Traditions are long-standing customs that are handed down from generation to generation. So “new traditions” is somewhat of an oxymoron. Still, when your family dynamics change, it’s a great time to start new customs for you and your spouse. This is the month of March and not December—when we normally think of family gatherings and customs. But it is also a time when other celebrations occur, and we may want to start observing new holidays that we haven’t really paid a lot of attention to before.
At my house, we celebrate Jewish holidays as well as Christian ones, because my husband is a messianic Jew. That means that by heritage he is Jewish, but by faith he is a Christian. So our holidays run from Passover through New Year’s Eve. It hasn’t always been so. When the children were small, we occasionally held Passover or Hanukkah celebrations, but not from year to year. Yet three years ago, we decided to form some new traditions.
So with Passover less than a month away, followed closely by Easter, it’s time to examine some new ideas.
How to create new traditions
Depending on your beliefs and ethnicity, you may have holidays that fall during the spring, the summer, the fall and the winter. Perhaps you made a big deal of St. Patrick’s Day if you’re Irish or Semana Santa (Holy Week) if you’re Hispanic. During the time the kids were growing up, you gathered extended family together and celebrated with traditional foods, games, and rituals. But your family has scattered to the four winds, and it’s time for you and your husband or wife to find new ways of remembering the holidays that are important to you.
First, have the discussion
Sit down together and talk about the traditions that are important to you. What holidays have special meaning? What about things you do that don’t revolve around holidays? Like going to Waffle House on the way home from church each week, or watching the NFL playoffs in late winter. What parts of the celebrations have particular meaning to you? Perhaps it is a particular food or getting dressed up or lighting candles. Make a list and decide which ones really matter to you.
Choose one or a few to celebrate
It’s probably not a good idea to try to establish new habits and customs for a whole year all at once, but you may want to focus on some specific ones that don’t involve extended family. Perhaps you want to travel somewhere new and different, or visit a favorite restaurant. It can be as simple as Saturday afternoon bike rides or watching the latest play at a theater. Traditions tie us to each other, and establish patterns that make memories.
Some wonderful ideas for new traditions
- Eat by candlelight.
- Use the good dishes.
- Take a walk or a hike on a favorite trail, or find a new one.
- Watch old movies.
- Serve at a soup kitchen.
- “Adopt” a single mother and her kids.
- Sing at a retirement home.
- Take part in a play or a singalong.
- Make a playlist of your favorite songs and listen to them while you drive in the country.
- Dance together to old music.
- Dance together to new music.
- Take turns planning a date night and keep the details secret.
- Adopt a cause and raise money for it.
- Send holiday cards to the troops.
- Try a new recipe.
- Have a game night.
- Read aloud to each other.
- Start a collection that you add to every year at the same time.
The important thing is to do something every year and do it with joy in your heart. What new traditions do you celebrate?