Family traditions are an important part of our family stories. They give us and our children roots and a sense of belonging. They are a way of honoring our ancestors and welcoming new family members in. For those who have emigrated or whose families live in far flung corners of the globe, traditions are a way of staying connected and sharing with your children your heritage. They give a sense of comfort and continuity in a country that is new, different and unfamiliar.
Traditions also pass on important family values and create wonderfully warm, positive childhood memories. They allow us to share the stories of loved ones that have helped play a part in who and where we are today hands on.
In today’s busy world, though, we often seem to be too exhausted or stressed out to make time for family traditions. Even dinner time seems to be consumed by scrolling on our phones rather than acknowledging and connecting with those around us. So how do we keep traditions alive without feeling like this is another ‘to do’?
Traditions don’t have to be complicated. In fact, good traditions are simple and make you feel happy and connected with loved ones.
Traditions don’t have to be complicated. In fact, good traditions are simple and make you feel happy and connected with loved ones. They can be anything from having a meal together, reading your child a bedtime story, or getting together for the Holidays. At their core, traditions are often about doing something together that allows you to remember your loved ones and makes you feel good. They can and should adapt over time to accommodate and welcome new members of the family, but also change to suit those that are keeping them alive.
For example, if you remember you nan single-handedly cooking a 6-course Thanks Giving or Christmas meal for everyone, but you are no good at cooking, rather than get stressed out and feel you have to live up to her cooking prowess, adapt the tradition to suit you. Get all the family to bring a dish each, or cook together to take the pressure off. The aim is to connect, share family stories and memories, laugh at old jokes and relax together. Traditions need to grow over time – to incorporate the essence of those you want to remember rather than causing more stress.
There are a number of traditions that I remember growing up – from having Christmas biscuits and making an Advent wreath for December, lighting one candle each Sunday until Christmas Eve – to going on a (very early) Sunday morning swim with my Dad and siblings each week (now that I am a parent myself and cherish every hour of sleep I can get, I am even more in awe of how my Dad allowed us to get him out of bed each Sunday morning at the crack of dawn to drive us to the local pool…).
Another memory and tradition that stands out for me is making homemade mayonnaise with my Mum. The very first time we did this, was when we lived in South-East Asia and I think she had run out of things to do with me and I was getting grumpy. I must have been only 3 or 4 and she sat me on the kitchen counter top, separated the egg yolk from the egg white and very slowly started whisking sunflower oil into the egg yolk bit by bit. Before my eyes the yolk gradually turned into this glossy, delicious mayonnaise that I was allowed to taste along the way, adding a bit of salt and garlic. I don’t remember what we ate the mayo with all those years ago, but still today, if I feel like I need a little comfort, my instinct is to make mayonnaise. My children, too, now sit on the countertop and taste as I gradually add oil to egg yolk and make mayonnaise for my family.
I have also taken on new traditions that my husband’s family cherish – they love going on long walks in the countryside and stopping off along the way in the middle of nowhere for a pint in a pub, and a packet of crisps and a juice for the kids. They have a particular place their whole family returns to each year in Scotland and a very special lake that they all walk around every year to honor the memory of loved ones, times gone by and the future generations. We do the same with our children each year and they love that lake as much as their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and we do.
But, we have also created new traditions as a family unit that are not passed down and are special to us. Every night, my children and I share what the best and worst bit of our day was and why. It gives us a chance to reflect and be grateful for everything that we have, and also learn from the things that we didn’t enjoy so much. In the run-up to Christmas we all go to the Pantomime and on a steam train ride to meet Santa. We also combine the English and German Christmas Holiday days and everyone is allowed to open a present on the 24th and 25th of December.
About the Author:
Our blog here at STORYNA is written by us – Linda and Anika. As cousins we both grew up in Germany and spent many summers together at our grandma’s house. Today, we live in the US and UK and share not only some of our family, but also our love for real life-stories. Anika lives in London with her husband Matt and three little ones.