At this time of year, it seems like traditions are everywhere. You hear friends talking about how their traditions involve opening their presents on Christmas Eve or going for a Christmas Day walk or singing carols at unsuspecting homeowners. Other families might always watch a certain film together or have a special breakfast. Whatever their habits are during the festive period, the word “tradition” is never far away.
The great thing about having family traditions is that they bind your family together. They’re ritualistic and they should be something that everyone looks forward to. Yes, there are traditions that we don’t particularly enjoy (visiting some family members can fall into that category), but there are plenty of positive traditions that help to cement the bond between your family members.
For children, having a set of traditions to look forward to year after year offers comfort and security, along with building excitement and anticipation. Traditions become an anchor in a world that can be unpredictable and scary, especially as children get older. Along with this, family traditions generally take place away from their peer group and so they’re more likely to relax and enjoy the things you do together rather than trying to be standoffish because their friends think something is boring or stupid.
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Let’s clear something up right now – the word “tradition” might make it seem as though we’re just talking about so-called traditional families, but that isn’t what making traditions is about. They’re for every family, however that family’s made up and whether it includes friends or neighbours too.
Some families already have traditions that have been passed down from their parents, but others aren’t so lucky. As well as that, there are traditions that have become outdated. For instance, gathering around the television and VCR with an old copy of It’s a Wonderful Life has likely been replaced by an HD TV and a Blu-ray copy of the film. However, the best traditions evolve as they’re passed from generation to generation. You have the opportunity to tweak them and add to them as your lives develop. Best of all, you have the opportunity to create brand new traditions that define your family and that are really something to look forward to.
If you’re stuck for ideas over which Christmas traditions might work for you and your family, start by considering these options. They’re just springboards – the traditions you develop and tweak for your family will be tailored to your tastes and your family’s habits.
Christmas Eve boxes – While Christmas Eve is exciting for kids, it can often feel like an obstacle course for parents who’d just rather like them to go to sleep. Christmas Eve boxes are an option that give kids something to open the night before Christmas that will be extra special and complement the big day. New pyjamas are a popular one, along with a Christmas book that matches their age. The box itself can be as simple or as elaborate as you’d like – and it might even link with the bigger gifts they’ll receive on Christmas Day.
Exchange homemade cards – Handmade Christmas cards don’t have to be for friends and distant relatives. Instead, why not make it a tradition to not only swap Christmas cards between yourselves, but also to make them together too? If the idea of crafts triggers a cold sweat, just remember that it’s about the act of creating and giving, not about the end result.
Have a Christmas clear out – This one serves two purposes. As well as being a family activity that you do together and can have fun doing (show the kids some of your old clothes, they’ll laugh and laugh), it’s a practical step when presents are on the horizon. Kids will be far more willing to declutter if they know they’re getting new stuff, and it can turn into a charitable act if you donate them clothes and toys for other families to enjoy.
Create a Family Mocktail – What could be more satisfying than curling up on the sofa on Christmas Eve with your special family drink in everyone’s hands? It might take a little finessing, and you’re probably best tweaking an existing recipe unless you’re a pro mixer, but it’ll be something that’s uniquely yours.
Dedicate a Night to Board Games – The period between Christmas and New Year can drag on, especially once the excitement of Christmas Day has faded. Scheduling in some time for family board games, perhaps on Boxing Day, can be a great festive tradition that lets you spend some time together as a family.
Watch a Favourite Film – Depending on what your own family traditions were, you might already have a film that you watch religiously every Christmas. As mentioned above, It’s a Wonderful Life is a festive staple for many families, along with the likes of Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas. But there have been plenty of brilliant Christmas films released in the last 20 years, so why not start a new tradition with a film like The Polar Express or Elf? You could even make it your family’s mission to watch as many interpretations of A Christmas Carol as possible – there are plenty out there!
If you don't want to watch any Christmas films, a favourite like the latest Disney Planes or Minions movie are great for bringing the whole family together. Jump on the sofa, get some pop corn and enjoy!
Christmas can be stressful, but it’s the little moments that generally make it worthwhile. Creating family traditions that everyone can look forward to and enjoy is something that can sustain you and your family through even the toughest festive season. Remember, too, that traditions don’t have to be fixed – as your family evolves, they can evolve too.
A great family tradition is one that makes you smile when you think of it. It’s one that you look forward to and that you want to continue year after year. If you have traditions like that already, hold on to them. If you don’t, go ahead and create some.