How to Start Family Traditions

There was a time when I didn’t understand the importance of establishing and maintaining family traditions. I have always grown up with family traditions but I didn’t really know that was what we were engaged in and I took for granted the power they had in unifying and bonding our family together. As I grow older I am realizing how crucial they are in establishing fundamentally strong relationships with those people in life that matter the very most—my family. There are three questions about traditions that I want to attempt to address. I didn’t really do much to keep traditions alive until I had some sort of answer for these questions.

  1. What is a family tradition?
  2. Why are they important?
  3. How do you establish a tradition?

I also have some ideas to share that may help get you thinking about traditions you could implement or maybe already do and just don’t know it.

What is a family tradition?

Noah Webster defines a tradition as: “The delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites and customs from father to son, or from ancestors to posterity.” Wow! A tradition can be much more than just a custom. We all have some traditions and those traditions influence who our children will become. I want to focus on those customs or practices that become tradition. For my purpose here, a tradition is simply something you bring all of your family together for and that you repeat getting together for periodically. Traditions can be practiced across the spectrum of daily to weekly, monthly or yearly.

Why are traditions important?

Noah Webster also says “children derive their vernacular language chiefly from tradition. Most of our early notions are received by tradition from our parents.” This things are REALLY important whether we are aware of it or not.

In our society of rushing from here to there, appointments and deadlines can force us to overlook traditions. Time just moves on and unless we make a conscious effort to do something together on purpose, then lets face it—it just doesn’t happen. Our lives could use more time spent intentionally rather than just letting the time pass without our attention. When all is said and done where will we be fifty years from now? We will be somewhere but is it living with peace and satisfaction knowing we have done our best with the time we had? Is time still being spent with those beautiful children we love, nurtured, and raised?

Sometimes I picture myself after all the kids are grown and gone from home building homes of their own and I wonder to myself, “Have I planted enough good seeds that my children love to come home to spend time in the memories of their childhood? Have I done my best to forge strong ties that keep my children coming home again and again no matter what big things come into their adult lives? Do we still love and cherish our time together and fight to keep getting together because we would rather be together than doing other things with anyone else?”

Traditions give families regular opportunities to celebrate in a common purpose together. There is a unifying spirit that prevails when everyone knows they are gathered for the same purpose. Families who regularly participate in a shared interest feel more connected to one another. I know in my family that when we are together we gain a deeper love and commitment for one another. I am more willing to open my heart to members of my family. Spending time together helps me feel like we are invested in each other.

How do you establish a tradition?

Establishing a tradition is as simple as repetition, repetition, repetition….with a purpose. Just make a greater effort to focus ON PURPOSE. I heard someone say once that “99% of all success is showing up and sticking to the task at hand.” It has become a motto that I try to live by. I have seen the fruits of this principle as I have made greater efforts to act. Time doesn’t stand still for any of us and the more we concentrate on living and acting with purpose the more we will accomplish the great things that right now are only dreams. We will never regret the hard work of trying to maintain traditions in our families. In fact, the memories they bring will be some of the most rewarding and soul satisfying experiences of our lives. When we grow old and look back on what has become of us and our children, we will feel deep satisfaction and peace.


[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”40″]Non-holiday Traditions[/su_heading]

*A friend mentioned to me one day that she was doing “mommy-me time” with her kids. It was a privilege they earned after doing their chores and being good. They got to spend a certain amount of time doing whatever they chose with their mom. I have adopted this and modified it for one-on-one time with my kids. They don’t have to earn it. I just randomly say during the week “It’s mommy-me time.” The kids get so excited. They each get thirty minutes alone with me and they choose the activity we do together. The only rules are that it can’t cost money, involve electronics, or me taking them in the car somewhere (that would take up our thirty minutes and when there are little ones that can’t be left alone it’s not a feasible option).

We have had coloring contests, practiced sewing skills, practiced cross-stitch, gone on a run through the neighborhood, ran to their favorite hang out spot outside, played basketball, played board games, jumped on the trampoline, baked a treat, played make-believe with cars, trucks and dolls, and the list could go on.

We generally set a timer so everyone gets his or her full thirty minutes. It has proven very successful. If you ask, some of my children will say say mommy me time is their favorite thing we do together. We have created lots of bonding moments by keeping this tradition alive.


*We invite another family over for treats and games or just visiting at least monthly. We have created many other family friendships doing this and our children love having an excuse for a party! As we were setting up our family mission statement, some of the children mentioned this as being an important thing that we do as a family.


*We like to make regular times for mom to read a fun chapter book at night before bed. All the kids lay in their beds and I read outside their bedroom doors. This is such a good time for everyone at our house because the kids don’t have other distractions to take their focus away. Generally they are very quiet and listen happily because it means they don’t have to go to sleep just yet. We have read many books this way and had many late night discussions that have helped create a universal love for books and a chance to talk.


[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”40″]Holiday Traditions[/su_heading]

*Valentines Day—Each year since early on in our marriage I use this holiday to help us remember the events of the past year (yes, I have skipped some years and that makes me all the more real right?! It doesn’t matter. I just make a mental note to do it next year. Each year that I have done it has still been worth it J). On paper hearts I write down one memory we’ve shared over the past year. I usually just write a brief sentence or even just a few words that help spark the memory. It may seem challenging at first but it soon becomes fun and the memories start flowing. For example: “setting up our fish family”  “poking your head out the window to smell the Russian Olive trees”  “Biggest loser challenge. You eat and exercise your guts out. Everyone is frustrated the “skinny kid” is winning”  “bumper to bumper traffic from Las Vegas to L.A.”

I tape about fifty or more of these (It doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s only 20) up on the kitchen cupboards, on my husbands office door at work or all over the inside of his car.

Over the years the kids have gotten involved and they make their own hearts full of memories or just things they love about their dad.  They have written things like “You taught me to be truthful”  “You take me to scouts”  “You take us to church every Sunday”  “Cabellas to shoot guns”  “I like it when you play ball with me.” The cut out hearts get saved and put in a memory box. As the years go by they are so fun to pull out and reminisce over.

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