When your children are no longer children, what lasting memories will they have of childhood and growing up in your family unit?
Will it be the toys they played with, friends who came for sleep overs, music lessons on Saturday mornings, or how much they hated broccoli and cauliflower?
It's more than likely that family times together will be among the strongest memories of all. The fun of birthdays, anniversaries, family dinners, outings, cooking lessons with Nanna, or the annual picnic with cousins, makes for memories that last.
Keeping up family traditions is important. Why? Because we live in an ever changing world and family traditions help to give meaning and stability to children's lives.
There's nothing like the concept of 'home' to give us a sense of belonging–whether we grew up in the one house or in a number of houses. Memories of home can be associated with the places we've lived, but stronger memories more often centre around who was there, what we did together, how we learned to respect, and value each other, and who encouraged and supported us to make our life choices.
Families give us our identity, a chance to learn and test boundaries and a chance to celebrate each other's milestones and achievements. For most of us, family and home is the world we knew as a child and as an adult, it's the place where we feel safe to be ourselves, express our opinions, argue the toss and celebrate important milestones.
Foods, dances, musical instruments, language in the native tongue and storytelling, are vibrant ingredients in keeping a family's culture alive and well. Lessons in how to cook certain dishes, why New Year customs are important, or what grandma did when she was a girl, are all occasions for learning. For children in particular, who spend a great part of their time engaged in age-appropriate learning activities, these 'traditional' learning times can be rich in inter-generational sharing.
Older members of the family have the chance to share their own childhood experiences. Some grandparents may not have had access to computer games or mobile phones as children. Their stories of childhood often carry themes of creative play that are different to those of their children.
Celebrating differences gives children a chance to respect differences. Within family generations and ethnicities, there will be differing world views. Opportunities to hear and see different sets of values gives children a chance to ask, discuss, compare and include the views of others into their world view.
Through family traditions children can learn who they are where they fit and develop confidence in their own unique identity.
Keeping traditions alive is the responsibility of everyone. Grandparents, parents, carers, siblings, aunts, uncles and other extended family members and friends can all participate in encouraging family traditions and sharing times.
Not all traditions can last. For safety or practical reasons, some traditions might not continue. Grandpa's Boxing Day billy cart race down the hill is safer these days as a good story. But letting some traditions go doesn't mean they can't be revived in some other form. The Boxing Day remote-control car race in the backyard can continue. Grandpa will probably be the first to say yes to that!
As children grow older, it will probably be harder to keep some traditions going. Friendships, activities and hobbies mean that children who are old enough to be independent, can't (or may not) want to join in. If traditions are important to the family as a whole, try to work around these occasions and settle on a time or date when everyone can be present.
Getting together to celebrate as a family can be about more than just having fun. Sure there's the opportunity for play and humour. But shared family times are also opportunities for encouragement, the sharing of values and trust. These are also times for nurturing and open communication. Also, getting together as a family can provide a sound basis for support to work through difficult times that may require tough decisions.
Children, who have experienced the bonding and fun that family traditions can provide, are the parents who will want to continue old traditions and introduce new traditions to their own children.
Keeping up traditions can help to strengthen a family, and strong families help to build strong communities.