DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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9 July 2014

Make your own family traditions

I had an email from a young woman the other day who told me she had suffered significant abuse when she was growing up and had severed all ties with her family. She said she was doing well now, had embraced simple life, had a good job, had recently married and was looking forward to the birth of her first baby next month. Being a soon-to-be first time mother made her wonder about family traditions and what she should be passing on to her children.  Having the history she has, she doesn't want to carry on any of her family traditions but wants a thread of family history to run through her new family. What could she do?

I told her she should start her own traditions.


When you think about it, every tradition, whether very grand or the small family traditions most of us enjoy, starts because one person decided it was important enough to continue and connect families over the years. We can all be that person, we can all start our own family traditions.


The easy and obvious ones are attached to the holidays - Christmas, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year etc. Often these involve large family gatherings and food, specific to that time of year. In my home, we've embraced some aspects of traditional religious holidays and mixed them with things that we wanted to include. We observe some traditions from Hanno's culture and some from mine. It doesn't have to be the same for all families. It just has to be right for yours. So with these traditions, think about what the tradition is, then modify it to suit you and your family. After that, you just have to do it.

You could easily start small family traditions such as dad reading to the children before bed. My father used to do that and I read to my sons. Go camping at Easter time or at the same time during the year when you always have a few days off. Enter food in the local show/fair using some of grandma's old recipes and see if you can improve every year. Get the kids involved too. Start some food traditions. Not just in what you eat but in preparing the food as well. Start a family preserving day where you invite all the willing members of your family to bring over a box of tomatoes or fruit and then cook and bottle sauce or jam for later in the year. Those traditions can become much loved family events where family stories and history are passed on.


A very worthwhile tradition is everyone gathering at the kitchen table to eat the main meal of the day. It is there we can really connect with our children and share what's happening today and next week. Make sure there are no phones at the table and if yours rings, don't answer it. If you're trying to teach your teens that their phone isn't as important as the family meal time, you have to reinforce that by ignoring your phone while you're seated at the table.


We all benefit from traditions. Whether it's because they give us a feeling of belonging to a particular family or because they create a bond between everyone that nothing will break. Traditions can help make us stronger and feel safe and secure, not only in ourselves but as a family group as well.

So to that young woman, I encourage you to look at what you do throughout the year and mark the important days with your own traditions. I can't think of a better time to do it than when a new baby is born into the family - it's a new life in so many ways.

What are your family traditions? Did you start any new traditions of your own?

35 comments:

  1. Our family Christmas tradition is

    Everyone in brand new PJs and dressing gown. Duvets and pillows to cuddle into while watching National lampoons Christmas vacation. We have a half time interval with hot chocolate, squirty cream and maybe a small tipple. The kids look forward to it every year.

    I don't speak to my family either x

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  2. Some couples may feel that "no" traditions are best only truth. That helps children feel the most secure. If a parent doesn't know what is "true" then it is good to be knowledgable about many things from biblical topics to religious topics to medicine and politics. Just have truth and love and the child will find security.

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  3. I couldn't agree more. I have a wonderful friend who had an extremely difficult childhood, and she has started fresh with her family traditions; routines with her little ones, Christmas celebrations, family jokes and outings, cooking together... it's absolutely wonderful to see and in some ways allows her inner child to celebrate all those missed Christmases and birthdays alongside her children. I only hope I can celebrate family with the same heart and enthusiasm that she does if and when we come to have kids! H xxx

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  4. What a wonderful post! I tried to think of some traditions for my own family and realized I had many, I just hadn't thought of them as traditions. I still read to my children before bed even though they seem too old for that. We have canapes and cocoa from out best tiny little china cups on Sundays. We always go swimming together - of course, for safety reasons, but in a way that's a tradition, too. Then there are season foods I only cook or bake at certain times - like now it's the red currant semolina mousse time, right after the rhubarb pie time. Indeed, so many traditions are built around food.
    My husband goes camping and fishing with them every summer - it used to be our common tradition, but I don't enjoy sleeping in a tent that much, so it's theirs now. And it's not only about children either. My husband and I have many little everyday rituals like going out to wave when the other one drives off, or sitting on the porch in the mornings when it's warm enough and talking. It doesn't even matter if the kids will take over the traditions as long as they have their own.
    Thanks for the post, Rhonda, it makes me appreciate my family and want to do more for and with them.

