Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.
—Susan Lieberman

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!

10 thoughts on “Family Traditions

  1. Martine, Lovely post. I think that traditions will naturally evolve for your growing family. You may not even realize your “traditions” until much later. You will see what you enjoy… and keep doing it, year after year. I hope that your chocolate mousse cake becomes a tradition for all of your Thanksgiving holidays. 😉 Best – Shanna

  2. I also thought about traditions in my family since I came from Morocco and there are many traditions there that make sense only in the Moroccan context. Food is a great way to connect with the past, and I do make some traditionel Moroccan dishes like couscous that everyone eat on Fridays in Morocco -though I don’t always make it on Fridays. I have to say that taking my kids to Morocco once a year was the best decision we made as a family, as now they can relate more and understand better where things come from. And I agree with Shanna, we also create our own traditions 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comment Asmae. I too agree with both you and Shanna in that we eventually find ways to create our own traditions and incorporate them into our natural way of living. I continue to explore and keep an open mind of what those might be for my family. In the book I mentioned in the post, the author suggests creating traditions with two “P’s” in mind—that traditions should have a Purpose and they should be made Personal. Your family decision to take your kids to Morocco once a year is a perfect example as the trips definitely serve a purpose and are also quite personal! Thank you for sharing. Also, I think a traditional Moroccan dish like couscous is still delicious any day of the week! 🙂

  3. Dearest Martine,

    R. and I grew up with very strong family traditions that centered around family, food, and religious rituals. These traditions were meaningful when I was a younger parent because they provided the structure and continuity R. and I needed to raise our children. The family members who kept those traditions however have long since passed away or are elderly and can no longer keep them. I’m sad thinking how our younger sons will never know them. I often ask myself–Could R. and I create the same for our present generations? Now that we have our own children and grandchildren, I don’t want to simply continue rituals and activities that are repeated annually as much as creating memories captured in pictures that every year will show a different setting, laughter, and beautiful moments (more so because I’m the one taking the pictures!). I like to think that when my family looks at my pictures they will remember these times with fondness, smiles, and love. That’s a tradition I would like to perpetuate. I don’t want repeated pictures that show people getting older. I want memories and pictures that show continuous life through generations. I also like to think they’ll be eating something I’ve made as they view each pic! Happy New Year, dear Friend!

    1. Hi Josephine,

      Happy New Year my dear, dear friend. Your vision for the tradition you aspire to create and perpetuate sounds warm, happy and lovely. As you already are a grandmother (and a young grandmother I should add!) what a gift it is for you to see life that has come after you, but born from the traditions that centered you when you were younger. I’m sure your younger sons and grandchildren will still get a glimpse of the strong family traditions of your past because those values are still alive in you today. Your family is still centered, a tradition you and R have worked very hard to maintain through the years. And, your delicious food will always be remembered in a meaningful way–reciprocity of happiness and love. Much, much, much love and exhilarating joy to you and your family in 2014!

  4. Love your post on tradition, and I wanted to thank you for giving a shout out to my book, The Book of New Family Traditions. It’s full of ideas for holidays and every day rituals and celebrations, especially the expanded, new edition from 2012. You may not know that I have a Facebook page where I am constantly posting fresh new tradition ideas, beyond what’s in the book.

    1. Meg, thank you so much for your kind note. I appreciate you reading and commenting. Your book is wonderful. So much good information. I wish I could have shared more thoughts about it. I will update my post to include a link to your Facebook page. Thanks for sharing and thanks again for stopping by the site.

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