When I was growing up, my family had traditions for each and every holiday. Easter morning always started with a search for jellybeans my parents had hidden around the house. Thanksgiving morning involved a rigorous hike (we needed to earn our turkey dinner!). And I knew Christmas day had arrived when the scent of cinnamon rolls came wafting through the house. Even as an adult, thinking of these traditions brings a warmth to my heart that reminds me of the love and connection we shared as a family.
Traditions are important for both children and adults. They give us something to look forward to and allow families to create shared meaning and memories. Looking back on these traditions I had with my family, I recognize how the experiences we shared meant so much more than the gifts we exchanged. Therefore, as the holidays approach and the gift-buying season ramps up, I’d like to share some ideas for creating experience-driven traditions that your children can look forward to and hopefully carry on in their hearts as they grow up.
These traditions may be shaped by many intentions, but the three that feel particularly important are values, culture, and the ultimate goal of bonding.
- Values: When forming new traditions, consider the values you want to instill in your children. Playing games together can evoke a sense of playfulness and humor, volunteering can instill compassion and kindness, and cooking together can bring forth creativity, unity, and fun. When our values are at the core of what we do, we feel more fulfilled and satisfied with our lives. Therefore, creating values-driven traditions allows us to feel contentment and gratification with our holiday experiences.
- Culture: Many traditions are also shaped by a family’s culture. Your established holiday rituals may help teach your children about important cultural, religious, or spiritual practices that are meaningful to the family. These traditions may involve attending religious services, eating traditional family dishes, or engaging in important ceremonies together. As children practice these rituals, they become more connected with their family culture and they also begin to strengthen their sense of identity.
- Bonding: Most importantly, traditions should bring us together and strengthen our connections with our family members. We are so busy in our day-to-day lives that we often miss out on opportunities to connect with each other. Traditions give us a chance to share something unique and special with one another, which strengthens our bond and reminds us how much we are loved.