Building memories, relationships through family traditions

FEATURE – When you recall favorite childhood memories, the first thing that comes to mind will probably be traditional family activities centered on holidays and special occasions.

Traditions are an important lifeline to healthy development of children and to healthy aging. These rituals produce stability, enrich the soul and create an overall feeling of well-being.

Growing up in Calgary with an American mother and a Canadian father meant Thanksgiving in October and November, followed by the celebration of Christmas in December. A large yard with giant trees meant cleaning up the leaves and turning under plants to winterize the garden. My siblings and I joined Dad in the great outdoors while Mom prepared the meals inside. Here in America, it is traditional to play a friendly game of football on a crisp November day, but in Canada the snow-covered yards and streets usually meant a game of street hockey. December was full of similar American traditions of red, green and white “stockings hung by the chimney with care” and cookies for Santa by the warm fireplace.

We are connected to these traditions and recognize them as a way to build identity and represent family values. We are secure in their predictability, and know that each year these same events will occur in their usual time and place. These are the memories that build relationships and unite generations. This holiday season, considering the following elements can help to create new traditions and evaluate existing ones:


Knowing that Grandma and Grandpa will be inviting the grandchildren to a night at the local Christmas concert gives the children something to look forward to. They delight in the anticipation and look forward to dressing in their best for this special occasion. This is an opportunity for generations to bond and build long-lived memories.


Christmas is a time for music and a wonderful time for the family to stroll the neighborhood and sing Christmas carols. This ritual is quickly becoming an experience of the past but something that should not fade. This is an excellent opportunity to connect with neighbors and build trusting relationships.

Building identity

Traditions give family members a sense of belonging. As I worked in the yard with my dad and siblings, I knew that I was a part of the family. I contributed and was positively recognized for a job well done. A child working together with parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles presents a time to tell stories and build appreciation for the family he or she belongs to.

Representing family values

Family events that become traditions are built on family values, thus allowing a strong foundation for children to build upon. Spending time with grandparents, building relationships with neighbors and building self-esteem contribute to feelings of stability and rich life experiences that establish a healthy lifestyle.

Happy Holidays!

Lani Puriri
Lani Puriri

Written by Lani Puriri for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.


Puriri is the operations manager for DSU’s Cultural Arts Community Outreach and DOCUTAH. Contact her at [email protected].

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1 Comment

  • Kerry November 30, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Christmas has always been a family celebration in the Grinkmeyer home, but as our children grew older we found that their interest in Christmas morning waned and the sparkle in their eyes was gone. The day after Thanksgiving, 1992, we introduced the Christmas Web in our home with the placement of Magic Wands into their socks that had for years been hung at the fireplace mantel. Attached to each Magic Wand was a piece of yarn (a 70 yard piece of yarn). When our two teen-aged children came down Christmas morning, they found that the yarn was wound through the house – around window latches, door knobs, chairs and doors. It ended in a closet or cabinet which held their special Christmas gift from one of Santa’s elves, an elf who had been looking out for them for the past year and knew of their desire for this special Christmas gift.
    The Christmas Web continued as each of our children got married and as they had children. Each of our grandchildren have an Elf on the Shelf or Elf Magic elf who is now the elf that hides their special Christmas gift each year and leads them to it with their individual Magic Wand. We now have seven Magic Wands each with 70 yards of yarn winding through our house every Christmas morning, making getting a cup of coffee an acrobatic achievement before the winding hunt begins.
    The Christmas Web has become a highly anticipated family tradition for our children, grandchildren and us. We hope it brings as much joy to your family as it has to ours.

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