family fun

Activities: Bringing Your Family Closer Together Through Traditions

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Traditions—Twenty years ago, I lived in the tiny town of Ponta Delgada on the tiny archipelagic island of São Miguel, part of the little European country of Portugal. Founded early in the 1400s and populated by a close-knit and deeply religious people, it is a society of very long-held traditions, traditions that involve things like Holy Ghost Soup and Portuguese-style bullfighting. Breaking some of these customs would be tantamount to heresy. Today, I live now, coincidentally, in another small town, which, although it was founded a mere 160 years ago, holds just as strongly to its traditions, involving things like an annual rodeo and mini-float parade.

Thus, I think I understand the role of traditions in bringing people together. Celebrating things together, especially when team planning and effort is required, has a way of reinforcing similarities and making life more enjoyable. Our little family of four, though still fledgling in some respects with my oldest being only 8, has only recently begun making the efforts necessary to establish its own traditions, separate from those of our town or extended family. I look forward to creating these "hallmarks," if you will, of our own identity, especially when I read stuff like this from HowStuffWorks.com: "Families who talk and plan together are more successful and happier than families who don't," according to psychotherapist Joanne Stern, the author of "Parenting is a Contact Sport." "You have the unique opportunity to create meaningful family rituals that bond you together, give your kids a sense of belonging and make them feel valued," she adds [source: Psychology Today].

Making traditions, as opposed to any regular family activity, means identifying elements from one's heritage that one wants to carry on, acknowledging the personalities of the family members involved, and planning together a commemorative activity. It doesn't have to mean that you always bake sugar cookie pine trees at Christmas; in fact, it's the uniqueness of it that makes it yours. On freshtakes.msn.com, I found some examples of various families' "fresh takes" on age-old customs.

The Gilmore family, for instance, takes scavenger hunting to a whole new level. They invite another family to be involved, as a group to compete against. They dress up as pirates; make a list of random things, clues to solve, or people to find (e.g. someone whose willing to give them a business card), find an impartial judge to tally points, and designate a reward like a car wash by the losing team.

They create the occasion to commemorate; it isn't necessarily tied to any particular holiday. Many of the other "quirky" family traditions celebrates on the Fresh Takes site are based on similar made-up occasions. The site, sponsored by Subway, invites viewers to submit descriptions of their own unique traditions, either in video or article format.

I am inspired, by my past, my town, and this site to create a few funny family traditions of our own.

What are some of your favorite family traditions? How do traditions bring your family closer together?

Disclosure: This blog is a part of an incentivized online influencer network for Fresh Takes on Family Time Powered by Subway.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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