Sunday, September 18, 2011

Cultivating Traditions

With a little one on the way, I have been thinking quite a bit about the home environment I want to create for my growing family.  For much of my life, I’ve taken my own upbringing for granted.  It is only recently that I’ve realized that my parents put much effort into providing my brother and I with a home that was stable, warm and loving.  The many traditions that my parents cultivated played an important role in creating the loving atmosphere in which we grew up.  Some of these traditions were passed down from my mother’s parents, and others were created by my parents, but they all were adopted with intention and great deliberation.

Having been married just over a year, my husband and I have not had the time to develop our own traditions, however, that may turn out to be a advantage of starting a family so soon since traditions would drastically change with a child anyway.  My husband’s family and upbringing were quite different than my own, therefore, we face the task of deciding which traditions we will adopt and which we will create from scratch.  I think it is quite natural that each person thinks his or her family’s traditions are better than others, so I worry that there might be some conflict regarding those that we are most attached to.  Unfortunately for my easy-going husband, I can be quite stubborn, and this doesn’t bode well for compromise (it’s something I’m working on, I promise!). 

Just this week, I’ve been reminded of a particular birthday tradition in my family: calling and singing “Happy Birthday” to the birthday boy/girl, leaving the entire song on voicemail if the phone isn’t picked up (and then calling later and singing again when we finally get through).  This has always been normal to me, and I’m sure it is to many other families, but both my husband and my dad (both who married into this tradition) think it’s kind of hokey, especially since everyone in my mom’s family does it, so you hear the entire “Happy Birthday” song many, many times throughout the day.  But no matter how hokey it is, it makes the person feel special.  My mom told me today that my dad was joking about it when she was receiving those calls on Friday, her birthday, but he woke up this morning on his birthday and said happily, “Today’s my day to get sung to!”  He appreciates this over-the-top birthday call because it shows that my mom’s family really loves him and cares, which is all the more important because his family hasn’t acknowledged his birthday in years.

I’m not just thinking of major celebrations or holiday traditions, but also about the everyday traditions that develop in the household - discussions around the dinner table, how the family spends weekends together, how an A on that difficult test is celebrated (or if it is celebrated at all).  I believe the way these small events are handled are just as important, if not more, for teaching children about family, love, and virtues as are the major holiday celebrations.

There is no reason to plan out all these traditions before our baby is even born, because I know that they will change and evolve on their own, however, I want to make sure that we continuously evaluate what values our traditions will project to our children.  Does the way we celebrate Christmas emphasize the miracle of Christ’s birth over materialism?  By packing our weekends with activities done individually, are we failing to nurture relationships within our family?  Do we have any family traditions that teach the importance of compassion and community?  Overall, do our traditions reflect love?

How have decided which traditions to include (or exclude) in your family?  Do you reflect on the values that these traditions impart to your children?


  1. We lived so far away from family for the first 5 1/2 years of our marriage that we had little trouble forming our own traditions. Now that we are back in the same state as my husband's family, we don't know how things will look this year. I do, however, think it won't be too different than how we have always done things. We are a "set" in our own family traditions at this point, and with 3 kids, it'll be hard to part from that.

  2. Oh, this is a big one in our family. Both my husband and I come from rich traditions...and wanted to cultivate that even more in our own immediate brood. I think something we talked about adding (even more) was a stronger sense of faith/Catholicism in our every day. Celebrating Saint's feast days, really taking the time to do something each day for Advent, Lent, etc. We are STILL such a new family, that I'm sure this will evolve over time...but we have high hopes! I suppose, just like anything, it's taking one step at a time and seeing what works...and what doesn't. What is feasible for two grown-ups and a baby...and what is needed for two grown-ups...and two toddlers ;)

    I love thinking about this topic though! Good luck making up your own traditions!

  3. Traditions are so interesting to me!! My mom tells me about traditions my dad and her merged and I think about people I worked with there christmas traditions were so strange to me.

  4. I look forward to creating traditions with my future family. I am married right now so our traditions are basically still the traditions of our families because we are expected home for every holiday. We do make an effort to eat the table every night, which will make eating at the table every night when we have kids that much easier.

    Thank you for this post! Traditions are so important in life and in the Church!


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