Why Every Family Should Have Traditions (and Ideas for Starting Them!)

By: Susan Ragsdale

Pizza Fridays. “Chick Flick” Mondays. Attending college basketball games. Making fudge for Valentine’s Day. Hunting for Easter baskets in the house. Watching black and white horror movies the whole week of Halloween. Telling what we’re grateful for at Thanksgiving. Shopping for stocking-stuffers Thanksgiving night. Putting out the Christmas village. Winter sledding. Making my grandmother’s Jam Cake. Sausage pinwheels for every celebratory breakfast we ever had. Taking walks in the neighborhood. Playing Rook. Having homemade soup every ballgame night (so we wouldn’t overeat before running!).

These are just a few of the traditions and rituals in my family – most involved food because that was one of my mom’s sparks. Cooking was how she expressed love. These activities were things to look forward to for the holidays and during the week.

Traditions are the “glue” of family togetherness and the fodder for creating fond memories and strong family identity. They can be big things or little things, done within any family year to year (or shared from generation to generation). They can take a week or 5 minutes. There are no rules to family traditions--except to have fun! You don’t have to do the same things that another family does. You can create moments that are distinctly and uniquely your own.There’s no wrong way or right way to go about it. There’s just what your family makes happen.

I was fortunate enough to have experienced firsthand the value of having meaningful traditions and routines ingrained into our family life. We regularly shared in family meals and spent time together doing activities from shared interests (which, by the way, research tell us are powerful things to do to strengthen families).

Traditions can be super-easy to incorporate into busy lives. Below are some simple ideas to spark your thoughts on what traditions you might want to think about adding into your own family time:

1. Homemade Pizza Nights – My husband and I both had this tradition growing up every Friday night and continue to practice when possible to this day (with a movie).

2. Home from School Greetings – Make it a ritual to ask your children about the best, worst and funniest parts of the day and share yours, too!

3. Dog Pile On Dad – With youngsters, nothing is more fun that to dog pile on dad.

4. Daily Send Off – Jake and his Dad created their own special “send off” salute for whenever one of them was leaving the house. Handshakes or salutes can be as cool or as silly as you want.

5. Adopted Phrases – Consider an established back and forth verbal routine. Ours started when my mom asked, “What am I going to do with you?” after I did something silly. I spontaneously answered, “Keep me!” She laughed so hard, and somehow, that became a ritual just for us.

6. Messages – Put notes in lunches or use a white board to leave messages of love or quotes of encouragement to each other.

7. Park Exploration – Mark the transition to spring by greeting it in person with a stroll, bike ride, or run in the park.

A few ideas to enrich the holidays . . .

1. Queen (or King) for the Day - I knew that every birthday, I got to pick the meal AND the cake. It was my day. That was our tradition.

2. Mother’s Day - Make a special plate or mug that is used only for Mother's Day, then make and serve mom breakfast in bed. We spelled out “mom” with crescent rolls.

3. President’s Day – For over 25 years, my friend David gathers with extended family for a three-day weekend of playing cards and board games. It is during this game-a-thon that family recipes are passed down from generation to generation as teenagers come of age and learn how to make home-made noodles and other key recipes that are religiously prepared every time at this weekend event.

4. Thanksgiving/Black Friday Reversal – Some very close friends celebrate see a movie on Thanksgiving Day and have the big meal on Black Friday - less stress, more peace and more time to prepare.

5. Christmas – We read aloud Dickens’ Christmas Carol every season to remind ourselves of what is important and to keep perspective during the holiday chaos.

Are you on Pinterest? I've pinned some of my favorite craft projects on my virtual pinboard. Some I did as a child, and some I do today with the kids in my life. Check them out here. Enjoy!

Tell Us: -->I want to hear from you! What are some of the traditions your family has that you really love?


Image via Hammer 51012 on


[...] 1. As a family, talk about what you like and dislike about Thanksgiving. Your kids may surprise you: some really enjoy annual traditions while others get bored with them. Get ideas for starting fun family traditions here. [...]

[...] parentfurther.com, is a list of ideas for enriching the Holiday season.  Save the big meal of Thanksgiving for Black [...]


I love your ideas and I’m sure your family is thriving on all of the love and fun that the members share. The “home from school greeting” is so needed today. Parents must find time to listen and respond to their children and their needs. Otherwise, the influence of peers, TV and technology will become more important to them. The two related articles, “Family Traditions and Children,” and “Is Family Mealtime Important?” may be of interest to readers. Click below and on the title of your choice.

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