Whether you already have your own meaningful family traditions, or your family is new and you need some inspiration to create some, these resources can help. There are over 15 tradition-starter ideas here, as well as tradition-building books for you to read for further inspiration. Take the time to build some new family traditions this year!
Why is it Important to Keep Family Traditions?
All throughout my childhood, my family was adamant about our traditions.
- The first fire of the season was lit on Halloween, even if that meant we turned on the air conditioner. (I’m from California so the air conditioner was on a lot come Halloween.)
- We read scriptures and a “fun” book every night, Mom lying in the hall between our bedrooms as she read out loud.
- We camped every year at the same KOA in Watsonville, California and visited the freezing cold Pacific Ocean rain or shine.
I have veritable armies of memories that sweep down my consciousness like Tevyah belting out “Traditions!” at the top of his lungs. Childhood was a a tricky thing to maneuver sometimes. Knowing what came with the next month or the next season was always a source of comfort to me.
Family Traditions Can:
- Bring peace in times of social or political unrest.
- Create a sense of fun anticipation for children and families experiencing trying times of any kind.
- Provide a framework to teach such skills as cooking, religious ceremonies, cultural values, history and storytelling, crafts, and so much more!
One of my personal goals as a parent is to seek after the best traditions and leave less illuminating ones behind. Thereby passing on wholesome traditions to the next generation.
How Do You Build Family Traditions?
Even as a child I knew that one day, I would want to give the gift of a steady stream of traditions to my own children. I also knew that I’d need to include traditions from my husband’s family. As well as new ones from other cultures and peoples that were also worthy.
The question became, how do I sort through all the possibilities to find the best ones that would help me grow a family?
Many family traditions are a current part of our family culture because they’re being celebrated already in every year and season. Forming new ones can be a challenge, though!
Sometimes this can be answered simply by doing digging through some family history.
- For ideas on how to involved children in that, please visit the post Homestead Kids Activities in Genealogy.
You may discover, as you learn the stories of your family’s past, that your great grandparents had traditions from their childhood that can bring joy to you today.
- For some families, the best traditions are the simplest ones. Angi from Schneider Peeps enjoys movie and pizza night with her family each week.
Other times, we simply need to do some research, especially from cultures and countries now our own.
To help with that, grab your copy of our latest book, Homestead Holidays!
How Do Traditions Strengthen Family Life?
To answer the question of how building family traditions strengthens family life, I asked a real homesteading family about their experiences.
“My family is all spread out, but when we would get together my grandparents used to make it a huge deal. Hors d’oeuvres would start around 1pm- hummus, veggies, pickled cauliflower, pita bread… We’d talk, play games, grandpa would turn on Sinatra in the family room and back patio and he and people would swing dance while he cooked dinner in his brick oven out back. Always very happy memories…”
Can’t you see the brick oven and hear the Sinatra?
Here’s a story from my family that’s shared as an excerpt from the book, Homestead Holidays:
…Christmas Day begins with “breaking through the barrier.” This is a tradition that comes from when my mom was a kid. My grandfather would set up a barrier at the end of the long hall that separated the bedrooms from the family room, where gifts and treats were laid out for waiting children. The barrier was meant to keep the kids, who seem to like to arise at about 5 am on Christmas morning, from breaching the family room before the parents were willing to get up.
This was a strategic move on my grandfather’s part because there was a cozy wall heater down that hall where my mom and her sister were all too willing to snuggle up together in front of that heater rather than holler to be let out into the family room. …
Do my kids have to wait behind a barrier on Christmas morning, you may ask? Of course, they do. I did this as a kid and loved it and now they must do it, too. This is a tradition my husband has nobly taken over in our household. Being an engineer, he has put together some awesome barriers over the years.
One was an intricate web of yarn and bells going across the opening at the bottom of the stairs. …My husband and I had to stifle laughter as we listened to the girls go wake up their brother so they could all work as a team to hold the bells and cut the yarn. Even my fourth-born, who was a toddler at the time, was allowed to get in on the action.
