Why Are Family Traditions Important?
To begin this new series, I started with a question as my guide, “Why are family traditions important?” Maybe, like me, you have traditions in your family, but you aren’t exactly sure why or where they came from. In the first article of the series, I give an overview of the importance of traditions and include my interviews with several individuals who talk about the types of traditions and the importance of those customs in their families.
Why are traditions important?
By Adriana David
For many people, traditions are something they participate in every year. They may be simple or lavish, but they always require some special prep work. “There is no “quick and dirty” tradition — good traditions require that we slow down and set aside significant time to accomplish them,” says psychiatrist Gregory K. Fritz. Although there are different types of traditions, ones that have the most meaning usually take great commitment.
As will be explained in my upcoming series, all types of traditions are important. In this new Americana Steeples series, the following topics regarding tradition will be covered: Food, Art, and Clothing. In these pieces, it won’t just be American traditions featured, but also examples of traditions and customs from all over the world!
Traditions surrounding food, art, and clothing may seem superficial at first glance; however, they are often bigger than we realize.
The author of “Soul Food: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life,” Frank Sonnenberg, says, “Tradition reinforces values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and the value of being selfless.”
Traditions that are shared through family stories link generation to generation. Children who grow up hearing and sharing their family stories are firmly rooted in an identity and have a resiliency toward peer pressure and life’s obstacles, writes Dr. Teresa Trumbly Lamsam in her article about the importance of Sharing Family Stories.
In this series, I will reveal how traditions bond us together and support our values, both as individuals and as a society.
Before we talk more in this article about the importance and benefits of traditions, here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming series:
Importance of customs: Food
I chose to write about how food, art, and clothing in particular for several reasons.
First, I find it interesting that so many family traditions revolve around food in some way. For generations, families have gathered around the dinner table to share special moments, such as the time your sister announced she was engaged to the love of her life or the time your free-spirited brother announced he was going to go backpacking around the world.
Food has the ability to bond families and societies together like nothing else. Every day, families are creating new traditions at the dinner table.
Importance of customs: Art
Second, art is so encapsulating of the culture and is so vast. For example, art includes dance, film, poetry, and photography, among many other things. All four of these mediums will be discussed in “Art and Tradition,” one of our upcoming stories in this new series.
For example, in the Indian culture, film is extremely prominent. According to the World Economic Forum, Bollywood (Indian Cinema) actually releases many more films than Hollywood.
Importance of customs: Clothing
Last, clothing is so representative of whichever culture you find yourself being a part of. Traditional and cultural clothing varies around the world to a great extent. Everything from patterns to types of fabrics are inspired by culture and traditions.
What we wear everyday has much more to do with our culture than we think, even the worn-down jeans and t-shirt you wear on the weekends.
In Uganda, community members perform traditional dances for social events and special ceremonies, such as weddings. Kenny Lule, a medical doctor and pastor at the Esuubi Community Church, says that each of the many tribes in Uganda practice traditional dances unique to their community.
Dr. Lule is the founder and executive director at Esuubi Community Outreach Ministry. The dancers in the photograph are from the Baganda tribe. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Lule)
Traditions are what keep memories alive, even when the people that started them are gone. Traditions make it feel as if the person is still with us.
How do family traditions strengthen families?
Growing up in a household without many traditions, I wanted to become aware of the importance of customs and learn about creating new traditions.
As I have found in my research, traditions are important because they bond families together. They give families a common experience. Regardless of cultural backgrounds and differences, family traditions reach far beyond any individual experience.
As someone who grew up with a lack of family traditions, I was curious to learn their role and benefit in our lives.
Family traditions create a sense of acceptance and safety
“I believe family traditions strengthen families by creating not only a sense of love but also acceptance and safety,” blogger Karen Ellis says. “It is something your family can count on.”
Her blog, Warrior Women, focuses on empowering women to be their best selves.
Some traditions are newly crafted, while others are passed down from generation to generation. Omaha-born Stephanie Bushman explains that she still observes half-birthdays as a way of celebrating people.
In her family, the practice of recognizing half-birthdays began with her great-grandmother, Helen. Stephanie will even sing “Happy Birthday” to people who are close to her on their half-birthdays.
Although Stephanie’s great-grandmother is no longer living, acknowledging half birthdays is a tradition that keeps her memory alive.
Examples of traditions and customs
To get a better idea of the kinds of family traditions, I went on a mission to find different experiences. Some traditions can seem simple on the outside, much like Laura Geschwender’s experience.
“I have many examples of traditions in my own family,” explains Laura, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska. “The most recent one is on Mother’s Day. My mom, dad, brother, sister and I all get together and get Bruegger’s Bagels’ Herby Turkey sandwiches for lunch and go on a picnic at Zorinsky Lake. We hang out there too, even though it was a little different this year.
“Another one that I can think of is for Christmas. My brother wakes both my sister and I up and then we wake our parents up and open stockings; then after breakfast we open presents!”
Lincoln, Nebraska, resident Tara Neaderhiser recalls that one of the Christmas Eve traditions she observes is eating hamburger pizza. This tradition began for her when her siblings worked at a Nebraska staple restaurant, Valentino’s.
After they had finished the pizza, Christmas Eve, Tara and her family would always attend Midnight Mass, where they would sing Christmas carols to ring in Christmas Day.
A few years later, Tara got the opportunity to work at Valentino’s herself. Tara still tries to eat hamburger pizza and go to Christmas Eve or Midnight Mass.
Traditions strengthen families by keeping them together and making awesome memories to talk about and look forward to and to look back on.
Traditions that are shared with positivity and excitement can strengthen a family’s bond. While times change, the traditions are something to look forward to and bring a smile to your face. Traditions may morph with time, but they are something that will be shared when good memories are found. These memories make your family “you,” and that’s something worth keeping around.
Why Are Family Traditions Important?
“I think family traditions are important, specifically for future generations, to hold on to so that the memories of loved ones are kept alive,” Stephanie Bushman says.
For example, it’s a common tradition in the U.S. to place flowers at a loved one’s grave site.
In Mexico, Dia de Los Muertos is a prime example of a remembrance tradition. Even here in Omaha, Nebraska, there are organizations that have yearly Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, such as the Intercultural Senior Center.
Remembrance is important in Tara’s family too. “Family traditions are important to me,” she says, “because they bring a sense of connection of the past to the present and future. They are something both young and old enjoy together and look forward to when the moments arise. Our treasured traditions are looked upon as something special and unique to our family.”
“Traditions create positive memories for children,” according to an article on Childhelp, an organization committed to the care of abused, neglected, and at-risk children. “Children crave the warmth and promise that comes with traditions. They anchor family members to each other and provide a sense of belonging.”
Those anchors to family are important to Laura. “Family traditions are important because it’s good to keep in touch with family and have fun with each other as long as you can,” she says.
When traditions and customs are unique to each and every family and not just something that is copied from another family, they will be more special. In this way, each family can be creative and set new traditions into motion.
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Adriana David is a 2018 Journalism graduate of the University of Nebraska Omaha. She has had unique and irreplaceable experiences inside and outside of the church. She also is interested in the areas of diversity, disability, and international affairs.