Family traditions for next generation and beyond

By Samantha Critchell

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- OK, so not many families have the time or even the desire to gather around the Sunday dinner table each week for a hot meal of meatloaf and string bean casserole. That doesn't mean, though, that today's families shouldn't go without their own bonding rituals.

"The Book of New Family Traditions" (Running Press) by Meg Cox is full of ideas to make both holidays and the average Monday special.

The extra effort that goes into creating rituals and traditions pays off when children develop a sense of identity -- both of themselves and of their heritage, learn values and create wonderful memories, according to Cox.


"We need these now more than ever because we have a limited amount of time together as families," Cox explains during a phone interview from her New Jersey home. "If you study tribal rituals, families were together 24-7, but when you have a limited time with your kids, you have to make the most of it. And family time still has to compete with videogames, the Internet, friends and other media."

In Cox's family, one ritual is as simple as an hour-long walk every Sunday. They all leave their cell phones at home.

There are many options for family traditions but almost all have a beginning (usually the preparation), a middle (the action) and an end (a celebration). Opportune moments to begin new rituals include a holiday or birthday, a sports victory, a promotion or even a death in the family.

But, Cox says, not all rituals stem from an event; in fact, some start to fend off boredom during rainy-day doldrums.

Some of the "ritual" suggestions for occasions at different times of year included in the book(are:

Summer vacation: Tour your own town. One weekend each year, pretend your family is visiting and go to all the places frequented by tourists, such as historic sites and new restaurants. Take photos and even buy T-shirts and postcards.

If you do go farther away, consider packing a goofy item and taking photos of it wherever you go. Cox recalls one family who photographed a fraying teddy bear at the pool, "asleep" in the bed and viewing the local sights. At Christmastime, exchange the goofy item as a "gift" with other relatives, who then will take it on vacation -- and share the photos.

Thanksgiving: Put three kernels of corn next to each place setting at the dinner table and have each person count out aloud three things for which they are thankful.


Share the Thanksgiving feast with nature's animals. Before sitting down for your own dinner, take a bucket full of seeds and food scraps on a walk and sprinkle the food on the ground for the animals. On the way home, fill the bucket with twigs and kindling for the fireplace.

Buy a duplicate feast. Buy one turkey, give the other away to a homeless shelter. Same goes for boxes of stuffing, vegetables.

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