to continue their traditions and keep their society running as the world around them changes.
Traditions provide numerous benefits to the family. Performed at the same time or in the same way, traditions are rituals that differ from routines and habits in that they are done with a specific purpose in mind and require thought and an intention. They strengthen family bonds and contribute to children’s well-being by helping to connect generations, pass on cultural and religious heritage, teach values, add to the rhythm and seasonality of life, and create lasting memories.
I didn’t grow up with many family traditions. Although holidays were celebrated in our home, Thanksgiving was just Thanksgiving—a meal I had with my parents and siblings—and Christmas was just a day we exchanged gifts. Now that I have my own little family of three, I think of the importance of family traditions and how they can lend a certain magic and texture to enrich our everyday lives, special occasions and holidays.
Most couples go into a relationship bringing traditions from their respective families, but my husband and I didn’t have much to bring in terms of traditions. Our families had few memorable rituals for celebrating special occasions like birthdays and holidays. So as this past year was the first year of my son’s life, I thought a lot about family rituals because I believe they are important. I would like to create traditions that help make special occasions like birthdays and holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the celebration of the New Year—to be fun, special, cozy, delicious and memorable for my son.
In her book, The Book of New Family Traditions, author Meg Cox defines family ritual as “any activity you purposefully repeat together as a family that includes heightened attentiveness and something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts.” Psychologists have found the ability to reflect fondly on one’s past helps to provide several benefits that include the ability to counteract loneliness, increase generosity towards strangers, and stave off anxiety. Psychologists have also found that the stories traditions tell about one’s family play an important role in shaping a child’s identity; children are typically more well-adjusted and self-confident when they have an intimate knowledge of their family’s history. Apparently understanding your past and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself helps to instill confidence.
Traditions not only help to create wonderful memories that can help a child become a happier and emotionally healthier adult, but they also help create a sense of belonging, comfort, and security. The opportunity to create traditions with our children is a wonderful gift. I aspire to find ways to create positive, indelible, and fond memories that my son can later reflect on with feelings of comfort and warmth and perhaps carry some traditions he grows up with to his own family.
In this upcoming year, I will continue to think of ways to incorporate new family traditions into my son’s life. My greatest desire is that he will grow up with joy, knowing that his parents loved him and did their best to create a home environment that was safe, happy, peaceful and filled with fond memories that last a lifetime.
I would love to know, do you have any family traditions? What are they and your thoughts about them?
Happy New Year!