This time of year is brimming with festive traditions, from stockings to Santa, turkey to trees. However, sometimes the best parts of the season are when you’re enjoying the family traditions you came up with as a group. A time of bonding and creating unique memories, these traditions can also pay tribute to a lost loved one, as you remember the times when you shared these activities together.
A Sense Of Belonging
Celebrations are the perfect time to enjoy family traditions, as you go beyond day-to-day routine and commemorate an occasion with a symbolic activity. Gathering together for something meaningful cultivates positive feelings and memories that all family members can share, promoting a sense of identity and belonging. They’re also particularly significant for children. From bedtime stories to Saturday cartoons, they love consistency and routine, which gives them a sense of security and control. It also nurtures a sense of what they can expect, including fun festive rituals that teach them love and laughter.
These rituals can also commemorate a loved one who is no longer there to share the experience. The sights, sounds and smells surrounding Christmas can evoke memories of that loved person participating in the tradition. Instead of making this accidental, you can pick out the person’s favourite festive past-time and enjoy it with them in mind, or create a new tradition in which you pay tribute to them.
Classic Family Traditions
There are so many Christmas staples that you’ll never be stuck for ideas, with numerous British families opting for ice-skating at a local rink or trying their hand at decorating gingerbread houses. Even if you’re not intending to buy a real tree, you can soak up the festive scent by walking through forests of pine trees at a Christmas tree farm, or collect cut-off branches from friends and neighbours to decorate your mantelpiece.
You can also adapt widespread customs and make them specific to your circle of loved ones. For example, you could make your own crackers and use them as a vessel for your own Secret Santa, with each family member putting a thoughtful little gift into someone else’s cracker. It’s these family traditions that make Christmas, when everybody demonstrates a deep and personal love for those around them.
Traditions vary wildly, especially when young children are involved. Ugly jumper competitions and matching festive pyjamas are enjoyed by countless UK families, although some prefer activities such as hide-and-seek with presents or camping beneath the tree on the living room floor! There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all set of family traditions, making each family Christmas utterly unique.
Around The World
Family traditions also strengthen cultural identity, connecting people with the values, history and heritage of a particular country or community. Even if you’re celebrating halfway across the world from your country of heritage, a set of seasonal rituals can instil in you a sense of belonging and identity.
Customs can vary wildly across cultures, from Dutch children leaving shoes by the fireplace instead of stockings to the grand South African braai, which is a traditional barbecue complete with all kinds of meat and malva pudding for dessert. In Ukraine, a story of a spider decorating a poor family’s Christmas tree with silvery webs has led to a tradition of spider web decorations, while Mexico sees a wealth of individual and family Nativity sets known as ‘nacimientos’, where more characters join the tableau as we travel through the holiday.
Even those far from home can enjoy these practices, though if you’re having a South African barbecue on an English December day, remember to wrap up warm!
Our Light Inside
At Our Light Inside, we offer an online space to document memories and messages to be shared with your loved ones after you die. There’s also a place to list family recipes or traditions, to encourage your nearest and dearest to continue enjoying all that these rituals have to offer.