Traditions. They can be a beautiful thing. Families are kept strong and meaning is given to everyday life. They give a sense of inclusion between people, and more notably, family members. Tradition is a word that’s thrown around a lot, but what is it?
Susan Lieberman, author, once said, “Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable, and safe in a confusing world.”
Just about everyone has traditions in their life. It could be the tradition of having a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It could be the tradition of going out to a farm during harvest-time and buying fresh produce. Almost anything can be a tradition in some way. What is the difference between tradition and routine?
A routine is something that you do every day. It is something that holds no special meaning; like laundry on the weekend. Whereas tradition is something that holds meaning, even if that meaning is small; like having taco Tuesday with your family. The difference between tradition and routine can be boiled down to these two questions: Do you do it on at least a somewhat regular basis, even yearly? Would you pass it down to members of your family so that they continue it? If you answered yes to both of these questions then it’s a tradition. If you answered no to one of these questions then it’s likely routine.
There are many types of traditions that can influence family. Day-to-day traditions, like eating dinner together and sharing parts of your day. There are also family specific traditions, like attending church on Sunday and then going out to lunch at a favorite restaurant. Then there are cultural traditions, like celebrating Christmas, or Thanksgiving. All of these traditions make the days seem meaningful. Sometimes children will resist certainly family traditions, but more likely than not, once they get older they will look back and remember them fondly.
The importance of family traditions is vital. Tradition can help strengthen the bond between family members. It links generations in the family and creates a timeless bond between them. It shows an accumulation of experience from one generation to the next. Most importantly, it can give family members a sense of belonging and identity. If members of a family don’t have a sense of belonging and identity, then chances are they don’t feel like a part of anything, and that means that they don’t feel like a part of the family.
Consider a family like a bank account. You can deposit your time, energy, and love into the family bank account. The more in the bank, the stronger the family. Members of the family can withdraw their needs from the account during times of difficulties. One of the most important deposits that goes in the account is family traditions.
Elder family members may live in senior living communities. It is important to not only include them in the family traditions, but to make them the focus of the tradition. Chances are they created or nourished the tradition that your family has preserved. What better resource for knowledge and continuation than the founder and/or proprietor of the tradition. They are able to explain to the younger ones why the tradition exists and what it symbolizes. Sometimes, to younger people, the stories of the older generations can come across like a legend. This only further strengthens the bond and the tradition.
Family traditions define who we are by exemplifying where we’re from. Not in location, but in heart, in attitude, and in life and the lives before us. Exploring your traditions more, and in depth, with those that created and/or nourished them, like your elders, can be very beneficial to understanding why those traditions are important to your family and why you should continue them.
Having traditions that have been passed down through the generations is a wonderful thing, but starting new traditions for your family can also be an exciting thing. Starting a new tradition is quite simple. Below are some ideas for new traditions that you can start with your family. Most require just time and effort, some require a little bit of money.
The Family Meal
Studies show that eating a meal as a family can have tons of positive effects, especially on children. This may be something you already do as a family, but if you’re just eating food together then you’re missing out on some great potential traditions:
- As a rule, there should be no cellphones, TV, or electronics of any kind. This will allow the focus to be on the people present at the table and not the digital world.
- If you’re religious, then begin the meal by saying grace. There can be a designated person for this or you can take turns. If you’re not religious then go around the table and take turns saying something that you’re grateful for.
- A really fun thing to do is to go around the table and each person takes a turn saying what the worst part of their day was, and then going around and saying what the best part of their day was.
Unfortunately, this once common tradition has fallen to the wayside in most families. Research has shown that reading once a day to your children can dramatically improve their vocabulary and develop a strong bond. This is a great task for not only the parents, but also the grandparents. This will help strengthen the bond between children and grandchildren and at the same time make your children smarter. It doesn’t have to just be at bedtime, this tradition can be anytime kids see their grandparents.
With work, school, and extra-curricular activities it can be quite difficult to get a good breakfast, especially with family members. Having a regular, weekly family breakfast will give something for everyone to look forward to on the weekend. Who doesn’t love a stack of pancakes drenched in maple syrup?
What’s a more special thing for your family to have then a grandparent date. This can be a tradition for your elder parents or your kid’s grandparents. A nice lunch or a movie would be beneficial to both parties involved. If your senior family members aren’t able to leave their community, then you could go to them and have lunch at their residence.
When it comes to starting a tradition the possibilities are endless. Just about anything could become a part of your repertoire. As simple as a moonlight walk all the way up to yearly family vacations. Maintaining current traditions and beginning new ones can bring belonging and life to you and your loved ones.