“Family tradition” is a phrase that is often used for something like a special food we eat at Thanksgiving or something we do during the winter holidays. But family traditions are not limited to or by this alone.
What are family traditions?
Traditions are activities or experiences that we share together as a family that help define the family unit. They also allow us to belong, participate and share these experiences with newer family members. It often falls to the elders in the family to be sure that the traditions they care about are passed down to younger generations.
Common family traditions in the United States
- Baby showers
- Sunday family dinner
- Fireworks on the 4th of July
- Family barbeque on Labor Day weekend
- Turkey at Thanksgiving
- Family Christmas dinner
- Church on Sunday followed by special lunch
However, traditions are not limited to holidays or special events. They are also determined by families themselves and the cultural heritages within the families.
Less conventional family tradition ideas
- Celebrating the change of seasons with a special activity
- Three Good Things – Family dinner game in which everyone at the table indicates the three good things that happened to them that day
- Family walks
- Saturday morning orange juice and pastries with the family
- Game night or video game night
- Participating in relevant charity events – many survivors families will run a 5k or help with an annual food drive for a cause that impacts the family
Cultural heritage tradition ideas
- Einschulung – a tradition that German families celebrate for their child’s first day of school
- Butsudan – a Japanese family tradition in which an alter is placed in the home to honor ancestors
- Caring for all animals – It is Indian family tradition to care well for all animals that an individual comes across. Nurturing this in children helps them to develop compassion for all living things
- Coming of age ceremonies – Indigenous and native peoples around the globe often celebrate when a young person is about to enter the age if adulthood and varies around the world.
Why is it important to pass traditions down?
HuffPost indicates, “Tradition remains one of the few practices that truly belongs to your family and close friends, and allows you to cherish the very valuable memories created with your loved ones over the years.”
Traditions are built within a family by moments that have become important to an individual, a couple or an entire family. They’re also used to celebrate and honor our family members, such as using our grandmother’s grandmother’s “secret” recipe. By doing these things, we’re keeping the memories and stories alive and preserving our family’s identity.
It links generations and passes down accumulated family knowledge. It also helps to strengthen family bonding and gives a strong identity to the members.
How to pass down a family tradition
It does often fall at the feet of the older generation to share traditions. Family traditions are often passed down unknowingly from parent to child, as routine as “this is how my mother did it”. But for the times when you’d like to actively pass a tradition down, how do you go about doing it?
Think about what is important for you to share with your family. This may be a special moment given to your by your parents or a recipe that everyone in your generation loved.
Think about the underlying value. What does the tradition mean to you, was it something you did with your parents or a treasured friend? What value or (future) memories might it bring to future generations?
Speak with your family. If you’re thinking to adopt a new tradition that you would like to pass down to children or grandchildren, discuss it with your family and let them know why it’s important to you. This way, you can discuss the best way for that to happen.
Consider the balance between big things and small moments. Not every tradition has to be a big one, centered around food or an event. For example, sharing learning how to stitch a quilt is a skill that can be passed down from generation to generation and can include all family members.
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