Your teen may be on well on their way to becoming an adult or they may just be starting to spread their wings of independence. Either way, the time is now to prepare them with a strong backing of family traditions to hold onto for their future times of uncertainty.
Whatever family traditions have been passed down to you, whether they be cultural, seasonal, spiritual, or even food-related, choose a few or all to share with your teenagers now that they can begin to appreciate the meanings behind the traditions.
Your teen may very well be accustomed from the time they were babies to have the family gather on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, but have you ever explained the origin of that tradition in your family?
Maybe you always make a special soup on New Years Day, does your teenager understand the history of that recipe, and who passed it down to you?
Just as they are learning to appreciate world history and your country’s history in school, they are ripe to learn about your particular family’s history, culture, and traditions. It will take on a whole new meaning for them.
Then when your teenager is old enough to decide whether to keep the tradition going in their own adult lives and with their own families, they will have something substantial to choose from.
If you don’t have a family tradition that has meaningfully been passed down to you, why don’t you do a little digging and adopt or create one of your own? Here are a few favorite family traditions that come to mind.
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Important Family Tradition Ideas to Share with your Teenagers
Family traditions can mean something different to each person you ask. There are traditions that are passed down generations born from cultural traditions, out of religious traditions, and out of seasonal traditions. Some family traditions are more informal, and some are more modern takes on family traditions you could try with your family.
Either way, whichever family tradition ideas have significance to you (and hopefully have many personal happy memories associated with it) are the ideas you should stick with and share with your teenagers so they can choose to pass them on to their family when it is their turn.
Seasonal Family Tradition Ideas
1. Winter Family Tradition Ideas
Winter invokes memories of cozy times around warm fires, snowball fights, and lighted treetops. Which winter family tradition brings back warm, fuzzy memories?
- Winter Tree Lighting Festival
- Winter Trip to the Ski Mountain for tubing, skiing or snowboarding
- Warm cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows or whipped cream
- At home movie nights with popcorn and snuggly blankets
- Valentines Day Celebrations of Love
2. Spring Family Tradition Ideas
Ah spring, for us here in the Northeast, we are delighted at the first signs of spring. It’s truly a reawakening of nature and a relief from the cold of winter. What springtime family tradition idea brings a smile to your face?
- Saint Patrick’s Day Parade
- Getting the Garden Ready Day
- Spring Cleaning and home refreshing – may not sound fun, but the kids like to open up the windows and get the house looking and feeling good after a long winter. Throw on some music and jam while you work, it may give a team spirit vibe to the event. Spring cleaning is an important skill to pass down to your teens, so you might as well make it an activity your teens can look forward to. Have a terrific reward after the work is done. Maybe a trip to the local ice cream shop or pizzeria.
- Easter Egg Hunt
- Graduation Parties
- School-end celebrations, concerts, and events.
- Spring sports fun
- Picnics in the park
3. Summer Family Tradition Ideas
So much yumminess in the summer. Light summer food, BBQ and grilling, ice cream and popsicles, watermelon, and fresh fruit. Then there are the parties, vacations, family gatherings, neighborhood block parties, and the like. Summer invokes a break from school and work and time to play. It can mean trips to the beach and picnics in the park. What summer family tradition sparks joy in your heart?
- Annual summer festivals
- Family BBQ
- 4th of July Parade and Fireworks celebration
- Neighborhood Block Party
4. Family Vacation Spot
- Summer Vacation
- Trip to the Camp
- Trip to the Beach
- Trip to the Lake
- Road Trip
- Annual Trip to the Amusement Park
5. Autumn Harvest Time Traditions
There is something about the crisp fall air and the change in seasons that fall invokes. Apple picking and trick or treating. Back to school pictures and trips to the fair for funnel cakes and cider apple donuts. Mmmm, which Autumn Traditions bring you back to a happy place inside?
- Back to school fun
- Harvest celebration
- Apple Picking
- Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma’s
- Pumpkin Picking
- Pumpkin Carving
- Trip to the County Fair
Religious traditions that your family has adopted. It may be a spiritual ritual or a secularized celebration. Pick one (or more) to hold dear, year after year.
6. Holiday Family Tradition Ideas
- Christmas Family Pageant
- Cutting your own Christmas Tree
- Christmas Tree Decorating Party
- Christmas Caroling for the shut-ins and elderly of the neighborhood
- Holiday Parties
- New Year’s Eve Party
7. Spiritual Days of Worship
- Jewish Traditional Days of Worship
- Rosh Hashanah
- Yom Kippur
- Hannukah remembrances
- Christian Holidays
- Ash Wednesday
- Palm Sunday
- Good Friday (Our family enjoys a Passion Play to remember)
- Easter Sunday
- Christmas Eve and Christmas Service
8. Family Time/Bonding Traditions
Favorite family bonding traditions can turn into family traditions.
Warning: be careful not to make an external event that you cannot control into a family tradition, just because it’s something your family enjoys every year. If that event is canceled for some reason by the organizers, it would be a blow to the family and lose its significance. So let’s keep the traditions something your family can organize independently.
