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How to Create Your Own Family Traditions

Sue Riedl

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Trained chef and food journalist

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Family traditions don’t have to be complicated or time consuming, but it is good to have them. They give kids special moments to remember, rituals that provide a sense of belonging and identity. They also strengthen bonds in the family and impart family values.

What’s most important in the choice of your traditions is to make sure that everyone is having a good time—and everyone takes part.

Traditions around meals
If Sunday dinners are too much work, you can make Sunday “pancake day.” Or visit a local diner for brunch each weekend, somewhere that starts to feel like home. During a busy week, pick Friday night to get take-out and always choosing a different cuisine—Thai, Chinese, Indian. Even pizza night at home can be fun; everyone gets pizza dough and adds their choice of toppings. Ice cream sundae contests can be a weekend patio ritual in the summer, with everyone competing to build the most creative, delicious ice cream treat!

Traditions around playing together
Even indoor game nights can get you moving a little when you play charades or create theatre for the family. Movie nights may seem obvious, but you can turn them into “festivals” with animal movies one month and action/adventure the next. Kids and parents can take turns programming. If you have a cottage, see who jumps into the chilly spring water first each year—and who wimps out. Summer fun can mean organizing a summer Olympics, with events like balancing an egg on a spoon and building jelly bean sculptures. For rainy days, start a long-term game of cards and watch those points grow over the years.

Traditions around holidays or birthdays
Add decorations to the house that reference each parent’s cultural background and serve food traditional to your family roots (this could be great-gran’s jelly salad or potato latkas). Make a ritual of opening gifts in a certain order. Birthdays could include a special cake or a speech about the person being celebrated. Strawberry picking might signify the start of summer, and a family pumpkin hunt mean Halloween is on the way.

Traditions around memories
On rainy days, before sitting down in front of the TV, make a ritual of looking at family photos or old family movies in albums or on the computer. You can also take turns making digital slideshows for each other’s birthdays or for special occasions.

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