Family traditions

By Lisa Cossey, LCSW 

Youth First

With Christmas right around the corner, it is nice to look forward to time with family and friends, and to participate in ongoing family traditions. A family tradition is something that is recreated, year after year, enhancing family involvement and strengthening family bonds.

Each year at Halloween, my husband’s family will get together and spend an evening going to haunted houses. Perhaps not a typical family tradition, but one their family has done for years – and one everyone looks forward to. A less frightful Halloween tradition that is observed by several of my friends and their families is camping every Halloween weekend. My own family has planned fall camping trips two years in a row now; perhaps this will turn into a yearly tradition for us. Another tradition in my own family that I look forward to every year is gathering in my mother’s kitchen to bake pies and other desserts for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. A good time with much laughter is always had; and now that my own children are older, they are officially part of the family baking team as well.

Families who share in their own traditions provide a sense of comfort and security to family members, especially the children involved. Children love routine and consistency; a family tradition provides this year after year. It also helps the children manage the changes through the year and gives them something to look forward to.

In addition, family traditions enhance family and personal well-being, and can also add to the family identity. Strong family bonds are created and reinforced with traditions that are upheld and maintained. As children grow and mature, traditions can also be altered or changed to accommodate each family’s needs. 

For example, perhaps a family with young children has a tradition of singing Christmas carols around their Christmas tree. As the children age, their tradition could evolve into caroling around their neighborhood. In my own family, in recent years, we have added time to video-call with our relatives after Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. These are our family members who may not have been able to travel in for the holidays or are stationed out of state or overseas due to military commitments. It gives us all a chance to stay connected as a family, even if we physically can’t be together for the holiday.

Family traditions don’t have to be formal, fancy or costly. They don’t even have to revolve around the holidays; you can share in a family tradition any day or time of the year. My own family enjoys baking together to prepare for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; perhaps your family opts to take a walk every Christmas morning or enjoys exchanging White Elephant gifts during your celebrations. Traditions are what you want to make them. Other ideas to create family traditions include:

  • Read a book, such as The Night Before Christmas, aloud prior to opening Christmas gifts
  • Weekly or monthly family movie night
  • Have a yearly family talent show
  • Create crafts together
  • Make candy or prepare meals together
  • Have an annual family camping trip
  • Have your own family sporting tournament with a traveling trophy to be awarded to the winning family each year

No matter what your family tradition is or what your family chooses to create, just having something for all family members to look forward to each year is important. Traditions help create warm, positive memories that can be recalled fondly and draw family members back to one another year after year.

Lisa Cossey, LCSW, serves as Youth First Social Worker at Evansville’s Good Shepherd Catholic School.