by Cora Foley
When you were young, family traditions probably seemed like something that happened naturally—and for you as a child, they probably did.
Since you most likely were not involved in planning and carrying out these events year after year, the effort needed to create these traditions may not have been obvious to you. Usually, both effort and persistence are needed for new family traditions to take hold.
Just as families grow and change, so do traditions. Sometimes traditions evolve, and sometimes they are abandoned entirely to make way for something different.
While change can be unsettling, do not be upset when a tradition evolves or ends. Every life event (a baby, a marriage, a new job, or a big move) presents opportunities for you to create new traditions as well as to enjoy exciting and precious family memories.
What Are Traditions, and Why Do I Need Them?
Traditions are a set of customs or rituals passed down from one generation to the next. They help shape a family’s legacy, while also instilling family values in its newest members, whether they be a baby or a spouse. Family traditions can also help solidify the bond between all family members, no matter the age or distance between them. If you document these family times with photos, videos, or written stories, the memories can be shared for generations, ensuring that your family legacy is always protected.
How Do I Create Traditions?
- Take charge. While some traditions occur naturally, such as getting a Christmas tree or a Hanukkah bush, others may require some finagling. Do not be afraid to invite your family to join you for an activity you already do. For example, my dad had a tradition of visiting a chocolate shop about an hour away from our house every year at Christmastime to buy gifts. After a few years of doing this alone, he invited me and my mom to join him on his journey (it took about a month to find a day we could all go that first year). Now we go every year, and we make a day of it. We drive up, buy our gifts, window-shop around the town, and get lunch together. My dad first took the initiative to invite us, but this shopping trip is now a great tradition that I have with my parents.
- Be open minded and willing to adapt. Family outings can be like finding the perfect cake recipe: you often have to try out more than one to find the perfect recipe. Perhaps you want to start a tradition that involves camping, so this year you try it out. While the trip may have created some great memories, such as your daughter catching her first fish, your son was totally miserable and hated sleeping in a tent on the ground. If your son was unhappy the whole time, this exact trip would not be sustainable. So the next year, instead of forcing your son to sleep in a tent, perhaps you rent an RV or stay in a cabin. Things may not go perfectly the first time, but if you are willing to make adjustments, you can create a new tradition that everyone enjoys.
- Use a Survey. When you are trying to establish a new tradition, it might be difficult to find a location, an activity, and a time that work for everyone, especially when making plans with extended family members. One idea might be to create an online survey for these three aspects (location, activity, and time) to ensure that the largest number of family members can participate in and enjoy the event. SurveyMonkey and Google Forms are great resources that allow you to make free, short surveys to send to everyone and then track the results. I have used surveys to create events for family vacations, and the people enjoyed having a say in the event while not being responsible for planning every detail.
Traditions are an amazing way to help your family come together and create new memories. While it does take effort to start a new tradition or change an old one, any effort you make now will be worth it and may last for generations to come.
Cora Foley works at Smooth Photo Scanning Services and is a passionate advocate for memory creation and preservation.