Family Traditions make holidays special
The holidays every year mark the milestones of growing up. I have these memories of childhood Christmases spent with my cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. Each of my parents come from larger families, so every year we spent Christmas with extended family, as I was growing up. They were loud, crowded affairs, but filled with love, affection and the security only being with family brings. I’m sure there were squabbles and disagreements, but for the most part, we all got along, and we looked forward to it every year.
Christmas is hard for me these days. That’s because I split Christmas holidays with my children’s father. I also come from a smaller family, so the big extended family dinner doesn’t happen for my children .. at least not with me. (Their father has a larger extended family, so they still get the experience.) But I’ve tried to make the holidays special with new traditions. I want to continue to mark the milestones for my children, no matter when we celebrate together.
Traditions can be unique to your family.
In fact, the more unique they are, the more special they will be. Traditional doesn’t necessarily mean that your family should have that tradition. Just because it’s traditional to have a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean that’s what your family tradition has to be. Maybe instead of a turkey, you offer a roast beef. Or a vegetarian alternative, such as “tofurkey”. Unique traditions mark the milestones with permanent memories.
Our best family traditions have come from things that were spontaneous and maybe even a little silly in the moment. For example, twice a year, living in Canada as we are, my family has a day of “seasonal clothes switch”. We all strip down to our underwear (at least, the kids do!) and try on clothes for the new season. We have clothes everywhere. Piles and piles of clothes, mounds of shoes, along with various boxes and bins clutter my living room during this process. We put on dance music and the girls compete with me to see if they can try on clothes faster than I can sort through them. It’s always fun, and makes a big chore that much more enjoyable. And we mark the milestones of growth and development over the last season.
Traditions help mark the milestones.
I have 6 birthdays to celebrate. That’s a lot of birthdays. I do not have the time, the patience or the budget to throw Pinterest-perfect birthday parties for them. I’m not a birthday-party mom. But we do have traditions that help mark milestones. (You’re welcome to copy these, if you like!)
On their first birthday, I present each of my babies with their first Bible. This is a presentation copy, that I mark their birthday, and a special note of my prayer for them, along with their name and it’s meaning. Each of my children’s names were chosen with prayer and research, for a meaning that I hope will proclaim part of their character. I mark the milestones of their future with this as their beginning.
For every birthday, each of my girls get to choose all the meals. We do a special cake. Every year, except this last year, I’ve bought their cake, letting them choose the theme they like most. This year, I’ve made their cake, because we haven’t been able to find a design they liked most. They also get to go get a helium balloon.
Rather than parties, we usually plan a special day trip to an interactive attraction. One year, we went to a butterfly conservatory, for one child’s birthday. Another year, we did an indoor playground. We’ve even done a zoo trip! There’s always something exciting to explore.
It’s the tradition that helps with marking these milestones. Special gifts, privileges, and trips help make the day memorable.
Traditions remind us of what’s important.
Holiday seasons can be incredibly busy. Christmas is filled with pageants and plays, shopping and gift wrapping, decorating and cleaning, baking and cooking.. the list goes on and on. Easter can seem chaotic with fancy dresses, chocolate eggs and spring cleaning. There’s Valentine’s, and national holidays, and Thanksgiving .. While the holiday itself can be special, celebrating it can become more of a chore than a joy.
Traditions can help bring our focus back to the meanings of the holidays. So bake those cookies with your kids, and be reminded of just how much fun your children can be. Paint those Easter eggs. Write silly Valentines. Go to the parades, and cook the dinners. But instead of worrying about making it Pinterest-worthy, focus on the tradition and the meaning of the season. Let the traditions remind you of past holidays, of family and friends, and of the memories you have. Let them mark the milestones in your memory.
Traditions build memory upon memory.
One of the reasons traditions are so special is because the repetition builds memories. Each time you go through the tradition again, you’re reminded of the last time you did that particular activity. Part of the tradition will inevitably involve reminiscing about last year’s holiday.
For example, every year, I buy a new ornament for each child for our Christmas tree. And every year, we hang all the previous year’s ornaments along with our new ones. We mark the milestones over the years since their birth, with their interests reflected in their ornament choices. My girls love to hear me tell the stories of when we got the ones from their infancy. They get excited over each ornament, reminding each other of which ones are theirs and why they picked the ones they did. It gets loud, and sometimes there are squabbles over which branch on the tree will hold each special decoration. But we all look forward to decorating the tree, because of the memories.
What family tradition will you start this year?
There are many holidays, and so many things you can do to make them special. What will you do this year? Start a new family tradition. Maybe you’ll send flowers to Grandma on Mother’s Day. Or throw a barbecue for your street on a long weekend in May or July. Maybe you will attend a parade you haven’t gone to before with the kids. Try a new recipe for St Patrick’s Day, or plan for a weekend “stay-cation”, and play tourist in your hometown. Build the memories and reap the benefits. Mark the milestones, the seasons and the years with family traditions.