The Thing About Traditions

Do They Bring You Joy?

I have never thought too long and hard about family traditions until having a family of my own. Now my son is still too young to delight in traditions of our own, but give him a couple of years. So why do we celebrate traditions?

  1. Traditions aide in creating lasting memories. When you’re all grown up, you are more likely to recall special moments of your life if you can link certain traditions with those memories.

  2. Traditions give you a purpose during a certain time or season. What are you celebrating and why? That question is easily answered when you have traditions surrounding the celebrations.

  3. Traditions serve as a way to distinguish your family’s interactions from another family’s interactions. In other words, my family is unique because they celebrate this certain event in this special way.

  4. Like physical heirlooms, traditions serve as something you can pass down for generations to come. Not every tradition is timeless, but some last for generations.

We talk a lot about traditions during this time of year because the days from Thanksgiving through New Year’s day are known as the holidays. There are approximately 30 different religious and secular holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day. So how are some ways my family has and will celebrate the holidays?

I come from a very German family, so a lot of my family’s traditions were dictated by German tradition. The major tradition I remember growing up was that we opened presents on Christmas Eve. We would go to church on Christmas Eve, then come home gobble up a quick dinner (because what child would rather eat before opening presents??) and open presents in the formal living room at my grandparents’ house. It all made sense that Santa Claus would come while we were at church. I was around 8 years old before I started to notice that my mom and grandmother would arrive at church later than the rest of us. My husband and I will not continue this exact tradition; we plan on waking up Christmas morning and coming downstairs to all the presents from Santa under the tree. We will incorporate a bit of German tradition by allowing our children to open one present on Christmas Eve after we attend the Christmas Eve service at our home church.

So now let’s talk about the elf in the room; the Elf on the Shelf to be exact. Do you have an elf in your family? We personally do not have an elf member yet, but we will next year. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have an elf and those who hate the elf. No one loves the elf, but they do it because of their kids. So I’m here to say that the Elf on the Shelf can be a tradition you do with your family or your tradition can be to shun the elf. Whatever works for you.

That leads me into my final point about traditions. When you contemplate what traditions you want to participate in, think about what will bring you joy. Don’t drudge through a tradition with a grumpy heart because it’s “just one more thing you have to do.” Traditions are not synonymous with “stress.” There are so many joyous things about the holiday season, so don’t let anything bring you down during this time. Just like your children will remember the happy traditions, they will recall the stress certain traditions bring you as well. So if you hold a grudge against the elf, let it go (yes, just like Elsa said).


  • Moms' Night Out: I'm not a good artist, but I'm great at drinking wine and laughing with friends.
  • Weeknight shopping: I'm so thankful my son won't remember the nearly two hours we spent wandering aimlessly through Target for a White Elephant gift.
  • Baby time at the library: we have graduated to toddler time as of next month.