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  5. Rhonda,
    I could not find your email, and I wished to share something with you about this post and the emailer as I share a past like hers. Please feel free to email me or leave a message on my blog as I really feel pressed to share with you so you can share with her someone that has walked the path she is on, and that all will be well. My children are 18-25 and I have been married 26 years...me a child like the person you are posting about. My email is penofjen@yahoo.com

    Thanks so much for this post!!!

    Jennifer

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  6. I made cookies with the kids on the first day of school every year. Every Saturday night is homemade pizza and a movie night. Christmas Eve is entirely lit by candles. Chapter books that everyone could enjoy were read at bedtime. Daddy did baths when the kids were small so he had a real time to spend with them each day. Sunday mornings were always pancakes. Sunday supper was popcorn and sliced fruit. Saturday mornings were yard work and the entire family helped. On holidays we had the big meal in the early afternoon and later we picked at the leftovers and it was the only time we ate dessert and savory foods together or even dessert first. The birthday child picked the menus for the entire day, within reason. The children had an assigned day that they got the mail. SO many more---I cannot think of them right now.

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  7. I really love family traditions! I like your suggestions as well Rhonda. We have a heap of different traditions but one I really love is our birthday party campouts. We have 2 groups of birthdays in the year so we have a March campout and an October campout at our block. We invite all of our families up and sit around the campfire under the stars. Very relaxed and the kids love running around and getting dirty! A small weekday ritual we have is "questions". As I tuck each boy into bed I lay with them and ask a set of questions like favourite/happy or sad/worry parts etc. It's a nice way to end the day!

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  8. I love making family traditions, but mostly they are small stuff. When the kids were little: flashlight walks after dinner in the winter. They loved taking walks in the dark with flashlights. Friday night movie night. Ice Cream Sunday in the summer. Home-made present night at Hanukkah is probably our biggest self-created tradition: it's the one we each spend the most time and thought on, and it's always a great deal of fun. Raising my kids in a different religion from the one I was raised in, there isn't a heck of a lot of carry-over, but I love to come up with new stuff for us to make our own. I hope that the woman who wrote to you finds much joy and healing in creating her own family traditions!

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  9. We're another couple that decided on a few traditions/routines before our first baby was born e.g. DH to bath baby each night to provide a chance for skin contact and bonding. Most just evolve and before you know you have your own traditions unique to your immediate family. There is a book your reader might be interested in reading called 'I Love You Rituals' by Becky A. Bailey. I haven't read it but it was recommended to me and I have planned on reading it when I can locate a copy (it's not available at my local library). It might also be valuable for your reader to identify if there are any common traditions which may operate as triggers for her, if so decide on alternative traditions now (e.g. if abuse was instigated by a family member with a certain family title/honorific you may want to decide on an alternative way to address the family member/s with that role to whom you do speak i.e. decide to use Granddad instead of Pop for your partner's father). This can take some gentle explaining and negotiation but a supportive partner can address this with their family on your behalf and it can mean avoiding a lifetime of that unsettling feeling when you're confronted with triggering language. Best of luck to your reader on this wonderful new adventure of parenthood!

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  10. We had our family traditions when my children were growing up just like I had as a child. I feel it does give a sense of security. One of my daughter's friends had a fun tradition on Christmas Day as her family used to throw those mini water bombs at each other. Seeing as Christmas Day is usually boiling hot it was a great way to cool down and such a lot of fun.

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  11. Also we don't have any children, we still have traditions. They're flexibel as I might have to work on holidays such as Christmas but in general, we do follow them. Like Rhonda & Hanno, we're a 'mixed' couple, Steve is Australian and I'm Australian too now but I originated from Germany. I could not follow the German Tradition to have a nice roast and dumplings for Christmas in the QLD summer, so now for my birthday in August, we dish up a nice German Feast instead, have candles on ect. Our traditions might only be small, but they're ours and we love them.

