Family Traditions to Build Stronger Connections

Updated February 18, 2021
teaching a girl to make pastry dough

Traditions play a key role in the overall health and balance of a family. Family traditions include ideas, attitudes, and actions that are passed down through generations and celebrated. They are not just habits and holidays but also values, beliefs, and family culture that serve as an anchor for future generations.

What Makes a Tradition?

There are routines, and there are traditions. The two sometimes feel similar, but in fact, are very different. Routines are practices that you perform day in and day out. Family traditions differ from routines in the following ways:

  • Traditions are done with purpose, even when they are small in nature.
  • Traditions include intention and emotion.
  • Traditions enhance life experiences and create connectivity.

Who Are You? Look to Your Family Traditions

Self-discovery can be an intense process, and as you find yourself, you may feel lost or confused. When in doubt, look to your family traditions to remind you of who you are and where you came from.

A Sense of Identity Is Built Through Strong Tradition

Children develop a sense of identity through sharing traditions with their families and carry that sense throughout their lives.

  • Family traditions provide the perfect avenue to reinforce values, culture, and faith, which is a crucial part of identity. Ethnicity and identity are tightly woven together and perpetuated through family traditions such as religious holy days like the Hindu's Diwali or the Jewish family celebrations of Rosh Hashanah.
  • Family traditions are unique and self-identifying ways families gather to honor traditions and pass on beliefs.
  • Tradition reminds people that sometimes the past can help to mold the present and the future.

Family Traditions Support Family Values

Family traditions often coincide with family values. The aspects of life that a family cherishes, respects, and emulates can come in the form of tradition. Think of common family traditions that focus on beliefs and values.

  • Attending a church service with your family
  • Volunteering to feed the poor once a month
  • Spending a day assisting the elderly

Worship and helping others are both values and by weaving them into meaningful family activities, they become a tradition over time.

Families Share Culture, Religion, and Faith

Culture, religion and faith, all owe their survival to maintaining family traditions. Many religious holidays carry special significance when family traditions are observed. While the holidays vastly differ across cultures, families celebrate them by including specifics such as food, song, dress, and storytelling. Most importantly, no matter the culture, the gathering, and the love is the center of the event.

Jewish family light Sabbath candles

Family Traditions Are Emotionally Beneficial

Cherished traditions give family members far more than a good time. They provide emotional stability and security to family members that help them connect to the world and achieve peace and balance in themselves.

Traditions Are the Tie That Binds

With family members strewn all across the globe, it is sometimes shared traditions that help you feel a part of something larger than yourself. It's hard to feel lonely and disconnected when family tradition is all around you. When families share traditions with each other, they are connected emotionally and also many times physically, as they engage in tradition making and celebratory behaviors.

When Feeling Down, Rely on Those Memories

Family traditions create opportunities for making positive memories. When members gather to commemorate milestones and celebrate successes, they create moments in time to carry with them always. The intention of celebrating together serves as an underpinning for nostalgia and fond recollection. Children who grow up with these positive memories look forward to recreating them in their future life, keeping the concept of tradition alive.

Traditions Create a Sense of Security

Traditions are meant to last, and events that come back around make people feel rooted and safe in something. No matter what is going on in the world, family members can count on their yearly traditions to assure them that they still have what is most important: each other and a sense of self.

Family Traditions Minimize the Negative Effects of Stress

Research indicates that family rituals and routines can buffer the negative effects of stress, leading to better medical and psychological health. Having a healthy family with a focus on family tradition is especially crucial during tough transition periods, such as adolescence. Gathering as a family and sharing beliefs, while enjoyable, is not just about fun. It also allows for critical psychological development.

Hindu's Diwali tradition

Keeping Traditions Alive

Making traditions is one piece to the puzzle, but keeping them going for generations takes devotion to the cause. So why bother to continue with the business of family tradition anyhow?

They Create Continuity

Family tradition is one of the main ways that certain practices and family culture get passed down through a lineage, and culture is so important. Anything with meaning in a family can be passed down or celebrated to help foster tradition.

  • Bake holiday treats using old family recipes.
  • Pass down a Baptism or Communion dress.
  • Use a special family platter for the Thanksgiving turkey.
  • Sing songs at celebrations that have been passed through the generations.

Connecting Generations With Tradition

Thanksgiving in the United States is a great example of a family tradition that can provide connection down through generations. It is the one holiday that almost guarantees the entire family gathering. Even though squabbles are inevitable, family members make the effort and sacrifice to be present. Everyone has a primal need for connection and emotional support, and traditional, multi-generational family gatherings can provide this.

Family eating Christmas dinner

Examples of Family Traditions Across Cultures

Family traditions often mark specific events and milestones. Here are some examples.

  • Christening - a Christian tradition of blessing babies and toddlers in the presence of family and friends
  • Bar mitzvah/Bat mitzvah - the religious initiation ceremony of a Jewish boy or girl who has reached the age of 13 and is ready to take part in public worship
  • Quinceañera - a celebration of the girl's fifteenth birthday, usually of Hispanic heritage
  • Thanksgiving - popular American and Canadian holiday focused on gratitude
  • Kinaalda - a coming of age celebration for females in the Navajo Native American culture
  • Butsudan - in Japanese culture, offers are made at in-home altars to deceased family members
girl in Quinceanera outfit

Fun Family Traditions to Try on for Size

Creating strong connections through family traditions can be very simple. In fact, you are probably already creating traditions with your family without even knowing it! Simple ideas for family traditions include:

  • Weekly game or movie night
  • Annual father/son BBQ
  • Grandparent/grandchild talent expo
  • Family swap-a-recipe
  • Sewing a confirmation dress with grandma
  • Drive around looking at Christmas lights
  • Bake Christmas cookies with extended family
  • Sunday afternoon brunch with Grandma
  • Having a cousin sleepover on certain holidays
  • 4th of July BBQ at the family lake house

Making Family Tradition Work for You

Family traditions are important and beneficial, but as you embark on your own adult life path, must you keep everything just so? Nope. This is the true beauty of life; it is always changing. You can alter traditions as you begin celebrating with your own family to fit your unique beliefs and values.

  • Remove traditions that don't work for you and hold little value or meaning.
  • Create new traditions! Continue with the ones that are dear to you, but as a parent, make new traditions that your own family will love and enjoy.
  • When incorporating new aspects of tradition into your own family, take things slow.

Approach Family Traditions Positively

Family traditions are not meant to be one more thing for you to try to fit into your already jam-packed life. They are geared to enrich and connect, not burden. Approach traditions in a positive light, and you may discover that they were far more beneficial than you originally thought them to be.

Family Traditions to Build Stronger Connections