Understanding the Importance of Rituals and Traditions

For families who celebrate Christmas or some other holiday, this can be a wonderful time to introduce or bring back rituals and traditions unique to the celebration, inviting children to recall and re-embrace familiar activities, sights, sounds, smells, tastes and objects.

Rituals provide a sense of connection

Rituals and traditions can be as simple as bringing out certain holiday ornaments and decorations, inviting children to share their memories around each. Rituals and traditions can include having certain familiar foods, playing traditional music and reading familiar stories that explain beliefs and the reasons behind some of the family’s traditions.

Diane Wagenhals, Program Director, Master Trainer, Curricula Writer, Researcher, Mother and Grandmother

Rituals and traditions help children feel connected to their families and to their past.

They provide a kind of stability when there is more chaos than usual. Children can feel proud that they know and understand the stories behind the rituals and traditions.

These rituals and traditions can be especially helpful if there have been significant changes in a child’s environment.

Perhaps a beloved family member is no longer around, or maybe there’s been a move or changes in the household. By reinstating the familiar, children can feel comforted and more at peace.

Parents can be very intentional when it comes to rituals and traditions. If your family has not established traditions, you can create them and then make sure you follow them in the future. They don’t have to be complicated and they don’t have to cost extra money. Older children can enjoy making them up and then inviting younger children to participate.

This is what I used to do.

When I was growing up, the tradition for decorating the tree was that my dad put the lights on while we patiently waited and then we (my brother and I) had the job of putting on the Christmas balls. My mother’s job was to assess the situation and make corrections—making sure that there was a nice variety and no two colors were side-by-side. All this was done while Christmas music played. To this day I can remember the magic of watching bubble lights while singing to the music of Fred Waring and Bing Crosby.

I played that same music when my children were young and we were decorating the tree, something they tell me now is one of their fondest memories of the holidays. Now my grandsons love listening to “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” and “Twas the Night before Christmas” when they come to visit.

Creating joy and memories.

Isn’t it wonderful that we have the power to create joy and beautiful memories by inviting our children to experience rituals and traditions? I hope my grandsons will continue our traditions with their children some day.

Invitation to reflect:

  1. What are some of the rituals and traditions you recall from your childhood?
  2.  What are some rituals and traditions you currently have in your home at this time of year?
  3. If you have not established fun rituals and traditions for your family, what are some things you might do so that each year,  your children can look forward to re-experiencing them and all the many feelings associated with them?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network