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  12. What a thought provoking posting. My parents insisted that we start our own traditions when we left home and started our own lives. It was a wise thing to do because it gave us options of what to include or not in our own. So, instead of Christmas dinner with my parents, we go to Christmas Eve supper -- soup, salad, and dessert -- open gifts slowly and enjoy visiting. Then, we come home and watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and observe our own traditions for the next day.

    Other traditions for us include a backwards meal on our birthdays --- dessert first and sometimes for breakfast --- watching certain movies -- like "The Snowman" on the first snow fall and having hot chocolate with a peppermint stick -- or having a certain dish at the same time each year --- such as oyster stew at Thanksgiving.

    Traditions are just what you said, Rhonda; they are what we value and what identifies our values. It is magical and can be perpetually evolving....What an exciting adventure to be starting fresh with a new little life to build those traditions with! It is such a joyous experience and I hope the New Mum will enjoy Every Single Minute!

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  13. I only had a couple of family traditions I carried on from childhood but started a number of my own. Now my daughter has chosen many of the traditions we did as a family and added to them with her husband and five children. It has been fun for me to see what she chose to do.

    Two of them are related to Christmas. One was to shop for stocking stuffers all year round, especially when we were at places like an amusement park or on vacation where items not available locally could be purchased. It also helped the Holiday budget to have such gifts already purchased and it showed a lot of thought put into unique gifts for each person. The other tradition she keeps when possible is to have hors d'oeuvres as a meal for Christmas Eve. This came about because our main Holiday meals were "set in stone" and I wanted to try new fun dishes so Christmas Eve was the perfect time for party foods. :)

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  14. I guess a lot depends on your belief system. We celebrate Easter and Christmas. We've preferred to not be consumed with the Easter bunny and Santa but smile and don't judge others for involving them in these special holidays. We don't know of any servicemen/women but we traditionally make anzac biscuits on Anzac Day and express gratitude for their service in prayer. We have party-movie night every Friday night when Daddy takes the little ones to hire a dvd and get a special treat to have with the dvd. I have friends who have Sunday Funday where they enjoy special treats after going to church. We pray before meals and at the end of the year we like to go through the wall calendar and have a time of prayerful thanks giving for the great days and a prayer to ask for blessing in the coming year. We always eat party food on Christmas Eve and watch the carols on TV. We make up a Christmas gift box to send overseas to third world countries through Operation Christmas Child. We have a ravioli making day with Nonna sometimes.
    A new one we want to start this year is to have a baking day and take some homemade treats to our local police station, just down the road from us, to thank them for all they do.
    I wish your friend well. Healing and wholeness is possible - I too am a survivor.

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  15. Spot on post! My husband and I celebrate Stew Day which is December 7th. Our first date was during a winter snowstorm when he invited me over to his place for some stew he had started in a crock pot in that morning. We had met at a bus stop several weeks before after we both had moved into the same apartment complex because it was one of the few that allowed dogs. Best pot of stew ever!

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    1. That is a very cool story! Love it!!

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  16. What a lovely post and also beautiful comments. Traditions anchor us to home in a lovely way...when I was on my own one Christmas far from home ...it was the family tradtion of reading 'The Night Before Christmas' on Christmas Eve that kept me feeling connected to home .
    We have started our own little traditions and my kids even as teenagers still have to do them as part of the fabric of our family life ..and even this old they still ask to be read 'The night before Christmas' on Christmas eve and I love that I am the mum now and I get to do it .
    Enjoy choosing your new traditions, you are an amazing person for knowing just how important they will be for your children.