This year is a perfect example of this, so many annual events and traditions were canceled due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. This is throwing families for a loop and has been a big let down for kids and adults alike.
So if you plan your family traditions around a town-wide event that is canceled, how can you adapt the event to still hold it? Be creative. This will make it a memorable event instead of disappointment.
- Monthly Game Night
- Take-Out Dinner Night
- Family Bonding Activities
- Mother-Daughter Date Ideas
- Daddy-Daughter Dates
9. Family Birthday Celebrations
Maybe your family does up birthday celebrations at the next level. If there is more to your family birthday celebrations than just cake an ice cream, it might be a legit family tradition. That counts my friends. Pass on why birthdays are so important to you all and how you go about the planning to do it up right.
10. Extended Family Reunion Celebrations
Why not make an intentional effort to organize a Family Reunion for the extended family. If it cannot be an annual event because the extended family is separated by a significant distance, why not plan it to fall on odd years or even every 5 years. This way, family members can plan ahead for it, it can solidify connections distance can weaken, and be a fun way to see how much everyone has grown up. Your teens will love to see their distant relations and won’t it be interesting to see how much the family changes and grows every couple of years.
11. Annual Family Photo
Make a tradition to document the changes in your growing family with an Annual Family Photo. This can be of the kids on the first day of school, or of the entire extended family at your next family reunion. These are so fun to look back on years later, and can become priceless momentos.
- First day of school
- Halloween Pictures
- Easter Pictures
- Christmas Pictures
- Annual family reunion photo
12. Family Sports Game Rituals
Our family is a football family. My daughter and I are die-hard NE Patriots fans, so the football season is important to us. We enjoy watching the games every week.
Whatever your favorite sport, why not pick ONE game per month to really enjoy with a watch party. This can be something your family can plan for and look forward to every month during the season. And your teenagers can invite their friends over. The culmination of these monthly parties would be the championship game, like a Superbowl Sunday Party. FUN!
- Family sports year-end celebrations. If your kids play sports there is an opportunity to really celebrate the end of the season REGARDLESS of the outcome of the season, win or lose.
13. Neighborhood/Community Events
We are lucky enough to live in a great town that puts together a lot of cool community events. What does your town or neighborhood do to make connections? See how you can be a part of the next one.
- Neighborhood block party/ BBQ
- Annual Town Festival
- Halloween Trick or Treating
14. Volunteering/Service Tradition
There are few activities more important to do alongside your teenager than volunteering for service projects. Giving of your time and talents is a wonderful way to show gratitude and be of service. Make this an annual tradition that you and your teen can do together well beyond their years in your home.
- Community dinner volunteer
- Family service days
- Annual mission service trip
Food Family Tradition Ideas
15. Favorite Family Recipes
Maybe it’s an old family recipe for a favorite stew, or soup, fried chicken or special holiday meal, or BBQ sauce that’s the hit that makes it’s appearance every year, pass it on, and let your teen enjoy the art of perfecting the family recipe. It’s a wonderful excuse to teach her some of your tricks for cooking and a great segue into an important life skill lesson.
- Grandma’s Lasagna Recipe
- Grandpa’s Turkey Recipe
- Great Uncle’s BBQ Chicken Wings Recipe
- Family recipes can be the easiest tradition to share and can be passed down from generation to generation.
16. Family Celebration Restaurant
Take some of the pressure of cooking the next important family celebration and take the party to your favorite restaurant. Let going to the restaurant become part of the tradition every year.
17. Family Meal Time
Some families rely on regular family dinner or breakfast to be a way to build connection throughout the week.
Some families have meal themes to go with the days of the week. Like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday (breakfast for dinner), Pasta Thursday, Pizza Fridays, Sandwich Saturday, Slow Cooker Sunday. Maybe you pick one of these you like and make it a ritual, so everyone knows what’s for dinner that night.
Some families keep it a bit simpler because the weekdays are nutty with teens at work or in sports, and rely on a Sunday Night supper – a way to start off the week together with a special family meal and a chance to lay out what’s coming up that is important in the week ahead and get everyone on the same page.
18. Family Heirlooms
If your family is fortunate enough to have a treasured family heirloom, place the treasure on display if it makes sense and be sure to pass it down to the next generation when it’s appropriate.
19. Cultural and Regional Traditions
Dig deep into your family tree’s roots to explore cultural traditions that go back for generations as a place to search for one that suits your family. Your teen might enjoy the process of the research and the cultural pride may be grounding for her as she turns into an adult.
For example, my extended family is Puerto Rican and my family roots go back to Spain, so here a few family traditions that my family held dear as I was growing up.
El Dia de los Reyes/Three Kings Day Celebration (aka Epiphany on January 6th). This tradition originated in Spain where kids leave water, sweets, and shoes out for the kings to replenish them after their long journey. And inside the shoes, the children put grass for the camels to eat. If the children were good, they get presents to open, and if they were bad, they got charcoal in their shoes. sound familiar? Amazing how similar traditions can be from region to region and how they evolve.
