Slowing down to enjoy and create traditions

Family traditions grow out of fun activities that are repeated and enjoyed over time. They can be anything from daily, to monthly, to annual traditions. When we think of traditions, most of us may immediately think of “holiday” traditions, but we shouldn’t limit ourselves to traditions just at the holidays. Young children learn and thrive from repetition which is part of the reason they love traditions and rituals. How many times have you read the same book over and over? Or, does your child want to say goodnight to all his/her animal friends every night in the same way? We might tire of the repetition, but young children need the routine and ritual to feel safe and secure.  Ritual also helps children understand their role in the family and gives them guidance as to what is expected. Ritual creates a special bond between us that helps strengthen our relationships. A great example of that is a ritual shared by one of our Little Wonders teachers and her daughter… every night her daughter waits to hear all the ways that mom loves her, which culminate with what mom loves best … her hugs and kisses.

I’m sure you’ll all agree that mealtime with young children can often be challengingIn our family, we enticed our children to come happily to the table by having them each take turns bringing a “centerpiece” to the table. This wasn’t a centerpiece like adults think of, but rather anything they wanted to share a meal with … sometimes it was a truck or train, but most often it was the favorite stuffed animal of the day! For several years they enjoyed having their favorite friend preside over our meal. Granted this is not a tradition that went too far, but it was useful for its time. It’s been replaced by my husband’s tradition to have a candle lit, in memory of those who are no longer with us, any time we sit down to the kitchen table. 

My point is that rituals and traditions are important for many reasons.  Some may work for a while, others may pass through generations. Some come from the families we grew up in, some from religious backgrounds or practices and some we’ve made up because of particular likes and dislikes or because of a need.  Some we may hear from someone else and try! 

I’d like to share a few of my favorite holiday traditions. They helped to strengthen our family bonds and create our family identity. Maybe you will choose to try one or two!

Our family’s favorite holiday tradition revolves another one of my passions … books! I started out getting a holiday book every year and reading it the children on Christmas Eve. I would always write something inside the cover and mark the year. After a few years I realized that we had a good number of holiday books and decided to put them away during the better part of the year and bring them out again at the holidays. The children were so excited and had a renewed interest in their books when the box came out as the holidays approached, that I decided this would become a holiday tradition. We would sit around the living room with the fire going and take turns reading the books throughout the holiday season. It became a very special family time and time to reflect on the many wonderful messages in the books! The books got packed up with all the holiday decorations and we’d all look forward to the following year’s book. This went on until our children were 21 and 18 and at that point we decided to take this tradition in another direction. Since then we have taken our favorite holiday books to local shelters or schools around the holidays and had fun reading them to other children. It’s been really fun watching our grown children delight in sharing their favorite books.

Have you ever wondered what to do with all those great photo cards you get for the holidays?  Because I’m such a photo lover, I decided to cut out the photos and put them all in a holiday photo book that I added to every year. Like the holiday books, this was put away with the holiday decorations and then taken out each year and left on the coffee table. Our children still enjoy looking back through years of photos of family and friends.  Seeing photos of their friends from years ago often brings up many warm and special memories we relive with fondness.

Lastly, because we wanted to encourage the spirit of giving we baked cookies and breads for all our neighbors every year. When the children were little we’d deliver them with the kids in our red wagon on Christmas morning. The elderly in our neighborhood delighted in seeing the children and were always happy with the goodies. The children felt good about sharing and making others happy. This tradition also morphed after our children grew up and left home. I found that baking without my kids was not as fun so decided to make a change. For the past few years we have been hosting a neighborhood holiday party, which turns out to be more work but also more fun for everyone and it really encourages a sense of community. It has become something many neighbors look forward to and also share with the new residents that move in. The community we have built in our little neighborhood is amazing!

Hopefully you’ll be able to use one or two of these with your families to make the holidays more meaningful, no matter what your beliefs. Get creative and adapt or combine any of these to suit your family. Most of all enjoy the time with your children and create many happy memories. 

Happy tradition creating! Please feel free to share your favorite traditions so our community can get more ideas.

Mireille McKee