A big event like Christmas usually invokes a strong sense of tradition around what you may do as a family during that season, and how it is celebrated. So why search for new traditions or change traditions? A desire for new traditions usually, although not always, stems from new circumstances: new job, new relationships, new phases of our lives, new city or home, new understanding about ourselves, new outlooks. This means we are more open to doing things differently, which can bring so many exciting discoveries about the world around us and ourselves. 

When it comes to Christmas traditions, the best ones generally start from fun, enjoyable activities that have perhaps been unplanned, and where everyone has had a good time.  The desire to keep that feeling alive drives you to organise that activity again. Traditions that stick reflect what resonates with those who are involved, and it will be different for every family, individual or group. These things cannot be forced and can often will evolve naturally. 

Some Christmas traditions will last a lifetime, while others may serve a purpose only for a short time, and may be more transitory. It’s ok that some traditions are transitory, as the needs, habits, circumstances and desires of those around us usually don’t stay the same. 

What are the best traditions as a family? A quick google or pinterest search will give you endless options for the "best" family traditions to start. Every family has their own, and borrowing a tradition from other family doesn't necessarily mean it will work in your family, because traditions are expressions of who you are collectively. The real traditions that stick are going to come from you and your family. You might want to consider the following to give yourself the best chance of establishing meaningful traditions that everyone looks forward to.

  1. Be patient: new traditions can take some time to develop. Some things will work while others may not, just as some thing will be traditions for a long time, while other traditions may just be for a few years. Always remember that the purpose of these traditions  is to bring people together, to gather, to share and to create memories, so the activity doesn’t need to be perfect. You might just want to start with one new activity, try it out, and then work from there. It should't be overwhelming for you or your family, in creating too many changes and new activities at once. 
  2. Involve others: traditions need everyone’s support in order to get traction and actually work. Ask your family or your those around you what their favourite family activities have been, think about common interests and likes/dislikes. The majority of my family members have ADHD, so board games have never taken off even though I love them, but there is no point pushing that as a tradition because I honestly won’t even enjoy it if everyone is complaining and rolling their eyes, asking how much longer they have to play for. Start with something everyone loves and has in common.
  3. Trial and error: There are literally hundreds of ideas for starting new traditions which you can gather via a google or pinterest search, and this may be a good starting point for you to work out what might be a good fit for your family, and then adjust and modify as you go to work out what works. Some things will work, while others will not. Sometimes you won’t know until you try it. If you can see that everyone has enjoyed themselves, responds well, had fun, then perhaps ask if it’s something that they want to do again. They may even request a repeat. That’s the kind of activity that will easily turn into tradition, as everyone’s on board.
  4. Gather ideas from your own family heritage: as you begin to research your ancestors’ or personal influencer’s food stories, there may well be traditions that they had which may take on great significance and meaning when you adopt those traditions as your own. It may even be as simple as something that your grandmother always cooked for birthdays or Easter. These traditions can mean so much more for your family as it’s a great way to honour your ancestors by continuing their traditions. When I think of my own Christmas traditions, there are many that I have carried on from my own family upbringing, but also many that I have added or even modified to suit the needs of the quirks of my own family and circumstances. 
  5. Be a facilitator: hand it over to others as well, and give other members of the family a chance to lead, have input and make decisions (appropriate to their age). This can encourage kids to build on their strengths and provides opportunity for self-confidence. For example, every year at Christmas time we make some cookie packages for others. I ask my children for input on who we should give those packages to, who they would even like to give a gift to and include them when we do the deliveries.
  6. Be reasonable, and flexible: while traditions can be great to anchor and unite family and others, it shouldn’t be unnecessarily burdensome on one individual. For example, as parents get older, there will come a point where responsibility for hosting Christmas celebrations may need to be handed over to children. In addition, accommodating for the needs of others, or changing needs may require some flexibility, and that means it might look a little differently to how it has always been done. Remember that the intention of tradition is to unite and strengthen your family ties rather than divide and dissatisfy.
  7. Know your audience: it needs to be fun an enjoyable for everyone around you, not just you. A fun activity that everyone has enjoyed will naturally turn into a tradition that everyone will want to participate in if everyone has had fun and is happy to do that again. Your job might be to set up the structure and when that is to happen, and organise things to make sure it can happen. I have made many mistakes thinking that if the activity will be fun for me, everyone else will like it. But even in a family, there are diverse tastes and interests. I grew up going to into the city square and seeing the Christmas lights and windows, but I can't force the continuation of that tradition if my teenage boys really don't want to look at decorated windows of a department store. Think about age appropriateness of your activity and its no good asking your children to do things that are going to be too hard or too much for their capability. 
  8. Remember the key purpose of traditions: it can’t just be all about you. I made the mistake many times of compelling my family to participate in activities which I thought would be a good idea. One Easter, I decided we would go for a Good Friday early morning picnic. It was hard to pack the picnic early, get everyone out of bed, drive an hour to a deserted, cold park park, and then we only spent an hour there and packed up as soon as we ate our breakfast. It was no wonder that this didn’t continue on as a tradition, it wasn’t fun for anyone, even myself.

When you find the right activities where everyone is having fun and enjoying themselves, it will be worth the effort. The hard work will pay off and kids will look back and have many wonderful memories to draw on as a family. These moments are priceless and so important in forming special bonds within a family that no-one except your family share.