The Christmas Eve family dinner and family celebration with extended family were more significant than Christmas Day meals. As I grew up and left the house, my mom would insist that we be with her on Christmas Eve because it was a tradition she held dear. We also opened presents at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, so for us kids growing up, it was a big deal!
My extended family members in Puerto Rico participate in a long-standing cultural family tradition on Christmas Eve called parranda (a Christmas Caroling parade, so to speak – Puerto Rican Style) where you go from house to house singing and playing the guitar and other traditional instruments until the people let you in to eat and drink and then join you to go on parade style to the next house. Filling the neighborhood with singing, music, and lively Christmas spirit.
Some other cultural traditions you may recognize:
- Dia de la Muerte/Day of the Dead (Mexican family remembrance celebration) on All Saints Eve aka Halloween.
- On Saints Day November 1st Italian families put flowers on the graves of their dead to honor and celebrate them.
- Pasquetta, on the Monday after Easter, Italian families enjoy a picnic to mark the beginning of springtime.
- Butsudan, a small Japanese family altar to honor and remember family ancestors.
- Mardi Gras Carnival in New Orleans is an adaptation of Carnival from other parts of the world.
- Phagwah (Holi) a Hindu tradition in Spring of throwing colored powder on friends dressed in white to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.
- Diwali – is the festival of lights and love in November.
20. Family Tree
While you are at it with historical research, help them build their family tree. It would be the neatest thing for them to see the complexities of families and how to appreciate the uniqueness of their family lines. A gift they may treasure always. Find your family crest if you have one and share a bit of that history with your kids too.
Right now it is the time of the novel coronavirus and with all the extra time at home our kids have, it really is no better time to take on a project like this, if you are feeling healthy and up to it. Also, this activity could be a wonderful reason for your teenagers to reach out to their extended family members to gather all those family history stories.
When to share the tradition
The next time your favorite family tradition draws near, why not invite your teenager to join you in the preparations and planning phase. This would give you an opportunity to share why this particular event means something to you, maybe some of the history behind it if you know that, and how they can keep that fire burning in their future life and family.
If you don’t know the history but you have family or friends that do know, invite them to join you in explaining it to your teenager. Maybe your father remembers the tradition first being passed down by his grandmother, etc. How special would that storytelling be to your teen who might be keen to know some of her ancestor’s stories?
Feeling a connection to your family’s legacy and history is extremely grounding for young people.
Looking for a good read about family traditions?
If you want to read a great book that highlights family traditions (good and bad) passed down from generation to generation, give Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua Para Chocolate) a read or listen. So good. It demonstrates that some traditions are terrible and should be broken and others are wonderful and should be passed on.
A word of caution
Do not become dogmatic (or inflexible) when it comes to your traditions. Make them into special events and have them be exciting and fun so your teenagers will enjoy them enough to want to pass them down to the next generation. A sweet memory will be much more likely to hold than a forced activity.
Doing/participating in all these traditions we make up, are thrust upon us, or offered to us can make for a SUPER busy life. Pick and choose so you do not overwhelm your family.
Making yourselves so busy adhering to 15 “family traditions” a month is not the recipe for happy times. Pick and choose and don’t make this a subconscious reason to be busy all the time because of FOMO (fear of missing out). It can be really easy to get carried away here. Reel it in and ask your teenager to help you choose.
After all, you have regular routines, school, personal life, and work schedules to fit these fun family times around. It can become just another pressure point and super overwhelming for our kids (and us parents) if we are not careful.
So which Family Tradition Ideas will you choose to pass on to your teenagers?
It might be fun to decide as a family which traditions to pass on. Perhaps each of your family members has a favorite they want to keep going! Great! Or pick one from each category and enjoy the bonding experience of family traditions for generations to come.
Hopefully, your family has many ideas here to choose from, and one, two, or more ideas really lit a spark for you. Which family tradition ideas will you run with to share with your teenager? Remember to share with them why the traditions you both chose mean something to you. Share the history of the tradition with them (even if it is recent history). And make it a point to celebrate those family tradition ideas every year that you have left with your teens before they take off running into adulthood.
Other articles about fun family traditions and family bonding
- How to Enjoy Powerful Family Bonding Activities in a Changing World
- 40 Most Surprising and Best Games for Teens
- 5 Father-Daughter Bonding Strategies for Strong Teen Years
- 7 Easy Mother-Daughter Date Ideas Your Teenager Will Love
- How to Enjoy Authentic Mother-Daughter Bonding Time (Podcast)
- 12+ Daddy-Daughter Date Ideas that will Delight your Teen
- How to Get Closer to God as a Teenager – 9 Inspiring Ways
Chandra is the chocolate-chip loving mother of 2 teenage girls who started over again with a baby boy in her 40’s! She is the author of The Mom’s Playbook to Conquering Softball Season. She gives other moms the tools they need to prepare their daughters for real life. Her content is centered on helping girls grow up to be well-rounded, equipped, expressive, confident, intelligent, capable, kind and independent.