Traditions are the structure that helps to bind families together. All families need traditions that are unique.

Why go to all the trouble to start a tradition in the first place?

Traditions help to foster a sense of belonging. When you participate in an activity unique to a group, you are (by that activity) affirming your identification with that group. If this identification is important for churches, lodges, sports teams and the military, it is crucial for our families as well.

Traditions serve a number of purposes: Some traditions teach principles, others foster family unity, others are simply fun and some fulfill all three of these. The traditions that transmit the principles of your family's values are critical. Telling children what they should do is good, having them do it is better and doing it with them is best. No matter what it is, you show them that it is worth your time.

For example, in my family, we always open one package on Christmas Eve, and to this day, it has always been pajamas. That may sound a bit odd to you, but many of my best memories center around Christmas Eve and new pajamas: First with my mom, dad, brothers and sisters; later with my wife and kids and now with my grandkids. Traditions give us structure.

The traditions of your extended family are important, but the traditions you start with your own family are equally as important. Here are a few suggestions on how to begin your own traditions:

1. Reflect

Look back your own life, talk with your spouse and discuss past traditions that you may want to continue with your own family. Chose traditions from both backgrounds. Continuing traditions that already exist is really pretty easy. The harder job is creating new ones.

2. Investigate

Do a bit of research, and ask others about their own family traditions. Pick families and people that you admire. (Chances are that they are doing something right.) Next decide what you want the tradition to do for your family.

3. Persist

Traditions don't happen from one occurrence: They have to occur over and over again. Be prepared to follow through. An event that only happens once or twice will never make it to tradition status. Before you begin the new tradition, be certain you are ready to commit to the endeavor.

4. Explain

Whatever your tradition, at some point or another a child will say something akin to, "This is really dumb. Why do we have to do this?" The status of the activity as a family tradition gives you the ultimate answer. Simply smile saintly and answer, "Of course we are going to do it, it's our family tradition."

As you embark on this effort, and there will be effort, remember it is our family traditions that are the mortar that give our families identity and bind our families together.

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