I LOVE FAMILY TRADITIONS. I know I’m wired with a particular inclination toward them, but I honestly wish them for every family. I’ve been wanting to write this post for awhile now, and have been trying to figure out how I can share how much I love the joy and fun that comes out of these traditions without sounding like I’m prescribing our specific traditions. Not everyone wants to trek out into the woods to cut down a Christmas tree. I get that, and it’s totally fine. An artificial Christmas tree can be as much a family tradition as a real one. The action doesn’t matter as much as the emotion that is prompted. There is so much goodness wrapped up in having family traditions, and they are the catalyst for so many memories! They create a sense of nostalgia, anticipation, consistency, and change from year to year.
We have several traditions that we keep – some that started generations before us, and some that we started on our own. These traditions are activities that we typically do as a family each year, in the same location, the same season, and the same way. They aren’t rigid or done begrudgingly though – anything like that, we would stop. I think family traditions that you keep should be something you really look forward to, and have the potential of lasting to the next generation.
Below are many of the traditions that we have in our family – they don’t have to be yours. This isn’t a list of things every family should do. For us, these are exciting and fun. For others, they may not be. My point isn’t that you should hold these traditions, but that I think all families benefit from things that they do together and get excited about.
Many of our lasting family traditions exist in the Christmas season. Even though it’s a really busy time, Christmas is one of the most exciting times for us, in part because of the traditions that we share together!
I’ve been cutting down a Christmas tree pretty much every year since I was born. It’s a tradition my parents and my grandparents held, and one that Leslie and I have continued each year since we’ve been married. Every year we experience a mix of nostalgia and newness. We visit a very familiar place (I’ve been to that same tree farm for close to 20 years) that we haven’t been to in a whole year. Some years it’s cold and snowy, and some years it’s warmer and you can see the grass. And each year, we walk out into the field in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Unlike the Griswalds, we’ve had a saw with us every time, and most years the tree does fit into the living room without breaking any windows. It’s an adventure and it marks the start of the Christmas season for us.
One really cool addition to this for us has been the taking of our kids picture each year in the same spot at that tree farm. It’s amazing to see them grow from year to year.
I’ve also been to see Santa Claus at Kelly’s Country Store since I was a little kid. I grew up on Grand Island, and this was the place to go to see Santa. In fact, here’s a video clip of me talking to Santa when I was two years old:
You can imagine how fun it was for me to start bringing our kids to the same place and talk to Santa. I look forward to it every year, and now Jackson calls Kelly’s, “Santa’s place” every time we drive by.
We have several other traditions around Christmas. Leslie’s family has a tradition on Christmas morning of reading the Christmas story and singing happy birthday to Jesus. She’s did that every year as a kid, and I’ve seen them do the same since I started celebrating Christmas with them. Our kids are now experiencing it – hearing someone read about Jesus’ birth from the bible and then singing happy birthday to him. We also set up trains around our Christmas tree. My dad did this as a kid, did it with me when I was growing up, and now Jackson is loving his train set up. He’s already talking about getting them out next Christmas. We bake cookies for our neighbors every year and take the kids around to pass them out. That’s been a really fun tradition for us to start. And of course, we have tradition in how we decorate for Christmas – we have several special ornaments for the tree that we hang up every year that remind us of different memories over the years and we go all out in our exterior decorating of the house.
Christmas offers a lot of opportunities for family traditions and memories, but it’s not the only time when they can exist.
We have a few family traditions in the fall. Two of them are tied in to Halloween. Obviously we’re not big on “celebrating” Halloween, but I do look at it as a chance to do some fun things together, enjoy the season, and make some memories. Every year, we visit Pumpkinville and pick out our pumpkins. This great location in the south towns of Western New York offers hayrides, animals to pet, a cider mill, and a ton of pumpkins. It’s a great chance for us to take a drive, see the leaves changing colors, and enjoy time together as a family. It’s also a place where we take recurring pictures:
These are just some of our family’s traditions. The summer includes a bunch more – visiting the Erie County Fair, Olcott, Kingdom Bound, and boating – each have their own traditions associated with them, and we look forward to the time every year!
Boating does deserve a special mention in the category of traditions. My parents instilled this absolute love for the water and for boating in me. Some of my best memories growing up are from our times together on the water and from our explorations of Thousand Islands (one of the best places on earth, by the way). My mom grew up boating – in fact, she and her family vacationed in Thousand Islands – and now my kids will too. Leslie and I both love being on the water, enjoying the sun and breeze, and visiting familiar places and exploring new ones.
As I said in the beginning, these traditions don’t have to be your traditions, but for us, they create excitement, anticipation, and moments where memories are made. It’s never too late to start making your own family traditions, and when you do, take a lot of pictures! They don’t have to be complicated, expensive, or difficult. Look for things your family would enjoy, look for unique experiences that they will remember, and consider making them a tradition! Who knows…your childrens’ children may be carrying them on years later, making their own memories in the process.
What family traditions do you have and love? What are you hoping to start as a new family tradition?