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Festive Family Traditions; why are they so important?

We don't all love this time of year and not all of us have a positive experience of family. However, most parents I meet would like their baby to have a positive one. If you had a good experience of family life, what family traditions make you smile when you look back?

When we think of a happy memory, our brain releases the same feel good hormones as it did when the event was actually happening. So deliberately creating lots of happy memories with your little one is a lovely way to spend your time but will also give you (and later on, them) a great store of happy memories to draw on in the future.

Another reason to build family traditions is that it helps us to cement family bonds with regular, shared and special times together. It also builds a unique identity for our unique family which is one way to help our children to have that strong sense of belonging and being known, which will help them to have the inner confidence that they are loved and accepted just the way they are, whatever the storms of life may throw at them. I personally feel this is the greatest gift we can give anyone!

So what traditions might you start now or in the future? One that my family have is that the kids open a present of new PJs (extra special ones with favourite characters on of course!) on Christmas Eve; then they put them on and we all jump in the car with hot chocolate and popcorn and drive round looking at the Christmas lights. It was very, very exciting for them as little tots but now, even as teens, they still love to do it (and so do I!)


I asked lots of lovely mamas in BellyTots and beyond for some ideas of traditions that families could adopt. Feel free to steal them and make them your own, or create entirely new ones. And remember, your children are never too old to start a new family tradition or to tweak old ones that stop working so well. As with everything, be flexible!

Matching PJs I'd not heard of this one but am intrigued to try it! Whether it's just your family, or all the extended family too. Spend Christmas morning wearing matching PJs and get some photos to remember!

Decorate your stocking each year Children and the young at heart can have a stocking (or big sock) that they stick their name at Christmas. Have fun creating a different picture of your name to stick on every time.

Fill their shoes! A German tradition, I believe, is to encourage children to clean their shoes extra well and line them up neatly, they wake in the morning to find them full of treats.

Get new books and read to each other

This lovely idea is from Scandinavia. On Christmas Eve (or a special night of your choosing), each family member unwraps the gift of a new book. Spend the evening with the lights low, lots of treats and read to each other from you new book.

Advent calendars, boxes and candles Mark the journey through December with an advent calendar. Choose the paper/card ones with little doors to open or wooden ones with boxes that you fill yourself (very little ones may be quite happy to collect just a penny each day for their very own money to keep!), finding items small enough to go in the boxes can be a challenge and you need to set a reminder somehow to remember to do this in the last week of November.... otherwise you have indignant children on your hands come the 1st December (not that I'm speaking from experience or anything....!). Candles are lovely too, the advent ones can be lit once a day, perhaps at dinner time, and allowed to burn down to the next day's mark. It takes from 1st - 24th December to burn the candle right down.

Have a favourite movie Having a favourite Christmas movie to watch each Christmas Eve or the Eve before any other big celebration for your family.

After dinner games Make time to ditch the devices and engage with each other over some games. Perhaps a board game that's suitable for the ages involved; charades; the 'AfterEight mint' game, place an AfterEight mint on your forehead and hands behind your back then, get the mint into your mouth by just wiggling your face! Alternatively, buy some games buzzers and use your Alexa (or similar) to do a family quiz in teams. Alexa can pick up which team buzzes first and can keep score for you to stop arguments!

Wrapping paper basket ball

If you celebrate Christmas and have presents to unwrap; ensure everyone has a go at 'balling' their Christmas paper up and scoring a 'basket' into the recycling bag that someone is holding open - easy clear up too!

Keep the ideas coming; and whatever time of year it is and whatever your family celebrates, keep coming up with those family traditions!

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