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20 family tradition ideas to strengthen bonds and make memories

December 17, 2021 - 19 min read

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What are family traditions?

Why are family traditions important?

20 family tradition examples

How to keep family traditions going

Self-care as your own tradition

The importance of spending time together as a family is indisputable. Having healthy human connections with our family members is crucial for our social well-being and overall wellness.

Yet, according to research, the time families spend together doing a shared activity is significantly low. American families spend just 37 minutes of quality time together per day.

One of the best ways to reconnect with your family is through family traditions.

Whether you have a long-standing tradition you’ve been doing for years, or you’re looking for a new family tradition, we’re here to help.

Let’s explore the importance of family traditions in today’s fast-paced world, as well as some great ideas for new traditions for your household.

What are family traditions?

A family tradition is an activity or pattern of behavior that reflects a family's values, interests, or beliefs. Once established, it will hopefully be passed down through the generations. It represents your specific family unit and is like your own family culture. 

The traditional nuclear family is less common today than previous generations.. Blended families, extended families, couples without children, and chosen families all have traditions too. 

These families may not span several generations. But even if they’re brand new, they’re something that should be celebrated. 

Even a friendship group or chosen family, can consider themselves a family and create traditions that resonate with them.

Some family traditions may have symbolic significance. Your family might travel to a specific location as a site of celebration — much like a religious pilgrimage. But while tradition is commonly associated with religious rituals, it can also be a secular event.

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Anyone who comes from a home that celebrates family traditions can attest to the powerful bonding potential of these occasions. It’s a moment in which your family commits to spending quality time together. 

With time and a little effort, every family, no matter how big or small, blended or chosen, can establish a unique set of traditions. These traditions can connect them to one another and to themselves. 

What are some common family traditions?

Many families around the world share common family traditions. There are certain celebrations and holidays that give family members the time to come together and do something as a family. 

Here are some examples of common family traditions from around the world:

  • Decorating the Christmas tree as a family. Although this tradition is connected to a religious holiday, it has become widespread around the world. In the US alone, 94 million households will have at least one Christmas tree during the holiday season.
  • Hiding baby teeth under a pillow for the tooth fairy. What started out as folklore from the Middle Ages has become a widely practiced family tradition.

What are family traditions unique to certain cultures?

While they may be common in their country of origin, there are family traditions that are unique to certain cultures.

Let’s look at some examples of unique family traditions from around the world:

Why are family traditions important?

Family traditions vary in how they’re celebrated, but they all have a common thread of importance:

Creates a sense of comfort and security

The value of ritual should never be underestimated. In our increasingly chaotic and fast-paced world, we tend to go through life with a sort of tunnel vision. This coping mechanism can manifest as an all-consuming short-sightedness and anxiety that chips away at our free time. 

Establishing a family tradition that happens on a set day creates a sense of rhythm and order. Despite everybody’s busy schedules, setting aside time is incredibly important for nurturing family connections. This is grounding and comforting amongst the unpredictable world we live in.

Gives a reason for the family to get together

You shouldn’t need an excuse to spend time with your family. That being said, sticking to a date is often necessary to coordinate everyone’s jam-packed schedules.

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Creating a family tradition encourages respect and commitment. You are much less likely to cancel on a time-honored family tradition than a casual lunch. These celebrations give family members something to look forward to and bring them together. 

Promotes a healthy work-life balance

Because of COVID-19, remote work is now a way of life for millions of Americans. While telecommuting has its benefits, it can also make it difficult to achieve a work-life balance.

Since the workplace is where you spend the majority of your time, it may be tempting to isolate yourself from the rest of the world. But celebrating family traditions encourages us to invest time and energy into our personal lives as well.

Creates good family dynamics

Many family members lead vastly different lifestyles to their relatives. But these celebrations are an opportunity to set aside your differences. Even if you all have different interests and opinions, you can bond over your shared family experience.

Celebrating family traditions nurtures relationships between family members. This connection is priceless and fosters positive family dynamics.

Gives family members a sense of belonging

Family traditions foster a family identity that gives each member a sense of belonging and personal pride.

When you feel safe and secure in these family connections, you have a base of emotional support to return to throughout your lifetime. 

A sense of belonging to family and community is essential for social and emotional well-being

Keeps cultural or religious traditions going

In some cases, family traditions and religious or holiday traditions go hand-in-hand. This is because your culture and religion are typically learned from your family at a young age. 

As you grow up, you might feel as if you are drifting further and further away from the values and rituals of your familial culture or religion. This is an excellent opportunity to reconnect with your roots and strengthen your spiritual wellness.

20 family tradition examples

What are some unique family tradition ideas you can start with your family?

Whether you’re looking for inspiration for new traditions or trying to understand what old ones may look like, this list can help.

1. Swim on the first day of spring

Collect your swimsuits and head down to your favorite beach to celebrate this symbolic moment of rebirth with your family.

2. Make homemade gifts for Christmas, Hanukkah (or birthdays)

Homemade Christmas gifts communicate your love and authentic appreciation. They also allow you to avoid the consumerist rush of the season.

3. Go hiking in the same place or at the same time

Spending time with your family in the great outdoors is a healthy and energizing bonding activity.

