Using Traditions for Stronger Family Bonds

Daughter on fathers shoulders, picking apple from tree
Paul Plews/Cultura/Getty Images

Family rituals and traditions are important. They establish a foundation for family values and are a good bonding experience.?? Rituals also give both children and parents something to look forward to.

A family ritual is a set of behaviors that is repeatable and symbolically meaningful. Family rituals provide families with a sense of identity and belonging.?? They often stir up strong emotions?and are frequently reminisced about and discussed within the family.

Family rituals also provide a sense of continuity across generations. In other words, they are a way of transmitting family values, history, and culture from one generation to the next.?? Another term for family rituals is family traditions.

Examples of Family Traditions

Perhaps the best example of family rituals are holiday traditions, such as those surrounding Kwanzaa, Christmas, or Hanukkah. Events surrounding these holidays like picking out a Christmas tree, lighting the candles on the menorah or kinara, and gathering for dinner with extended family can become rituals. Families also have non-holiday rituals that are unique to their family.

Apple picking every fall or renting a vacation cabin every summer are two good examples. Some families may also have a ritual for every member's birthday. It may be as ordinary as baking a special cake that is the birthday celebrant's personal favorite. It may also be something funny or an inside family joke that becomes a tradition on everyone's birthday.

Family Traditions Through Generations

Many families have traditions that last for generations. These often produce the fondest memories that everyone cherishes and attempts to carry on. Some are related to the family's heritage, like going to a cultural festival or cooking a meal from the "old country" on a certain day each year.??

Others may have to do with special events, such as a pearl necklace that is passed down at each wedding.?? Still others are simply fun. A family full of baseball fans may make it a tradition to go to the stadium on opening day. It may have started with great-grandpa and continues to involve the youngest members of the family.

Family Rituals vs. Routines

Family rituals can be contrasted with family routines, which also occur repeatedly but lack the symbolic meaning that family rituals hold.??

Family rituals are highly important to the welfare of all family members and to the family structure itself. Family routines are often necessary?to keep the family unit together. A family dinner every Friday night may be a routine. A family dinner at a fancy restaurant for Mom's birthday may be a ritual or tradition.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lee TY, Lok DP. Bonding as a positive youth development construct: A conceptual review. Sci World J. 2012. doi:10.1100/2012/481471

  2. Crespo C, Kielpikowski M, Pryor J, Jose PE. Family rituals in New Zealand families: Links to family cohesion and adolescents' well-being. J Fam Psychol. 2011;25(2):184. doi:10.1037/a0023113

  3. Phoenix A, Brannen J. Researching family practices in everyday life: Methodological reflections from two studies. Int J Soc Res Methodol. 2014;17(1):11-26. doi:10.1080/13645579.2014.854001

  4. Sharif MS, Zahari MS, Nor NM, Muhammad R. How could the transfer of food knowledge be passed down?. Procedia Soc Behav Sci. 2013;105(0):429-37. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.11.045

  5. Gloyn L, Crewe V, King L, Woodham A. The ties that bind: Materiality, identity, and the life course in the “things” families keep. J Fam Hist. 2018;43(2):157-76. doi:10.1177/0363199017746451