Why is it tradition to have traditions?

I grew up in a home without many traditions. Both of my parents married three different times and things were always changing in my young world. My husband’s family has traditions that date back before he was even born (i.e. seeing the Ballet West Nutcracker for 43 years and counting…no, they haven’t missed even once!) Together we are trying to strike the balance of being flexible and deliberate as we create traditions of our own. Years ago, I asked myself if and why traditions are important. Apparently they are!

Research shows that traditions are important in building strong family relationships between generations. Traditions are stories, beliefs, rituals and customs that are passed from one generation to the next. … Being a part of the special things our family does, helps us to have that sense of belonging” http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/facts/121204.html).

Susan Lieberman says “Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.” Don’t we want our children to have a sense of belonging? Are we not striving to provide safety for our children? Traditions are key!

Sometimes traditions happen accidentally. Seven years ago, I was hosting family for Christmas Eve and wanted to make it easy so as to not be stressed and enjoy the evening. I went with a “Red, White and Green” dinner. Translation: Spaghetti, garlic bread and salad. Everyone devoured it. We went to bed well fed and happy. Seven years later that easy and yummy dinner is still making the Christmas Eve menu. Voila, a tradition created! Two years ago, my husband added the “Root Beer Bar” to the evening. Translation: he hits Harmons and buys up a variety of gourmet root beer for all to try. Again, simple. Not very traditionally Christmasy, but I have a hunch the RBB will stand the test of time in the Bowman home.

Other times we may attempt to create a tradition and have high expectations of it sticking, but alas, the family just didn’t quite connect with your vision. Translation: Mom’s idea bombed.

Still other times traditions evolve, morph, fade, and are reborn.

Often we can’t think of what our traditions are. You may not feel like you have any. Ask your children. It may surprise you what they remember and what they would like repeated. I imagine their answers will have something to do with them feeling like they belonged and connected to each other.

Here are a few fun holiday tradition ideas that you may want to adopt:

  • Cozy up and watch a Christmas movie on the floor with piles of blankets and pillows.
  • Go caroling as a family, even if you “can’t sing”! This is so fun and can be funny!
  • Drive around looking at lights and have each family member choose a favorite decorated home and leave an anonymous letter thanking them for their pretty lights.
  • Act out the nativity with makeshift costumes.
  • Make and decorate sugar cookies – always a hit!
  • Hold a family impromptu “talent show” – with little to no notice, it’s great to see what everyone can come up with!
  • Leave a note of Christmas cheer on parked cars.

Remember, creating a tradition is NOT about doing more. It’s about making choices, fostering creativity and building family connection. Translation: You Are Doing Great!

This article was written by Dori Bowman, Secretary of Utah Mothers Association.

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