Make some time for new or old traditions this year.

When I look back on my life, I can’t recall having what some would consider a true family tradition. The way we spent holidays and vacations were pretty varied. Although, there were a few constants: a big, beautiful Christmas tree with ornaments my brother and I had as children (Mom bought us each a new one every year), trips at least once a year to our grandma’s home in Gulf Shores, and Easter basket scavenger hunts at our grandad’s farm. As you get older, move away from your parents, start your own families and careers, and so on, it becomes harder and harder to maintain tradition.

Reclaiming Tradition

Tradition can sometimes hold a negative connotation — stagnant, old, etc. But it’s our traditions that keep us grounded to our past and our family when so much else tries to disrupt those relationships. With increasingly hectic lifestyles, busy and non-intersecting schedules, and unavoidable changes in circumstances, it can be difficult to find stability and fun for the family. When those things get in the way, it’s easy to push aside things like family game night or fun traditions that may have once been natural occurrences. With that in mind, it’s important to take the time to decompress, get back to old traditions, or even start some new ones. Don’t just take my word for it, though. “As a mom to two active boys, I learned the hard way that being cooped up for too many days is never a good idea,” says Heather Feeler. That’s what started her journey into new family traditions. (You’ll read her story shortly).

Think about it: When you look back on your childhood memories, don’t some of your favorites include hiding Easter eggs, watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, or leaving cookies out for Santa? These memories stick in our brains not only because they were fun, but because we did (and maybe still do) them every year.

Inspiring New Traditions

If you’re one who, like me, is wanting to begin some new traditions, some members of the City Magazine advisory board have a few examples.

Heather Feeler has a weekly tradition to keep her and her boys sane. “On the weekends, we have a family tradition of gathering our backpacks and heading out to a hiking trail to explore nature. Some of our favorite spots include Three Creeks Conservation Area, Rock Bridge State Park, and Painted Rock Conservation Area,” she says. “All their spontaneous energy gets poured into discovering something new…I also get to take a deep breath as a parent, watch them have fun, and cheer them on when they make the find of the century — like an old, decaying stick covered in moss.”

Casey Marsch’s favorite tradition goes by the name “Friends Cookie Party.” Every year growing up, she (with the help of her parents, their dear friends, and their friends’ children) baked and decorated cookies. “We would have contests, and the parents had cocktails while we decorated, and the men would make a big spread of food,” she recalls.

Every Christmas, the Mantle family goes door to door in their neighborhood delivering homemade cheese balls to their neighbors. “Darrell and the kids dress up in Christmas attire and take out the lawnmower and trailer to go deliver and share Christmas tidings with everyone,” says Emily Mantle.

Keith Enloe and his wife, Janet, are huge proponents of annual family vacations. “Janet always insisted we take the kids on a big summer vacation every year,” he says, “no matter our schedules or budget. Those annual trips created so many wonderful memories through the years with all the fun photos and videos to go with them.”

One of his favorite holiday traditions was borrowed from another family. “Every Christmas when we set up the nativity scene, we leave the manger empty until Christmas Eve. Then, the night before Christmas, we gather around the nativity set and read the Christmas story from the Bible. When we get to the verses where Mary delivers the child, the youngest family member places the baby Jesus into the manger, completing the imagery,” says Keith. “It’s a simple, but very meaningful, event that encapsulates the holiday for us.”

Beth McGeorge married into one of her favorite family traditions. “The McGeorge family has hosted a family reunion every single year for decades on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend,” she says. “While it’s evolved over the years, it typically consists of great food, a rather spirited volleyball tournament (complete with bragging rights and traveling trophy), and many laughs. We go home a little sunburned, with full hearts and bellies from an awesome day with extended and immediate family.”

So, whether you decide to start taking annual trips, throwing monthly dinner parties, or simply getting out of the house with your loved ones, it’s valuable time well spent to build a tradition or two for yourself and your family. Again, don’t take my word for it — “Perhaps even more rewarding,” says Feeler, “[My boys] always invite friends to join us on our weekend adventures because ‘it will be the best time of your life, guaranteed!’ It’s definitely been a life-changer for me.”

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