A few years ago I found some gingerbread houses on sale at Target and we put them together. My oldest son kept eating the weird candy dots in the box instead of decorating and the cookie itself was not at all delicious at all. Who wants to eat cookies everyone has touched anyway?

We didn’t ever finish, and eventually, I threw the whole thing away. The eco-minimalist in me cringed that we were destroying the environment and wasting food.

My son loved it.

The next year it was ALDI I think.

Same story.

Grubby fingers, gross candy. Short-lived and not delicious.

Then in 2020, I didn’t go into stores, and so I didn’t have a kit. I started scrummaging for how to make the gingerbread houses. As I stared into my pantry under the spell of Great British Bakeoff, gingerbread recipe pulled up on my phone, trying to decide if it was worth it… I spotted my kids’ favorite snack.

Graham crackers.

And it dawned on me that I’d been making the whole thing far more complicated than it really had to be.

Of course, I did what any modern adult would do.
I googled it.

Friends, I found this video, and the deal was done. We even used leftover Halloween candy and pretzels we had in the house to decorate. (Check this construction tip out if you plan on having graham cracker architecture competitions)

Then everyone ate their house for breakfast the next day and a new tradition was born, like a phoenix out of the ash of 2020.

We did the whole thing again on repeat for the rest of the season.

It’s a silly story, but creating traditions can sometimes start out that way, can’t it? A little messy, a little thrown together, but a whole lotta fun.

In fact, the importance of a tradition lies in the shared meaning and value we give it.

We’ve got a great podcast lineup this fall, full of traditions that are fun for teens, too.

But why do traditions matter?

Why are we drawn to the idea of traditions? What do we gain from them and how can we maximize the benefits for our kids?

I felt like something about the chaos and the unknown of the pandemic itself made creating and keeping traditions more important than ever.

And it made perfect sense. Just like routines create a sense of calm and secureness, traditions create continuity and identity in a family, or in a group of friends for that matter.

But traditions are more than routine because they carry with them a deeper meaning. They strengthen bonds and pass on a sense of belonging.

When you look back on your childhood, traditions are, at their very best, the collection of moments that made your house a home. They are the moments that describe what’s important to your family, your school, your team, your group of friends.

Sometimes, they even become a right of passage into adulthood as you become responsible for carrying on the tradition- whether it’s lighting the shamash, carving the turkey or putting the star on top of the tree.

So what makes a good tradition?

  • It’s easy to repeat year after year.
    Think time and money.
  • Everyone looks forward to it.
    Because life’s too short!
  • It relates to your family values.
    Kids with a strong sense of identity are more confident and less likely to participate in risky behavior. This is a great opportunity to build on your family identity.

I saw a survey recently that said that 67% of parents say they feel the need to produce the perfect holiday. Talker Research published an article in November 2021 saying that 4 out of 5 parents feel pressured to get their kids the perfect gift. That’s a lot of holiday stress!

No matter what holiday you celebrate, I think we can all agree that it should be special, meaningful, and fun for everyone- parents included. Believe me when I tell you I am preaching to myself here. The best-laid plans are worthless if all you are is stressed.

So take a deep breath and let go of all the things you feel like you have to do to make the holidays perfect. Then cling to the things that bring you and your family joy.

It could even be a fun dinner conversation to ask what everyone remembers most fondly about past holidays and go from there! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or perfect. It just has to be yours.

And if you’re worried about everything being perfect, the University of Nevada did a little research on gift wrapping in 2019. Researchers found that poorly wrapped gifts were better received than well-wrapped gifts!

Sometimes when things aren’t perfect, we actually appreciate them more for what they are, instead of measuring them against our false expectations of what we think they should be.

Think of your traditions as a gift from one generation to the next. They don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be many. In fact, it might even be better if they aren’t.


P.S. If you’re looking for easy, fun tradition ideas, check out episode 36 of the Teen Life Podcast or this list from AHAParenting.com or this one from VeryWellFamily.com.

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Digital Media Manager

Kelly has a desire to empower young people to grow into the best version of themselves. Using her background in branding and word-smithing, she is a master at highlighting resources that help teens learn skills that will enable them to grow and to adapt, to enjoy life and to be better citizens. Kelly has a MA in Linguistics from North Texas University.