Children need predictability and strong family traditions provide that—that’s why we anticipate Christmas so much! And although Christmas is one holiday brimming with tradition, it shouldn’t be the only time these unique family customs come into play. The calendar is filled with fun holidays that have terrific tradition potential.
Besides that, traditions don’t necessarily require a holiday at all; something as “ordinary” as getting ready for bed, eating breakfast before school, or planning a family home evening can be a great opportunity to create a tradition.
In the Kitchen
In most homes, the kitchen is the busiest room in the house. With such a popular area already attracting the family, why not take advantage of the space by creating some traditions focused specifically around the kitchen?
- Set up a cooking class schedule with your kids. Let your children choose something they’d like to eat; then, gather them together for a class on how to prepare it.
- Make it a regular dinnertime occurrence to get the conversation started by having your family fill in the blanks to statements like: “My favorite vacation memory is…” or “My favorite movie is…” or “I think the world would be a better place if…”
- Once a month prepare each family member’s favorite meal.
If traditions are meant to develop a sense of home, security, and peace, then there’s no better place for that than the comfort of a bed.
- Story time is a great tradition to start (or continue). Kids learn to enjoy books and parents get some cuddle time. If your kids are a little older, maybe you can read a novel separately and then talk before bed about what you’ve been reading and what will happen next!
- Turn one summer night into a special summer family campout—but don’t leave home to do it. Pitch a tent in your own backyard, spread out the treats between sleeping bags and tell each other stories as you eventually drift to sleep.
- Every once in a while have a sleepover in mom and dad’s room—regardless of the ages of your children. Pile the blankets on the floor, have a pillow fight or two, and share with each other your hopes for one another.
“When we were teenagers, almost every single night that any of us were out, my mom would wait up for us. She would lie on the couch in her pajamas and watch the news. If it were really late she would watch a movie, usually Sabrina. Then we always talked for a while when we got home before we went to bed.” –Marci Morgan, Blackfoot, Idaho
Teaching children to find value in their heritage and preserving family memories is a great basis for a new tradition or two.
- Create an annual ancestral dinner and have your family prepare food from a country of your heritage. This is also a great opportunity to include Grandma and Grandpa; invite them to your dinner and have them share stories of their parents and grandparents.
- Bring out your box of mission mementos and pictures and share it with your family over a dinner of the area’s best cuisine.
- Setting aside some time as a family to work together on baby books, photo albums, and scrapbooks is a great bonding activity. Encourage your children to keep school photos, report cards, letters from special occasions, and anything else that marks an important moment in their lives.
It’s Your Birthday!
Birthdays are a great opportunity to express how excited you are that the birthday boy or girl came to be a member of your family. Many times, these special days also come with some very distinct traditions.
- Retell the story of the day your child was born. Was she on time, or late? Did he have hair or was he bald? How did the other siblings react when baby came home? Kids love to hear these special stories that are just about them.
- There are many special treats that you can incorporate into a family member’s birthday; they don’t require much thought, but they help create terrific memories. Here are a few ideas: use a special birthday plate or birthday hat at dinnertime; decorate the child’s room in the middle of the night; mark the child’s yearly growth on a wall to compare to previous years; create a funny birthday song just for your family; as you sit around the table, have every member give the birthday person one sincere compliment.
“For our birthdays we get to choose the meals and we don’t have to do our chores.” –Adam Riley, Henderson, Nevada
Happy Holidays All Year Round
Holidays are important because they’re a break from the everyday and they give us a reason to come together and celebrate!
- Write down a family resolution and seal it in a letter to be saved for one year. On New Year’s Day, open your letter from the previous year and discuss how successful your were in accomplishing your family goal.
- Remove the Christmas ornaments from the tree and decorate it with New Year’s decorations like balloons, noisemakers, party hats, and streamers.
- Adopt traditions from other countries. For example, in Spain the people place a grape in their mouths for each stroke of twelve—usually resulting in a funny, sticky mess. In Greece on New Year’s Eve, children leave their shoes by the fireside with the hopes that they will be filled in the night with little gifts and sweets.
- Make up silly “Roses are Red…” poems and place them in spots your family will find later on in the day like in lunch boxes or book bags.
- Send your spouse a love letter in the mail.
- If you’re a father, give your daughters a rose; if you’re a mother, give your sons a heart cookie.
