How to create new family traditions. Traditions aren't just a holiday thing. You create traditions every day - they're anything that you do regularly as a family.
Having supper together is a family tradition. Your places at the table are a tradition. So are big Sunday breakfasts, inside jokes, how you spend family vacations, favorite dishes, songs you sing in the car, how you celebrate birthdays. Even bedtime routines are traditions.
To create new family traditions, first think about what things your family likes to do together. Then assign a specific time or day for them. The anticipation is part of the fun.
I've always wanted my three children to be exposed to myriad backgrounds, so we did what a lot of families and friends do during the holiday season. We blended the best of our favorite rituals and created new ones with our nearest and dearest.
When we celebrate Hanukkah, they light candles and say prayers and get a small gift on each of the eight days of the festival.
We put up a tree, and Santa comes, and we open one present on Christmas Eve; the rest of the presents Christmas morning. And the new ones?
We always have a tree decorating party with another family. And we spend Christmas Eve day at Disneyland.
Some rituals must change with the times and circumstances. One of our own - our most loved - was hosting a family New Year's Eve party each year.
We started it because New Year's Eve - usually a grown-ups-only night out - seemed a bit odd without the children around to ring in the new year. So we decided to invite other families in our neighborhood over for a family New Year's Eve party.
Some family members (namely kids) are suspicious of anything new. My friend Kimberli said her boys don't mind her making anything she likes for Thanksgiving dinner - as long as she makes all the old favorites, too.
When trying out a new tradition, don't make a big fuss about it - and don't try to force it. The one surefire way to turn off kids - especially teens - is to make a big announcement that: "From now on, this family is always doing X on Y day. And everyone is required to be there!"
Yes, attendance is required at some family traditions. Birthdays, Christmas Eve, and Thanksgiving come to mind for me. But no one has fun if someone is sulking because they wanted to be doing something else. Choose your battles.
For Christmas, for example, designate just a few events that are mandatory for everyone in the family (whether they have a driver's license or not). And designate even fewer that are family only - no friends, no boyfriends, no lonely neighbors.
For the rest, get together with the kids who want to do it and have fun. Maybe John will notice how much fun he's missing and join everyone next year. Or not.
But don't let him spoil it for the rest of the family. The more voluntary participation, the more successful the happening. And the more enjoyable your new family traditions become.