Carving pumpkins at Halloween and watching fireworks on the Fourth of July are part of our national culture. Holding neighborhood barbecues and New Year’s Day pot lucks provide us opportunities to meet and get to know our neighbors. Baking special birthday cakes and setting the table with a birthday tablecloth create a sense of belonging in families.
These are all traditions. Traditions are rituals that help us build support, connection and caring in our families, neighborhoods, schools and communities. Celebration of traditions creates a common bond and builds community. Often we celebrate traditions without realizing how they started or why they are important. Think about the traditions in your life. What are they? Why do you celebrate them?
Traditions can be created by intentional words or deeds to value a person or event in our life. If you want to learn more about older traditions, consult with elders to find out about the traditions of their childhood. Ask older members of your family or neighbors what they used to do. Think of what they say. Would it be fun to start a new-older tradition? Consider dropping May Day baskets on May 1 or eating black eye peas on New Year’s Day. Reviving something old will link older generations to today’s youth.
Celebration of traditions gives us a positive sense of self. Traditions that are based in our cultural heritage give us a sense of who we are and where our ancestors came from. Weaving cultural heritage activities throughout our daily lives roots us with a sense of purpose and promotes family togetherness. Working together with grandchildren, children, and parents to cook special foods, to sing songs, to dance ceremonial dances, and to hear family stories connects family members and preserves their heritage for future generations.
To preserve your traditions or to start new ones, follow these guidelines:
• Keep your traditions simple.
• They should be fun, inexpensive and not time consuming.
• Provide opportunities for all to be involved, from the youngest to the oldest.
• Look at your interests as a group and create an activity based in this interest.
Discuss your thoughts with all family members including the children. Ask for their suggestions on what to do or how to improve something you are already doing. Rituals don’t need to be complex to be meaningful. Finally, you may also want to start a traditions journal with your family to record the current traditions you celebrate all year long. In your journal, write all about it. Include recipes, pictures, and a brief description of your activities. Future generations will maintain and continue the tradition if there is a written record. Families with a strong sense of traditions and special celebrations are more likely to raise kids who have a strong sense of identity, are healthy, have close ties to family members, and succeed in school.
This is a great time of year to focus on traditions, either experiencing them through the holidays or including them in a New Years’ resolution. May your holidays be filled with your best traditions!