Yes, family traditions matter, even if they’re small. Or silly. Or both.
This time of year always brings out the fondest of memories from my childhood. Why? Because most of them are deeply rooted in holiday traditions practiced in our family, year in and year out.
Some of the traditions are big and take more commitment to maintain, such as going to the mountains for a long weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving. While there, we eat nearly the same menu and do the same activities every year.
Other traditions are much smaller and may go unnoticed by an outsider. Say, for example, the same birthday cake my mom baked for each birthday when we were kids. The cake we would gather around, eating directly from the pan – only after we’d eaten a piece on a plate in proper fashion, of course. This silly tradition is one that unites our family. And one we introduce newcomers to as our family has grown.
Traditions – big or small – do not develop overnight. They are nurtured over time. Building and maintaining family traditions gives a family a sense of unity. Their development creates special memories shared together. They also have the ability to anchor the family in times of difficulty or ambiguity.
I’ll never forget the (only) time we swayed from our tradition and instead traveled to California for Thanksgiving. That was the year my parents divorced. The thought was that doing something different would help distract from the fact that one crucial person – Dad – was missing from our celebrations. There was probably no good solution in lessening the changes we experienced, but all I remember from that Thanksgiving was crying on the floor in the bathroom of my aunt’s house alongside my mom and sister. Instead of one thing being different, EVERYTHING was different. Particularly since my brother had chosen to stay behind with our Dad. It was, as you say, a learning lesson. The following year, we resumed our usual tradition and headed for the mountains.
That’s not to say that traditions cannot evolve over time. They do. As we’ve added spouses to the family, we’ve learned what’s important to them and incorporate those activities, as well.
Now that I have my own young family, my husband and I get to decide what things are important to us. Some traditions will be intentionally developed. Others will accumulate over time as our kids get older and show preference for certain activities.
We are building the foundation for the traditions our children will experience throughout their childhood, and (hopefully) look back upon with great fondness.