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Newsletter: December 2013

Five Tips for Creating Family Traditions

fireside marshmallows

Few times of the year are as steeped in tradition as the December holiday season. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or nothing at all, the traditions you practice as a family any time of the year strengthen your family’s sense of identity and contribute to a greater feeling of belonging. Traditions ground us; They remind us ‘this is who we are as a family.’ Plus they set a time and space away from the hubbub of everyday life—which is something we all can benefit from.

Here Dr. Anne Fishel offers some tips for creating new traditions:

  • Consider what a particular holiday or event means to you. Is it about keeping hope alive in the darkest time of the year? Then maybe find ways to incorporate candles or fire. Is the holiday about giving? Then brainstorm fun ways to give presents, like a mini grab bag, or making cookies, pictures, soaps or whatever you all vote on for each other or for friends and neighbors.
  • Keep in mind the activities that your family most enjoys doing. Is it listening to music, or making art, playing games, exploring nature, or cooking? Include these activities as much as possible in your traditions.
  • Traditions often have objects associated with them that get imbued with special meaning—a pie recipe that has been handed down through generations; reading The Polar Express before bedtime on Christmas Eve; the lighting of the menorah made by your son when he was in preschool. Embrace your family’s unique objects and try to include everyone when these items are brought out and displayed.
  • Ask the elders in your family how they used to celebrate a holiday when they were children. Often they will have recipes, games or songs that they would love to share with future generations.
  • Record the tradition in some way—with a picture, an entry into a journal or a recipe book. Recording traditions helps younger children remember past experiences and lets them see what came before them.


This month members of The Family Dinner Project share their own traditional family recipes. Try Annie’s sugar cookies, Grace’s banana bread or Amy’s blintze recipe.




Upside Down and Backwards.
Start a breakfast or dinner tradition around the theme of upside down and backwards! Maybe it’s once a month—or once a year—but pull out all the stops. Have breakfast for dinner: Dress in your favorite pajamas and eat pancakes, cereal or eggs. Invite friends, or the stuffed animals. Or try dinner for breakfast! Cold pizza anyone? Or if you’re feeling really crazy, an occasional dessert-before dinner-evening (say an ice cream appetizer?) never hurt anyone. You can also think of other activities that might go along with an upside-down tradition, like reading bedtime stories at breakfast or having dinner in bed. It’s your family’s tradition, so get as kooky as you want!




Our conversation starters this month focus on the theme of tradition. For younger kids, be sure to give specific examples of traditions to help guide the discussion.

Ages 2-7

  • If you could create a new tradition for our family, what would it be? Or how would you change a family tradition we already have?
  • Come up with three silly new traditions for the world. Or for aliens on another planet!
  • Name your favorite tradition for each season, e.g. drinking hot chocolate in winter.

Ages 8-13

  • Pick someone you’d like to start a tradition with. Who is it? What would the tradition be? Anything goes.
  • Have you ever participated in a tradition from a culture other than your own? What was it? How did you like it?
  • Create a brand new holiday along with new traditions for the world. Describe the what, when, why and how.

Ages 14 -100

  • “I’m content to stand on tradition. I’m even more content to wipe my feet on it,” said author Aaron Allston. What do you think he means? Have you ever felt that way?
  • What was your favorite tradition when you were a child? Have you passed that down to future generations? Will you?
  • What traditions or rituals do you practice in your life right now?

Have a safe, happy and connected holiday season. If you start any new traditions, please let us know on our Facebook page!

John Sarrouf