Establishing regular family rituals whether a weekend hike, family movie night, or special holiday traditions build strong bonds and memories that last a lifetime. These are the memories that we so often think of first when reflecting fondly on our own childhood. They reinforce a sense of security along with the message that we are a loving, close family circle that enjoy each other. Family traditions also contribute to a child’s sense of identity and personal code of ethics.
For my children one of their favorite regular rituals we have is family movie night. We spread an old sheet on the family room floor for a picnic dinner that includes popcorn, fruits and vegetables and some dessert treats along with a family friendly movie. The sheet that my sons think of as the great picnic blanket is my Mom trick for easy clean up afterwards. We use a sturdy tray for the drinks to minimize any potential spills. For New Year’s Eve we make this a pajama party with noise makers and decorations, and for any of us still awake we watch the ball drop in New York Times Square after the movie is over.
Our family has various traditions for different holidays around food and religious and spiritual meaning, such as for Passover and the Seder service that retells the story and meaning. We continue a holiday ritual that my mother started when we were little for the eight nights of Hannukah. Each night our sons get a different gift starting with the smallest gesture of chocolate coins (called “gelt”) to a paperback book to their more substantial gifts the last couple of nights. One night each person picks a cause or charity they care about to make a donation to as our family Hannukah gift. That night the donation is my sons’ gift. Many Jewish families have very special Shabbat (Sabbath) traditions that include lighting the candles, blessing the Challah bread and wine/grape juice, and eating a family dinner together.
My sister has a wonderful tradition at Thanksgiving for each person at the table to talk about what they are most thankful for – what better way to start the meal? She also has a regular weekly “thorns and roses” ritual for each person to share what was the best and worst thing that happened. Many friends have special rituals for Christmas involving how and when they trim the tree, attend services, and exchange gifts, and enjoy special foods like homemade cinnamon rolls at Christmas Day breakfast.
We have always made a very big deal of each family member’s birthday, especially for the children, just as my family did when I was growing up. It is truly their day which we look at as celebrating how grateful we are that they were born and how much we treasure them. Starting with singing a boisterous happy birthday with hugs and kisses, planning to do their favorite things, going out to their favorite restaurant for dinner, and for the kids a special birthday party.
Infusing Rituals in Our Daily Routine
There are also the daily rituals we have like our affectionate saying, “Sleep well and get up well, pleasant dreams God bless you, I love you forever and always” at bedtime. Every day after school when my younger son walks through the door we sit together and talk about how his day went, what his homework is, and review our family schedule for the evening and next day. I used to do the same thing with my older son when he was young.
What are some of your favorite family rituals?