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  17. To the young woman who had a difficult childhood, perhaps there are traditions she always wanted to enjoy growing up. Perhaps she can incorporate them into the new family she is creating. Hopefully her husband didn't suffer the same problems and his family and traditions can be shared and enjoyed

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  18. I have grown up in a loving family with some lovely traditions. And now with my children we have started our own traditions and contune those of my and my husbands childhood. Last year we decided to start a new tradition of thanksgiving (obviously here in Australia thanksgiving isn't a taditonal Holliday) and we have made it completely what we want it to be. My boys and husband are really looking forward to it this year and I know it will continue.
    So I just wanted to say that it is perfectly ok to begin and create your own traditions. Make them whatever you want them to be. :-)

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  19. We celebrate christmas with a few gifts for our children, they like it the movie-kind under the christmas tree with ribbons and bows of course with a nice supper with our family. And of course easter but we try not to over do that ;0) Further I realised that we don"t have so much traditions but maybe we could make some new ones because I/we do like traditions!!!!

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  20. I'm in exactly the same position as this young lady. My mother was very sentimental and instituted lots of traditions; at the same time as being completely emotionally unstable and volatile. I don't want to continue any of them.

    I used to try to 'create' traditions, but ultimately they create themselves. We go to the pumpkin farm and bulk buy for the winter every October; and tag a walk in the woods onto it too. We go blackberrying in summer and rose hip picking. The kids have at least one preschool birthday where they go to a farm and look at the animals and machinery. All of these things have arisen naturally from our desire to live more simply and be self reliant. Just pay attention to the moments and activities that delight you; and repeat them.

    Traditions don't have to leave behind 'stuff', mementos or even photos. They only have to leave behind warm memories and a feeling of connection. I acknowledge the solstices. The turning of the year and the changing of the seasons is comforting. Halloween is the biggest holiday in my calendar; I do the fun trick or treat stuff and I also use it as a day to remember my dead and all the wonderful people who have passed through my life; and to celebrate the harvest. I go through the motions with the big cultural ones for the kids, because they live in the wider world where these things are important to our social group.

    Apologies for the wall of text; and good luck : )

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  21. Super advise Rhonda! Even the simplist traditions are some of the most memorable things to a family. :)

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  22. We also read to our daughter at bedtime, and we had a standing rule/tradition that we traded off who put her to bed. Even when she was old enough to read for herself, and sometimes I made her read to me, she still enjoyed the time. We also used to sing nursery rhymes to her at bedtime. When she is at home and goes to bed before we do (now a college sophomore and away at school) she still asks for one of us to do that. And when possible, we all met at the dinner table. Between school activities and husband's university teaching in the evening, it didn't always work, but most of the time it did.

    We are a mixed religion family - Jewish and Catholic. My Catholic mother-in-law always baked a Polish bread for Easter and Christmas, kolacz, though it wasn't like most of the recipes you find for that name. After she passed away, the family Christmas celebration moved to my sister-in-law's home. The first year, we (supposedly) made it together, though it was mostly me, and I rescued it from her killing the yeast. She didn't like the stuff anyway, and my husband loved it, so now I make two large loaves (round, size of pizza pans) at our home and bring one to my SIL's home, and the other we drop off where my husband's aunt (a nun) is in a nursing home. My SIL also scrapped some of the Christmas Eve dishes my MIL made, which she had always hated. Your house, your rules!

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  23. We started our own traditions that reflect who we are because we are different from both sides of our families. I bought a birthday ring that we now use for all our birthdays. I made individual birthday crowns including the adults! These are Steiner/Waldorf influenced. When our son turned one I made him a strawberry birthday cake from our strawberry patch. We will do this every year because we harvest strawberries in the Summer season. Slowly I am building seasonal traditions that reflect our family, environment and our individual personalities.

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  24. My mother always read to me at bedtime. I always read to my children at bedtime. My daughters read to their children at bedtime.......We also have elaborate traditions for Advent and Christmas time......And certain meals that are traditional at our summer cottage. I think, actually, we have quite a lot of traditions.....It does add something special and extra to life and I think it is great for children to experience these things. It makes them more grounded and secure and I hope, happier.

