Family Traditions

I love family traditions. They are those things we don’t have to do, but we choose to do them as a family unit and we choose to keep doing them over the years. Built over time and uniquely ours, they act as a reminder of our commitment to not only stay together, but to enjoy being together. There is something magical about repeating loving actions and routines, which over time become associated with our sense of home and family.

While I am clearly a huge proponent of family traditions, I have also at times found the concept rather intimidating. Where does one even start?! With time, some creativity and a lot of trial and error; we have developed a selection of treasured family traditions and I want to share 5 with you, in the hope that they inspire you to start your own.

1. Make a fuss of Birthdays: Most people celebrate birthdays, particularly children’s birthdays. What I love is how each family (often unconsciously!) develops its own style to doing birthdays. In our family, we celebrate all our birthdays – because each of us is a loved and valued member of the family, irrespective of age and it is a great excuse to celebrate that! We usually start with a birthday cupcake at midnight – with a candle, of course. We do this every year so we expect to have it, but we still put on a good show of being surprised.  This tradition has stood the test of post-baby sleep deprivation and is firmly part of our family birthdays. For a younger child, we adapt this to a cupcake in bed in the morning.

We also have a breakfast in bed tradition – this is a favourite for birthdays, mothers’/fathers’ day, etc. – a really great way to celebrate a family member. If you’re looking for special breakfast ideas, some of our favourites are – French toast with bacon and berries, eggs benedict or pancakes with assorted toppings. We also decorate the kitchen table with cards and cake ready for the person we’re celebrating when they make their way out of bed. It is a simple but indulgent way to show love.

2. Keep Dating: When we got married, we promised to ‘keep dating’ – a commitment to continue to prioritise each other and our relationship. Over the years, our dates have looked different. When we were dating, we went out for a meal or movie every Friday night. When we got married, living together meant we needed to be more intentional about planning dates. Then, when we had our son, and couldn’t see life beyond this precious baby, some friends challenged us to ensure we kept date nights going. We started with takeaway and a movie at home after the baby was in bed. This one has become a regular feature as we quickly realised they work perfectly at the end of a long week and don’t require baby sitters. The downside of tired, movie date nights in is minimal conversation. And so, we started breakfast dates, once our son was settled into nursery. We’d drop him off and go for a coffee before we started work. On some indulgent weeks, we’d take a Friday off and have a day together with a walk, café and lots of conversation.

We have recently expanded how we define dates in our family. Earlier this year, my 4 year old overheard us planning date night and asked if he could go on a date with mummy. And so we started ‘mummy-son’ dates with hot chocolate, fruit juices and occasionally cake at our local café. Dates for us are treasured 1-1 time, building deep bonds and demonstrating our commitment to keep listening, talking and discovering new things about each other.

3. Set Goals: Each year, usually around December, we sit down to review our goals from the previous year and set new ones together. Setting goals is well documented to improve motivation and encourage achievement. It is a tailor made prayer list to invite God into our dreams and trust Him with them. For us, it has the added benefit of working as a team to achieve things we aspire to. When we set goals, we include finances, relationships to invest in, places we want to see, work goals, etc. We are careful not to be too rigid with these and review them through the year. They help us understand each other’s aims and desires for themselves and the family and give us a clear way to support each other. It is also hugely satisfying to look back after a year and be amazed at how much God has done.

We usually use coloured pens and craft paper to set our goals and make it creative. Bringing food into the mix is always a welcome addition. For goal evenings, we usually choose nibbles and drinks. It’s a great chance to each choose a few favourite snacks or street food and try a selection as we make our way through the discussion.

4. ‘Just us’ holidays: We absolutely love going away with extended family and friends but these ‘just us holidays’ have been crucial to building strong foundations in our family unit. We started these in our first year of marriage and committed to keep them going as our family grew. For us, these are 2 or more days set aside to go away with just the immediate family. We go on long walks, find local cafes, see the sights, play silly games. We often use these to review our individual and family goals and ensure we are supporting each other through them. It is a chance to have a change of scenery, a forced break from chores and a chance to enjoy being together.

5. Reclaim Bank holidays: Each country has its own list of bank holidays when schools are shut and most employers allow the day off. These are excellent days to reclaim for your family. As a multi cultural family, I love finding ways to integrate Indian culture with holidays in England. A firm favourite is our Boxing Day tradition, which involves dressing up in Indian clothes and eating an Indian family meal, with Indian music playing in the background. It is such a simple one to put together, but it is a real celebration of an important part of our family identity. It also helps Boxing Day feel like an event worth enjoying rather than a post-Christmas slump. Another one is summer bank holidays, when we usually have friends round for a barbeque, and my mum’s tandoori chicken is a regular feature.

The main thing to remember with family traditions is that they only work if they are yours. Don’t feel compelled to start something just because others do it – no matter how much you admire them. It just won’t work unless it is something that fits in with your family dynamic and the unique blend of personalities and interests within it.  If you feel intimated by the idea of starting new traditions or think it’s too late – it isn’t! Sit down with some paper and pen and think about if you have any already – the result might surprise you. Ask others in your family if there are any traditions they would like- start from there. If something doesn’t work, don’t force it – try something else. Let traditions evolve as the years go past, and your family grows and changes. Over time, through intentional investment in your family unit, you will have a unique, well-loved set of family traditions you will look forward to and treasure.

What are some traditions you have in your family? Are there any you may try? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Dorcas Harris
Dorcas Harris

Dorcas grew up in the foothills of the Himalayas and now lives in Bristol in the UK with her husband and four year old son. She enjoys home decor and believes in the transformative power of a fresh coat of paint. She is passionate about celebrating the seemingly mundane and adding a bit of sparkle to her corner of the world. Dorcas is the Co-founder of Spaces International, a small but ambitious charity, focused on social inclusion.

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  1. Oh Lindsey, thank you for sharing!I can so relate to feeling trapped by traditions! I think that’s why it was such a journey for me to reclaim the term, redefine it for our family and most importantly, make it fun! I strongly believe in the ‘family’ part of the term- if it doesn’t work for your family, it’s not worth it! I love that your children are getting involved, it takes the pressure off you, and gives them a sense of ownership. Food is a firm part of all our traditions too, it adds an extra layer to the experience. We usually go for easy options like you to ensure it’s more fun than stress!

  2. Really interesting to read how you capture cross-cultural traditions.
    I’m tradition-phobic, having felt trapped by my family traditions that I was obliged to follow even though no-one enjoyed them!

    When I started my own family, I challenged all my traditions, and our own “new” ways evolved quite naturally – Gone is the Christmas turkey that no-one liked anyway (and I hated spending the day in the kitchen!). We now have indian food from a local restaurant – sometimes as a car-picnic at a deserted beauty spot – while the rest of England are preparing their turkey and veg.

    For birthdays, we don’t do a lot of gifts or events, but the birthday boy/girl chooses what we will eat. Sometimes it’s takeaway pizza, other times, my homemade cottage pie. But there is always chocolate!

    I love that as my children have grown, they have come to own their traditions, and aren’t afraid to “tweak” them to keep them fresh.

    • Of course, is it even a celebration without chocolate?!!! Love that you have Indian food on Christmas! 🙂 Yes I’m enjoying making are own little family traditions too. It’s fun to have the kids involved and excited, and I can’t wait for them to grow up and add their own ideas to how we do things 🙂

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