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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Creating and Keeping Family Traditions

This is a guest post I wrote awhile back for a fellow blogger and with the holidays coming up I thought it'd be a good one to share!

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I am a lover of all things traditions. My family has so many traditions that I could probably fill a book with them! How did we decide on our traditions? How do we keep them going? And how do we not break the bank doing it?



1. Drawing from the Past: When you first start your own family it's natural to reflect back on your childhood. This is a great chance to recall some of the traditions you had growing up. Which ones were special to you? Which do you enjoy? Which did you hate as a child but appreciate now as an adult? Which ones do you never want to participate in again? Remembering the traditions from your childhood is a great way to begin traditions with your children. Ones that were special to you will also be special to them! Growing up my mom played a special birthday song for each of us on a cassette tape for our birthdays. It was a personalized song and we only got to hear it on our special day. When my first baby was born I hunted around online and found out the company is still around but now they make personalized birthday cds instead of cassettes. This is a tradition I LOVED growing up and have really enjoyed seeing the joy my children have on their birthdays with their special song.

2. Creating New Traditions: While it's great to use traditions from your own past, it's also important to start new traditions that are special just to your little family. We never sat down and said "ok! time to create traditions!" Instead, we let them happen naturally. One day you have an idea and you try that  idea out. When everyone enjoys it you then start a tradition! When my husband and I were dating we went to St. Augustine, Florida on the 4th of July to see the fireworks show. We loved it and decided to go back that following year. Once we were engaged we talked about making that our very first family tradition. We now go to St Augustine every year for the 4th of July. It's one of our very favorite vacations each year and is a tradition we created simply because we visited once and enjoyed it!

3. Keeping Traditions Affordable: Just because something is important to you and your family doesn't mean it has to be expensive. When you start a new tradition, keep cost in mind. It's easy when you only have one child to go all out and overboard with things. But then when you have more children...will you be able to afford to keep that same tradition going for them? I strive to do the same things for each of my kids that I did for their older siblings. I knew when we had our first child that we would have more children in the future so I kept that in mind when we started traditions. Each Halloween we pick out pumpkins to carve as a family. With just one child it would have been easy to let him get his own pumpkin to carve. But now that we have three children that would be very expensive and time consuming to carve them all! Instead, we chose a large family pumpkin to carve and let our son pick a mini pumpkin to have in his room. We have continued that tradition and still just get the one large family pumpkin and each child gets a  mini one. Our cost has only gone up a couple of dollars rather than $20 or more!

Choosing their small pumpkins

4. Keeping Traditions Simple: In our Pinterest world it's easy to overthink things and take things to an extreme. When it comes to traditions, simple is best! Most of my family traditions revolve around picture taking. Taking photos is free! Taking photos is simple! Taking photos gives you something to enjoy for years to come! We take a ton of "tradition" pictures. First day of school, Christmas morning before seeing what Santa brought, Easter photos, Santa pictures, etc. It's a quick, easy way to capture the moment and I love having comparisons each year of our kids in the same place or doing the same thing or at the same time of year. When we first started traveling with our son we had the idea to buy him  a shirt from every where he traveled. My plan was to keep all the shirts and then make him a t-shirt travel quilt someday. Great idea right? Well the reality of the tradition was not so great. First, it was hard to find shirts everywhere we went. Especially ones with the date and the location on them. And it was expensive. And then if he wore the shirts, they got worn out and wouldn't look so great on a quilt anymore. It wasn't a simple tradition and it became more of a hassle than it was worth. So we dropped it and instead we now buy a Christmas ornament every place we visit. It's SUPER simple, very affordable, and it makes decorating the Christmas tree so fun! It's a chance to look back over all of our trips and talk about the memories we made together. I always make sure to put the year on the bottom of the ornament so we can always remember when we visited that location! Much simpler than the t-shirt idea and much more fun too :)

5. Keeping Traditions Going: By making traditions around major events, holidays, etc it's easier to remember to keep them going. No one forgets that it's Christmas time so our Christmas traditions happen naturally without much effort or thought. We know it's that time of year to decorate Christmas cookies, drink hot cocoa, and cut down our Christmas tree. If a tradition becomes something you're having to remind yourself to do then it's probably not one you really truly enjoy doing to begin with! Some of our traditions do take more effort to remember than others. One of my favorite travel traditions is that we take a picture of my husband on the hotel bed with the kids whenever we arrive at our destination. This started before we even had children...my husband and I always snapped a pic when we arrived at our hotel to remember it by and it was always with him laying on the bed! Now we pile the kids on with him and it makes for a cute picture. It's a tradition that takes more thought than most though because when you first arrive at a destination (especially with three kids) you're frazzled and in a hurry and it's easy to forget to take a picture among the craziness. I have only forgotten our traditional picture once though which isn't too bad!

Our most recent vacation (and first as a family of 5!)

6. Quitting Traditions: Just because you decide to start a tradition, doesn't mean you are locked in it for life. If you change your mind about enjoying something or decide it doesn't work for your family then just stop having that as a tradition! I know that sounds like an obvious thing, but it wasn't for me. When my son was born we took him to meet the Easter Bunny before his first Easter. It was the ugly (creepy!) mall bunny and it cost $20 for the photo. But all kids have to have those pics with the Easter Bunny, right? I mean it's a must-do tradition! So each year I kept taking him. And when my daughter was born, I took them both. It was a hassle. It was expensive. It wasn't even enjoyable for any of us. I mean that mall bunny even creeps me out. I had a friend tell me that it's okay to stop that tradition. Traditions are supposed to be something you look forward to, not something you dread. So guess what? No more Easter Bunny for us! And I don't miss him one bit :)

Last Easter Bunny photo!

I hope this post encourages some of you to start thinking more about family traditions and adding some to your family! How do you create new traditions and keep them going through the years?

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