Family tradition of playing a game in front of Christmas Tree

Traditions: The Glue that Sticks Us Together

Family traditions are the rituals and practices a family shares that strengthen that family’s bonds and create lasting memories. Traditions, those things we do much the same way repeatedly, provide a source of identity,  comfort, and security. They reinforce family values. Kids love traditions!

Family tradition of playing a game in front of Christmas Tree

Family traditions

Traditions assure families that even in an uncertain and changing world, there are some things they can count on to always be the same.

Family traditions can be elaborate and complex or simple but meaningful.

According to Scientific American, the time we spend focusing on anticipation, experiences, and simply being together can profoundly impact how much we enjoy life.

What qualifies as a tradition?

As I see it, anything you do in the same way at the same time, year after year, becomes a tradition. Whatever it is, if you’ve done it once but plan to do it again, it counts as a tradition. 

Make a list of your family’s best traditions. Talk about them, and treat them with a sense of respect and joy. Explore ideas for intentionally spending meaningful time together and then repeat often.

In time, your family traditions—especially those related to Christmas—will become trusted anchors in your children’s lives.

Ideas to get started

Need a nudge to start some new traditions in your family this holiday season? Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Idea: Honor your family’s heritage by teaching your kids how to make the foods of that country or region. Learn the songs and customs of that culture.

Idea: As Christmas draws nearer, visit your community to look at the lights. You can do this on a night close to Christmas. Everyone gets ready for bed (PJs on, teeth brushed), then the whole family piles into the car for your family’s Annual Christmas Lights Pajama Caper Drive. Take blankets along to add coziness. Only the adults know the exact time this will happen! Choose your favorite house—everyone in the family gets a vote. If you’re incredibly ambitious, drop off a Christmas card thanking them for “brightening” your holiday season.

Idea: When no one is looking, Santa’s elves string Christmas lights in the kids’ rooms. No matter how often you do this, it will still be the best surprise.

Idea: Establish a decadent, yummy entree or special treat you eat only on Christmas morning. Let your mind wander. The more decadent, the better! Something like these Cinnamon Rolls, perhaps?

Idea: In the days before Christmas, establish a Hot Chocolate Bar set up in a central area. In addition to your homemade mix, add jars of fun toppings like sprinkles, mini marshmallows, candy canes, and so on. Make sure it’s ready to go, especially when the kids come in from playing in the snow.  

Idea: If yours is a somewhat musical family, bring back the classic tradition of bundling up to go caroling throughout the neighborhood. You’ll do better if you have caroling books with musical scores and lyrics so everyone is on the same tune and verse. Don’t be surprised if others in the neighborhood want to join you on your journey. That could make the tradition even better. 

Idea: The first night that the tree is decorated and lit, the whole family sleeps around it. Kids love the magic of falling asleep with the tree lights on!

Do you have a Christmas tradition that holds your family together? We would love for you to share in the comments below. Keep it brief and avoid specific personal info (age, names, etc.). Thanks!



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7 replies
  1. Cally Ross says:

    My family always went to the “new, big” movie release each Christmas Eve. That wore us out, distracted us, and made us ready to sleep! Over the years the movies went from Disney animated to Star Wars episodes, and more. I have many great memories of movies as a kid, and when my kids were little.

  2. Jenni says:

    We have stockings for each family member and you’re allowed to get in them when you come down Christmas morning. We had “odd” and “even” rules for lots of things (riding up front, etc.), and that determined which child (we only have two) would play Santa that year. He or she passed out the gifts from under the tree. Slowly, so we could watch one another opening each of the gifts.
    While we had Jesus’ birthday cake – Almond coffee cake – for many years, eventually they came to prefer the homemade cinnamon rolls.
    They’re relatively easy as I use a bread machine and a third of my grandmother’s Overnight Rolls Recipe. They rest overnight in the cold oven and are baked when we get up. We have deviled eggs or veggie bacon for protein, and can start opening presents while we eat! Finger Food!

  3. alien07110 says:

    every year for the past 35 or so, we have done a free form scrabble on the coffee table. i’ve bought every yard sale’s scrabble games just for the tiles and found more tiles at craft and dollar stores. there is no board and anything goes–rotate an ‘E’ and you can make 3 kings, with a blank between the 3 and the k. the only rule is it must somehow pertain to christmas, new year or solstice. if you need a letter you can’t find, make a copy of that tile, cut it and tape it to the back of a tile that probably won’t get used. this always starts with the word ‘advent’, placed on thanksgiving evening and continues to christmas eve when we put all the letters away because christmas morning we need to coffee table for presents. this year was a challenge–we have a new cat who likes to play with things. i had to go to the local glass store and get a piece of plexiglass to cover the table, with a small piece of wood on all four sides so that we can pick it up without disturbing the letters.

  4. Joan says:

    What do folks do when traditions can no longer be carried on due to distance, aging, change in family dynamic etc.
    Traditions are wonderful but eventually they become memories which is bittersweet or depressing
    Would love to know how others deal with no longer able to carry on traditions

    • Cally Ross says:

      Joan, with my kids grown, and scattered across the country, I am struggling to establish new traditions, even if that happens through the mail. I’m sending weekly Christmas activity sheets to the grandkids, downloaded and free, from many great websites. I know how bittersweet it can be, I refuse to dwell on the “past” and seek to find new traditions. Blessings to you!

    • Lorrie says:

      I hear your heart. We’ve had several deaths in that last few years and our son moved several states away. We have to fight the grief of traditions of the past and create new ones. Newer. Smaller and perhaps deeper. Focus on Jesus. Be a secret Santa to the needy. Gift a neighbor. And treat yourself/and spouse with one special treat. Hugs!

    • CHERYL says:

      Try to do something that’s a tradition to you and will honor the far away ones. I noticed at my local post office that they desperately need people to be the Secret Santa for all the Children who write to Santa that the Post Office gets in the mail. Do it in honor of your children, let them know that they can help if they want, but that you will donate toys, clothes, etc, whatever it is that they child might request that is within your means to provide. (doubt many of us could do a PONY! ;0>) For my nieces I have a new tradition of baked goods that i can mail and they are the ones that i only make at Chrismtas, Sausage Balls, Hello Dollies, Cakes, etc. For the little ones, i have subscribed to magazines/activities for them, and then they get reminded every month they are thought about. (Highlights magazine, Little Passports for example.)If you are determined to find some joy you can do it!! Maybe facetime w/ loved ones and read a book to the little ones, or the adults can have a Christmas Carol name that tune type of game. If worst comes to worst, go to Web and look for interesting Christmas activites. YOU CAN DO IT!! MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU AND YOURS!!


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