Several years later, that fourth-born outsmarted her father’s barrier with her own huge brain. My husband had hung a screen door across the space at the bottom of the stairs (as in, actually mounted a door in the frame) and then proceeded to “lock” it in place with a screwdriver shoved through an eye bolt. Said daughter was the first one up and had time to study the mechanism long enough that she realized she could use a pencil poked through a miniature hole in the screen to pop the screwdriver out of place and allow her to open the door. Her dad was impressed.
Then there was the year that Daddy made it home from the hospital in time for Thanksgiving but was still super weak from the surgery that had saved his life after a rapid brain infection threatened to take him from us. I figured we’d skip the barrier that year since he was still having a hard time with muscle control and memories.
But, no, tradition is tradition, and that Christmas morning found him at the base of the stairs in our largest armchair snoring away. He had made himself the barrier, and, wouldn’t you know it, it was that same daughter who figured out a way to use the banister and the arm of the chair to vault over Daddy and into the parlor. She didn’t get into her gifts or sneak treats; she just loves the challenge her father gives her every year.
This is such a little, silly thing but it’s a tradition that is imprinted on my holiday memories as something I shared first with my grandfather, who was the major male influence in my life, and now, with my children’s father. We always used to call my grandparents’ house “Grandma’s house,” even though Grandpa was there, too.
It is true that mothers and grandmothers are often the bearers and safeguards of traditions, ensuring they transfer well from one generation to the next. The “barrier tradition,” though, that’s one I hold close to my heart with the men in my family. I truly hope my son and eventual sons-in-law are willing to carry on this goofy family custom.
How Do You Establish Family Traditions?
You establish family traditions the same way you do anything worthwhile, especially when it might be difficult at first.
YOU MAKE A PLAN AND SEE IT THROUGH – THEN YOU SERVE TREATS!
Ben Shapiro once quipped,
Purim is like basically like every Jewish holiday – ‘They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat!’
Aren’t most holidays like that, really? We celebrate some victories, some defeats, always a bit of history and culture and, at the foundation of it all, the family.
If you’re just getting started establishing worthwhile traditions in your family, try some of the suggestions below. Several are seasonal or holiday-oriented, but other are simple and can be done at your leisure (like a Sabbath day).
Get some FREE tradition and holiday planning sheets when you join our newsletter family below. This printable resource has 20 pages of craft and recipe planning, tradition and party worksheets, as well as brainstorming pages for homemade gifts. Get started establishing your family traditions with these!
Sabbath Traditions, or Days of Rest
Whether you’re religious or not, having the tradition of at least one day per week of rest can be so beneficial for a busy family or individual.
For a Christian or a Jew (and others with holy rest days), the Sabbath is a sacred day. It is set apart from the other six days of the week. Or, at least, it’s meant to be.
What to Do for this Weekly Family Tradition
Sabbath days look different from family to family. However, at its core, on the Sabbath there is a cessation of the daily toil that usually consumes our days.
- In my house, that means that I prepare simple meals (dinner usually comes from a slow cooker).
- We all refrain from unnecessary chores (though the animals are still milked and fed).
- If I can do a chore the following day, I do.
- We don’t really “laze around”, but we do move slower, sit more often and keep things on the down-low all day.
Sabbaths are also a good time to engage in activities that are worshipful, reverent or feel appropriate to you. We will sometimes “work” on family service projects. These activities may require a bit of clean up, but the heart of the work preserves the feeling of devotion and peace.
- read together
- play board games
- have family meetings
- and a special family night.
- Our religious congregation meets on our Sabbath, so we also go to church that day.
Even if a religious Sabbath isn’t in your family traditions, I encourage you to start a new family tradition by setting apart one day a week for family togetherness. Read Chris’s article from Joybilee Farm where she talks about the importance of a rest day for busy homesteading families.
If birthdays have never been your thing, that makes them a great place to start when it comes to developing family traditions.
I’m not big on blowout birthday parties, lots of gifts and too much sugar, to be honest. I prefer much simpler affairs that focus on the person.
You may be different and love a big bash, and that’s super, have so much fun! However, here are some simple ideas for making birthdays special. Without going overboard.
- Homestead Honey is a homeschooling, homesteading mom who shares with us her experience with a Waldorf-inspired birthday for her child. (She has another delightful article where she talks about her daughter losing her tooth and the tradition they have for that.
- Read our article if you need to know How to Organize a Basic Party.
