Traditions: The Binding Stories of Our Life

“Whoa! Here we go!” My father yelled, as once again he had the first catch of the season. They were here. My father’s voice rang like a gong, carrying down stream to where I stood. His call signified to everyone that the long hard New England winter was officially over. Opening day fever intensified in my body and my heart sped up. I too wanted to catch some trout…maybe one more than my father or brother…or perhaps just the biggest one. No matter what happened, one thing was clear: The Arnold Family was once again ushering in Spring with their trout fishing skills on full display.

This coming Saturday marks the opening day of trout fishing in Connecticut. Every year since I was about 7, my dad, brother, and I wake up around 4:30 in the morning, grab our gear, and head out to our top fishing hole. At 6 am, we were allowed, by law, to cast our line into the water.

This day carries so much significance for me. First, it was the true mark that spring had sprung. Second, it provided wonder and mystery to me as I dreamed in the week leading up to it that I might pull out a lunker. Third, and most importantly, it provided time for my dad, brother, and I to bond.

Sadly, my Champion Dad passed in 2017. However, every April, I still show up to the same hole to carry on the family tradition. Soon, my kids will be the age where it will be safe for them to go. The torch will be passed down.

Family traditions are the story of your life. They are the strings that knit your family together. They celebrate the differences and unite members together as a greater whole. Traditions are beautiful, fun, and give us something to look forward to. Your traditions define your family. They are the myths you leave behind when you are gone.

The following is a shortlist of benefits I have experienced through our family traditions. Hopefully, this list will inspire you (the reader) to pass down or start your own ritual/traditions for your family. 

Family connections get stronger. Traditions provide an opportunity for families to spend dedicated time together. Members of a family bond and have a sense that they are a part of something special. This also ties in the fact that it can bring together multiple generations. Moreover, it helps cull the narcissistic behaviors our culture develops as we experience something greater than ourselves.

Provides teachable moments. What a great way to reinforce your cultural heritage or pass down your life wisdom/experiences. These moments teach values. Values are instilled and reinforced through family dinners, bedtime routines, morning routines, and weekly activities. 

Builds a family story and identity. Rituals and traditions provide an explicit or implied story of the family. Who are we? Where did we come from? What do we care about? How do we act? Through these questions, your family can develop a natural sense of purpose and belonging.

Lasting memories. The things I remember most about my life all center around traditions. It doesn’t matter if it was big, small, daily, or seasonal; all of my fondest memories have been through one tradition or another.

Traditions are a wonderful way to provide bonding, connectivity, and organization to this crazy world. What traditions are you passing down or creating for your family?

Now, of course, there are traditions that I would love to pass on to my kids, but I realize that they may not take hold. So far, I have found that if I battle with them on doing something, the tradition will eventually be doomed. So it is ok to examine or modify your traditions. It is far better to put your energy towards building new traditions than forcing an older tradition onto your kids.

To make a new or modified tradition stick keep two things in mind. First, be clear on WHY you are doing it. Understand the purpose behind the action. Second, make it personal for all involved. Traditions are special and should feel special for everyone. When you have the why down and make it personal, traditions build a natural momentum all their own. Have fun with it!

Remember: Traditions bring your family together and help you reconnect. They provide a sense that there is something greater than the individual. Love elevates and bonds through traditions.

Be well….also wish me a spot of luck this weekend as I want to haul in a Lunker.


Photo by Jed Owen via Unsplash

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