By Gayla Grace

Do you have fond memories of family traditions as a child?  Are you creating some traditions with your own family?

Family traditions offer a sense of belonging to family members and are especially important for blended families when relationships are being developed. My husband and I married 16 years ago in October and each of us brought two children to our marriage. 

When our first Christmas rolled around, we wanted to make it special for our children. So, we began exploring what traditions we would start as a new family.

Our traditions were very simple in the beginning because our children were young. I voiced a strong opinion on reading the Christmas story from the Bible as a family on Christmas Eve. I wanted to keep the focus on the real reason we celebrate Christmas, the gift of Jesus Christ, before we opened our gifts under the tree.

Other traditions our family started include driving through neighborhoods to gaze at Christmas lights and attending a local light show.  I have fond memories of all the kids, piled in the car, “ooh-ing and ahh-ing” at the best-decorated houses and ending the night by singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” as we headed home.

As a blended family, we wanted to honor traditions our children were engaged in with their other family. But one tradition that was carried out in both homes was selecting and decorating a tree together. I have wonderful childhood memories of picking out a tree with my three sisters and going home to decorate it while enjoying lively conversation and beautiful Christmas music in the background. I was determined to carry out that blissful tradition with our blended family. But, I soon discovered …     that wasn’t possible.

Each year my husband and I would make time to gather our four children together and hit the streets for the best looking tree we could find that fit our budget. But every year, we ended up with grumpy children who were fighting over what tree looked the best. We also noticed that the kids were competing with each other over what sized tree they had at their other parent’s home, creating further tension and division.

After several years, my husband and I decided to forego the stress-filled tree-shopping excursion and buy an artificial tree. It was sad for me at first to admit that our family couldn’t enjoy the same blissful tree-shopping experience my family of origin had. I wanted our family traditions to be a way of uniting our family, though, and I knew this tradition wasn’t working for us.  I soon discovered that the new tradition of retrieving the artificial tree from the attic, putting its branches in place, carefully arranging each string of lights and actually enjoying our time together was worth the change.

It’s never too late to start family traditions or alter those that aren’t working. Traditions need not be fancy or costly. They are put in place to offer a sense of belonging to each member of the family as he/she connects with one another through purposeful activities. What meaningful traditions will you start with your family this year?