No matter what holidays you celebrate, fall and winter celebrations typically involve family gatherings, feasts of holiday-specific food, and reflection, all of which means these times offer perfect opportunities to create fun new traditions with your family. Family traditions give us a sense of belonging and say a lot about the beliefs and customs we value. So get creative and choose something meaningful that reflects your unique family culture.
To get you in the right frame of mind, start by thinking about the holiday traditions you and your spouse loved growing up.
- Did they involve games or activities?
- Sweets and storytelling?
- Holiday dinners at a specific relative’s house?
You may want to incorporate some of those things into your new traditions. Also, consider how you already like to spend time together and the values you live by.
If you've never thought about your family values before, now is a great time to figure them out! It helps to begin by imagining what kind of people you hope your kids will become when they're adults. Here are some common values that are important to cultivate in families: honesty, empathy, generosity, patience, creativity, humor, financial stability, a commitment to social justice, tolerance, curiosity, and perseverance.
Need some concrete ideas for new traditions that help teach values and make great memories? Below are some of our favorite suggestions:
Give Gifts Beyond The Family
Most holidays have some component of gift giving. Instead of (or in addition to) the usual present exchange, wrap some toys and other items to donate to organizations working on issues that you're passionate about. Or forgo gifts entirely and organize a fundraising party to help support people who need it. Even better, make this a year-round tradition.
Keep A Family Journal
Every year, each person writes down their annual reflections and hopes for the new year in a notebook. And each year, the evening begins with people reading and ruminating on their responses from the year before. Once you have a few years' worth of responses in there, it's pretty interesting to see the changes and similarities.
Brainstorm New Traditions
Ask everyone in the family to brainstorm some ideas for a new tradition. Schedule a meeting to discuss and choose one. Then you could do it annually, or every year come up with a whole batch of new ideas and pick one (making the brainstorming and decision making the new tradition).
Celebrate Others’ Traditions
Every culture has its own holiday traditions, with both unique and overlapping themes (after all, many winter holidays originated from Winter Solstice celebrations). There are so many you could learn about (and cook a holiday treat from a different culture every year until the kids are out the house!) and not even come close to covering all of them.
Try anyway! You’ll be rewarded with rich stories, a broader historical and cultural view of the world, and a cornucopia of delicious food–jerk chicken, chicken groundnut stew and sweet potato pie on Kwanzaa; latkes on Hanukkah; baklava and tharid (pieces of bread in a vegetable or meat broth) on Mawlid el-Nabi; chocolate coins and tangerines on St. Nicholas Day; sweet and savory tamales on Las Posadas Navideñas; and Yule pig and wassail on Winter Solstice.
Whatever you choose, holiday traditions are ultimately about spending time together and creating memories with family and friends.