4. Have a movie night

Cuddle up by the fire to watch a classic family film together. 

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5. Visit the same restaurant

Eating a family meal together is one of the most ancient and sacred forms of socialization. Start a family tradition of visiting your favorite restaurant, whether for a birthday, anniversary, or just because.

Beyond the pleasure of sharing a meal, eating together as a family also has psychological benefits.

6. Do a family digital detox

A survey found that parents only spend 24 more minutes with their kids than on their phones

Start a family tradition of taking a digital detox once in a while. Turn off your devices to connect with each other instead of your social media contacts.

7. Take up a new activity as a family

Start a tradition of learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby as a family. While everyone may already have their own interests, learning something new together is a great bonding experience. 

For example, combine family time with exercise and take up online yoga.

8. Start a gratitude jar

Express your gratitude by writing down what you appreciate about your family. Place it into a communal gratitude jar that you can later reflect on. 

9. Do something for the community

Studies show that any act of altruism is connected to positive physical and mental effects. Benefit from these effects as a family by giving back to the community together.

10. Go camping

Escape the city and take your family on a camping trip. Being in nature without constant technological stimulation allows you to connect with your family in a deeper and more heartfelt way.

11. Celebrate the full moon

Synchronize family time with the celebration of the new moon to establish a monthly tradition.

12. Ritualistic fire ceremony

Every New Year’s Eve, write down what is on your mind and burn it in a communal fire. Use this ritual as an act of appreciation and letting go of the past year. 

13. Cook family recipes

Cooking and sharing family recipes is an excellent way to keep your family’s culture alive.

14. Make a family scrapbook

Start a tradition of coming together to print and assemble family photographs. This ritual allows you to reflect on special memories together. 

15. Game night

A fun family tradition is hosting a family game night. Every Friday night, gather around the dinner table and play your favorite board game for some healthy family competition.

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16. Show and tell celebrations

Present special objects and share their stories with your family members. Use this tradition to gain insight into your family history and the lives of your relatives.

17. Talent show

Showcase your learned skills and appreciate the talents of your relatives at a family talent show. 

18. Family interviews

Conduct casual family interviews to gain greater insight into the hearts and minds of your family members. 

19. Fruit picking

This activity is a sweet excursion that the whole family will enjoy. Afterward, you can feast on the fruits of your labor. 

20. Decoration days

Come together to set up decorations for your favorite holiday. Building a Sukkah for Sukkot and draping it with paper chains is a traditional family activity in Judaism. But you can get creative with any holiday, from Holi to the Lunar New Year. 

How to keep family traditions going

If there’s no effort to maintain traditions, they will probably die out. Use these tips to keep them going year after year:

Get input from the whole family

A family tradition should be a moment of connection and celebration. Every member should feel as if their voice is being heard and respected. Collaborate on ideas and be receptive to new suggestions and compromises.

Do something everyone is interested in

Every family member needs to be somewhat invested in the family tradition for it to be sustainable and meaningful. Find a common interest and capitalize on that.

Set aside time for family traditions

Family traditions may fall to the wayside without proper planning and time management. To prevent this from happening, use time blocking to set aside time for the occasion. 

Keep it simple

Overcomplicating a family ritual may detract from its fun aspect and make it a stressful affair

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Keep it simple, genuine, and inclusive. Remember that a family ritual is meant to be a moment of relaxation, connection, and appreciation. Skip superficial measures and focus on what is really important

Take a break from technology

Technology is the ultimate distraction and barrier to connection. While you may be tempted to photograph every moment of a family celebration, try to be present and capture the moment mentally. The less technology is present, the more present you and your family members can be. 

Stay positive

Remember that not every family tradition will always be a smooth-sailing easy affair.

While family comes with an abundance of love and support, it may also come with a number of internal tensions and challenging histories. Be sensitive to this and don't give up on fostering strong familial ties. Maintaining healthy boundaries is a way of taking care of your family relationships.

Be open to change

You might need to alter family traditions as the years go by in order to preserve their longevity. Be willing to adapt to change. For example, you might need to compromise to cater to generational differences as the children of the family grow up.

Self-care as your own tradition

Nurturing familial connections is just as important as investing in your relationship with yourself. It’s challenging to feel authentically connected to others when you are not connected to your own emotions and needs.

As much as we love our family, bringing the family together can cause a lot of stress and worry, especially during the holiday season. Combat this stress by taking a moment for yourself and practicing self-care.

Everyone has a different understanding of self-care. For some, their morning jog might be essential to their self-care plan. For others, it could mean dedicating time to mindful breathing or visiting a therapist every week. 

Ultimately, as long as it is a healthy habit and it works for you, you should prioritize it. Investing in your relationship with yourself is an investment in every other relationship in your life.

Start family traditions to strengthen family bonds

Family traditions play a key role in the overall health and balance of a family. Whether you’re reigniting old celebrations or starting a new ritual, family traditions foster a sense of unity and appreciation. 

Everyone deserves to have a healthy relationship with their family members. The sense of belonging and network of support that family provides can create resilient happiness in an uncertain world.

If you’re seeking more insightful life-coaching tips or want to improve your holistic well-being, chat to BetterUp today.

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Published December 17, 2021

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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