- Make a dinner out of only green food (e.g., spinach, green colored mashed potatoes, grapes, Jell-o).
- Place one four-leaf clover cutout under someone’s dinner plate. The person who discovers the clover at the end of dinner is exempt from cleaning up.
“For St. Patrick’s Day, the ‘Leprechauns’ leave us treats and we always have a dinner of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. The tradition continues even though some of us are away at college; I still receive Leprechaun packages.” –Nikki Buckmiller, Holladay, Utah
- Every Easter, write your testimony in a letter and place it in your children’s Easter baskets.
- Include a new gospel-related item in your Children’s Easter baskets such as a picture of the Savior or a bookmark with a scripture written on it.
- Make a tradition of holding a family testimony meeting before or after Easter dinner.
“We always eat Easter dinner at my grandparents’ house and afterwards, all the children go outside for an Easter egg hunt in the backyard. Then we all come back inside and have a family home evening lesson with all of the aunts and uncles and cousins.” –Allison Green, Scottsdale, Arizona
Fourth of July
- Make a birthday cake for the country. You could even place sparklers on top for the birthday candles.
- Have everyone in your family decorate a white T-shirt with red and blue fabric paint to wear to the fireworks display.
- Help your children put on a Fourth of July pageant in which they can recite a portion of an important document such as the Declaration of Independence or the Gettysburg Address.
- Create Halloween gingerbread (or graham cracker) houses as an alternative to the Christmas version. Use bright orange, purple, and black candies and frosting, along with plastic spider rings and cotton “spider webs.”
- Hold an annual extended family or friend trick-or-treat party. Use a hollow pumpkin as a soup serving bowl, make “brain” jello, and serve spooky punch (using dry ice). Have the family members or friends trick-or-treat to different rooms of the house.
“We always have a fun night a few days before Halloween where we all carve pumpkins together and my mom helps us roast the pumpkin seeds to snack on while we’re carving.”—Sam Reynolds, Houston, Texas
- Play alphabetical gratitude around your Thanksgiving table and have everyone name something for which he or she is grateful with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet.
- To help pass the time before dinner begins, have the extended family gather together for an annual game of flag football.
- Place a strip of white butcher paper on top of your thanksgiving tablecloth. Have markers or crayons also placed along the length of the table. Have the guests write down some of the things for which they are grateful throughout the dinner with their name written next to those items. Then gather after dinner to read the gratitude notes.
“For Thanksgiving we have dinner and then watch a movie. We all fall asleep watching it. Before big dinners like Thanksgiving, my family always makes cheese and cracker plates and a vegetable plate and they’re always gone by the time the dinner is ready.”—Andrea Bosley, San Jose , California
- Make an addition to your family’s advent calendar by including service activities that accompany each day such as: clean a sibling’s room, help mom set the table, shovel the neighbor’s walk, take around Christmas treats to the neighbors, etc.
- Have a Christmas talent show in which everyone can sing or play a Christmas song, or recite a Christmas poem.
- Make an annual tradition of choosing a family or person in need and then buy gifts or food for that family to deliver anonymously.
- Each day at breakfast during the week before Christmas have everyone draw slips of paper from a container. One of these slips will be marked with a star. The person who draws the starred paper is that day’s “Christmas Angel.” For that day, it’s this person’s responsibility to do random acts of service and then mark the location of the act with a piece of a paper with a star on it.
“We have a prime rib dinner at my grandma’s house and then after dinner Grandpa reads the Christmas story while all us grandkids act it out. Then, my grandma gives everyone matching pajama bottoms that she’s made. We all put them on and take pictures and then we wear them home to sleep in that night. –Addison Thomson, Pocatello, Idaho
“On Christmas morning, the living room was blocked with hanging sheets. We lined up youngest to oldest, but our parents would only let us go through the sheets one at a time. With eleven of us, it took a long time. You’d keep hearing ‘Whoa! No way! That’s awesome!’ It was torture for the kids at the end of the line! –Adam and David Marriott, Holladay, Utah
“Sometimes Dad travels for work, and whenever we get to go with him, we get a Christmas ornament. Mom and Dad started it when they were on their honeymoon to Vail, Colorado . One of our favorites is a bat ornament we got from Carlsbad Caverns .” –Julia and PJ Peterson, Eagle Mountain, Utah