I would never presume to intrude on the special family traditions you already have in place for your holy day, or holiday, celebrations. Even families with few traditions will usually have special food traditions for the holidays, if nothing else.
However, it can be fun to learn what other homestead and farm families are doing.
Family Traditions & Holidays in Winter
We have a tradition in our family for Christmas that is actually held in June. It’s called Leon Day and it’s the day we do our family name drawing for Christmas gifts and gather ideas for homemade gifts.
- Here’s a fun recycled gift wrap tradition from Attainable Sustainable.
- We celebrate each of the Sundays of Advent, too. You can read Homestead Honey’s traditions with Advent here.
- Every year we put out a crèche, or two – or three. I really love them for some reason. You can read about how to make your own nativity sets here.
- From the beginning of fall through Christmas, we also do several service projects. Making scarves and hats to donate, and gifts for children like dolls.
- We also made baby quilts one year – that was so fun, even though I’m really not much of a seamstress. These projects help us stay focused on gratitude and joy at these times of year when it’s easy to get distracted.
Family Traditions in Spring
Easter has its own celebrations, too, including:
- Living Easter Baskets
- Blowing Easter Eggs
- Naturally Dyeing Easter Eggs
- Kulich – a must have food
- Observing, really observing, Maundy Thursday
And so many others. I hope these ideas give you your own to run with.
Really, you are the best person to decide what will work in your family. I encourage you to try a variety of different traditions from around the world.
Over time, decide which ones are the most meaningful for you.
Resources for Family Traditions
And, of course, you’ll need a great book.
We’d be pleased if you checked our our very own, Five Kernels of Corn! This makes a great homeschool unit study for the season, or simply a fun thing to work on with your grandkids. Being thankful is a deliberate way to be; we like to think we can help you out with that.
Other Books for Family Traditions
When I got married, my step mother gave me these first two books and I have always cherished them. The others have come into our family over time and are now great friends:
Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions is a simply lovely book comprised of Victorian based traditions, adapted for the modern family. The book does NOT have a modern feel to it, though, which I love. The information is organized by month, taking you through the year. The book includes beautiful pictures, interesting history regarding holidays and a warm, cozy feel throughout. She also has themed party suggestions and crafts, as well as recipes.
Festivals, Family and Food is another great one, especially for you Waldorf enthusiasts. It’s companion book, The Children’s Year, is a worthy sister. Both are full of crafts and activities that follow the seasons and holidays. The authors are British, which make them an even more charming read for this Anglophile. The Children’s Year has a greater focus on crafts, especially knitting and yarn crafts. The Festivals book includes snippets from literature and recipes. I like both but if I had to pick one, it would be Festivals, Family and Food.
We’ve also enjoyed learning more about Jewish holidays with this book, The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays – lots of stories, recipes and crafts! As Christians, we’ve really improved our Easter celebrations by celebrating Passover. We’ve made several of our holidays more meaningful by observing the yearly Jewish festivals in our own way.
Can you tell I have small children? Kids are like sponges full of Greek fire. They soak up everything and the more you throw on, the bigger their fire gets. They are so willing to be thrilled by all they learn.
I’m always so grateful that my best friends are all under ten years old because nothing is ever dull!
More Books for Family Traditions
Speaking of never dull, there’s a book we enjoy so much we keep it out on an easel and turn the pages from month to month to follow the year. This book is penned and illustrated by one of my all time favorite authors/illustrators/gardeners, Tasha Tudor. Just the title alone is inspiring, A Time to Keep. It follows a grandmother through each month as she tells her granddaughter all the delightful things they did in “the good old days”.
For another specifically seasonal book, geared toward adults but absolutely applicable to children, is this one:
With journal prompts, crafts, recipes and more this book will gently take you through the year.
Grateful for Traditions
I’m grateful for any chance to remember there is a time to every purpose under heaven and I am to practice being thankful in all things.
I am also grateful for the family I have and the traditions that root me to them. I am yet more grateful to be surrounded by great books and great mentors so that each day I can improve and strengthen the ties that will bind us no matter what is happening in the world around us. So here’s to the heart of any homestead – the home.
May you make friends with many new and wholesome traditions this year!
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