Five activities that became yearly family traditions that have helped bond us with both our immediate and extended family. Be inspired to pick some for your own family!
While we love all kinds of activities that will be remembered as some of our family traditions, the things we do as a family – often with extended family – only once a year are remembered in a much different light. These yearly family traditions are more talked about and loved, maybe because they are usually out of the realm of every-day life.
For our kids (and us!) these once-a-year activities are anticipated all year long and if something happens to get in the way of it, oh, do we hear about it.
For a long time. So don’t mess with these.
Top 5 Yearly Family Traditions
1. The BIG Birthday Party.
This one actually occurs twice a year since we have two kids, but it’s yearly for each of them as it’s their birthday parties. While they get special attention around the table on the actual day of their birthday, we also have a big party for them on the Saturday or Sunday closest to their birthday.
We invite all our family, and bless their hearts, they have traveled almost yearly to both the parties. We feed them (usually a full meal, but sometimes just finger foods), and we have cake, ice cream, and presents. That’s it. No elaborate games and just simple decorations. It’s special and sweet and we get time to visit with family we don’t always get to see while celebrating the birthday person.
Our kids have occasionally gotten a kid party, but it’s usually low-key and mostly at home, or a sleepover with a movie and snacks. I’ve just never gotten into the big parties at the places that charge a lot to go there. My kids are OK with this- I don’t know how our generation got to the point where over-blown parties are the norm, and I don’t like the message they send.
So remember: parties= simple, frugal, & fun.
2. Summer Beach Trips.
Or mountain, lake – whatever is near to where you live and can afford.
Our family had “Camp Mil-Mar,” named for the lake house Brian’s parents have that was built by his grandfather. We spent time there every summer, but making it an “official” camp with all the nieces and nephews with themes like the Olympics, a musical they practiced and put on, or books they read is what made this extra special.
It runs for five days and Brian’s mom was in charge of most of it including crafts, journals to write in, water sports, books to read, and movies to watch. A few years ago at Christmas, she gave each grandchild a photo album of Camp Mil-Mar and adds to it each year.
I can’t tell you how many memories and “super-fun” cousin time has occurred at Camp Mil-Mar, but Brian and I are certainly grateful for this wonderful tradition!
3. Family Snow Trip.
Each year for more than 10 years my side of the family has met in the nearby mountains, rented a cabin, and skied, snow-shoed, and sledded our way through a weekend. Some years it’s the only time we get to spend some time in the snow.
When we’re not in the snow, we play games, eat the treats people have made and hang out together with nothing else to do but enjoy each other. These are precious times away from the normal every day.
4. Road Trips in our Little Trailer.
We took our sweet vintage trailer all over our great state. One year we started at Crater Lake and made our way south before heading back north.
Another time we visited the northeast corner of the state. We’ve taken our trailer to Ashland to see some Shakespeare plays and we’ve gone to Central Oregon and showed the kids one of my favorite lakes when I was little, Cultus Lake (you can walk out for miles it seems before it gets deep!).
5. School Traditions.
We’ve taken pictures of the kids at the door on their first day of school every year right before getting on the bus. Brian (teasingly) asked our son about taking a picture the first day of college classes.
Surprisingly he declined.
We also go out for ice cream for good report cards, and we have a rare night out to eat to celebrate the end of a good school year. I really feel like these rituals also serve to show our kids how important school is by celebrating and emphasizing their accomplishments.
So, what are some of YOUR yearly traditions? Are ours pretty similar?