I think they are so important. They create a mythology for your family unit. It ties you together through ritual and a sense of intimacy.
Of course any family should have these things naturally, but the rituals, the "way we do things", is so important. When I think about growing up, there are so many little ways that we did things that were special. My parents really made an effort to make even small moments special. We had terminology and traditions that I never questioned or thought were in the slightest bit strange... until I got older and tried to explain them to friends.
Then, when Ross joined our family, I experienced that strange sensation of viewing ones family from the perspective of an outsider. I suddenly realized that some of the things I'd taken for granted are kind of weird! But in a wonderful way :) Of course, some of our rituals are fairly normal.
Our family, circa 1986 (?)
So here are some of my family rituals:
1. Sunday Lunch: Every Sunday, after church, we'd go out to lunch. The choice of restaurant rotated between the four of us. The only rule was that if you complained about someone else's choice, you lost your next turn.
2. The Bears and The Bees. Ok, this is one of the weird ones. Somehow, it came to be that my mom and I were "The Bees" and my dad and my brother where "The Bears". To this day, my dad will still refer to my brother as "The Bear" or "The Beary-Boy" or "Bear-o-toosh-nia". (What can I say, may dad is big on nicknames). Which brings me to...
3. Nicknames. I have never in my life heard my dad call me or my brother by our actual names. My nicknames include: Cheeser, The Baby, Jonella, Pookieloo, and (the most common) Redbird. My brother's are: The Normal One (also derivatives such as Normiso and Normoto), the bear related ones mentioned above, and Jaybird or Jay. I have no idea where most of these names come from, but they are ingrained in our family.
A "Family Tree"
I had a friend's husband design this for my family just before Ross and I got married.
We're all represented in animal form.
4. Saturday Adventures: Every Saturday morning we'd have a "Family Adventure". These adventures included things like going to the downtown public library to get books or to a museum. Sometimes it would even be as simple as going to the grocery store. My parents worked really hard to make even simple activities seem like fun "adventures". As we got older, I started having ballet class on Saturday morning, so we began splitting up and having "Bee Adventures" and "Bear Adventures". It was so fun to make an event out of every day happenings.
5. Family Dinner: Soon after dad came home from work, we'd all gather around the table to eat together. We'd eat dinner and talk about our weeks and what was going on in our lives. As we got older, we'd talk about current events. Sometimes my dad would do "Ethical Dilemmas". He ran a department for the city, so he'd bring home work problems and describe them to us. After we had the basic outline, we'd debate what we thought he should do. He'd come back later, and tell us how things had actually shaken out. It was a great way to get us to think critically about problems and address issues that we might face later in life.
Then there is the whole other matter of Christmas Traditions. I was going to include them here, but I think they deserve a post of their own. (Watch this space.) My family are VERY serious about Christmas!
Did you have any family traditions growing up?
Were any of them particularly strange?
How are you incorporating them in your new family or grown-up life?