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  25. We also have a tradition my mother began of making Angel Pie (not unlike a Pavlova) for birthday instead of cake. After I grew up, I didn't continue this until my oldest daughter was 16. And then it lapsed again, but now I think someone will have birthday with this instead of cake, at least once a year.

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  26. Yes!! I often feel as if I have no family traditions as my family is so disjointed - but I have taken this approach too :) I wrote on my blog recently about a tradition I am starting for my daughter each year - just a simple thing but it is a way of honouring time and her. The family table is SUCH an important one too!

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  27. I've loved reading everyone's family traditions and I know a young lady who is in the same situation. I too am I survivor of an alcohol-fuelled violent home. Remember family is what you make it. My family is made up of my step-father who is a wonder roll model to myself, my two children and grandson in addition to this there is my children's partners. I have traditions with wonderful friends also. Cherish what you have. Good news many years ago my father took himself to rehab twice and has been sober for many years, he asked for forgiveness last year but couldn't fathom how I would be able to forgive. I'd forgiven him many years ago. We now speak on the phone about once month and have a good laugh. I haven't seen him in over 25 years. I have no interest in bringing him into my family circle however knowing he took the hard journey to heal that I had no choice but to take as a young teenager gives me peace. You'll be amazed what you can heal from if you choose too.

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  28. Over our recent Independence Day (July 4th) holiday Matt and I realized that we've started a family tradition. See, we sell tie-dye at a 4th of July craft show/street fair celebration. At dark there is a big firework show. Now Matt's parents and brother (and his wife) come and meet us to watch the fireworks. It makes me happy. I like traditions. New ones and old ones.

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  29. Its an interesting issue, I like many, come from a blended family with certain members of the family (and in particular their sexist, homophobic and racist comments) low on the list of people I´d like to spend time with. My twin brother committed suicide a few years ago and I felt compelled to spend time with these people to keep my grieving mother happy.It was awful. More recently, I´ve moved overseas and am looking forward to creating traditions with a family of choice :)

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  30. I believe that each family may carry on traditions from generation to generation, but also believe that your own family traditions will grow with you, as your family grows. We use my mother's Christmas pudding recipe each year, which was her mother's! We also started our own tradition (borrowed) of purchasing a 'special' tree decoration each year for each child, and once old enough they chose it for themselves. These are stored in a special box and when they leave home they will take these and start their own Christmas tree with them. Our children are late teens but the decoration buying day is still a favourite and choosing is done with great consideration ;)
    My husband had greater flexibility of work when the children were little and so would often be home with them when they were unwell. They still talk fondly of the trips to Shorncliff (seaside village) with Dad when they were sick-he believed the breezy, salt air would do them good and if possible some fish and chips. It always seemed to work wonders!
    Enjoy the family times and watch new traditions develop as you go!

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    1. It's such a great idea! (The Christmas ornaments.) I'm now sorry my kids are so big already (10 and 8) and I didn't begin earlier! On the other hand, they will need ornaments anyway when they are old enough to leave home, so we might start those collections anyway.

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  31. Making new traditions is one of the joys of motherhood.

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  32. I'm waaaaaaaaay late on this one, but perhaps someone will find my comment. I, too, grew up in a very dysfunctional family. The one thing my mother did--and I'm not quite sure why--was cook big holiday dinners for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's and Easter. (She might not have done anything else, but she did that). I have been married for over 40 years, and while we established traditions of our own (some based on my husband's family), I still cook big, traditional holiday meals. Also, when our kids were young, we established the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas morning. Although my kids are 36 and 38, we still do Christmas on Christmas morning--at their insistence. I still fill the cheapie fleece stockings we bought for their first Christmases. My son lives some distance from us (575 miles) and works on the days surrounding Christmas, and sometimes Christmas Day. So, since we're retired, we pick up and take Christmas to him. And, yes, I cook the big dinner. I have focused on Christmas, but we have made our own traditions in many area--things that work for us--and they seem pretty entrenched in the next generation. However, they are making their own, too--my son wants lasagne on Christmas Eve. Well, he can cook it, LOL.

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