Traditions don’t just happen. There’s always a wizard behind the curtain.

Value of Tradition Over Time

Today, in this weird space between the Magic of Christmas to the Bang of New Year’s, I’m realizing that traditions are really the glue that holds our world together, but can only thrive if nourished in our own backyards.

We may share similar traditions worldwide, but we’re all snowflakes in how they play out for our families. Without traditions, and people to share them with, every day is the same. Nothing special. Like eating off the same plate everyday.

Somedays we need to take out the good china. [click to tweet]

Whatever your holiday traditions are, it’s how they’re maintained in your home that matters most. Garbage in garbage out. Risk reward. Same same.

It seems to me, families with the strongest traditions create the happiest people. And to me, it’s Happy that rules the world.

But, anything worthy of tradition doesn’t just happen by accident. There’s always a wizard behind the curtain making it all happen. [click to tweet]

If your house is like mine, there’s generally a lead parent who creates and maintains family traditions, and in our home, I’m that girl. Usually it’s the mom, but I know some dads out there that take the lead here too. For us, I’m that person and I love it.

My whole life, it has been these traditions that have kept me grounded in happy and hope. And as a mom, I think creating and maintaining traditions has really been one of my most important roles in our family.

I have a huge helping of tradition-making in my blood. For the most part it’s well received by my people, but I definitely do hear some groans from time to time, especially when establishing new traditions.

Overall, it’s these traditions that glue our family together in a good way and innoculate our kids with a contagion of Happy that I hope they spread throughout their worlds.

And that has to be a good thing.

But the wizarding of tradition isn’t all Hallmark Movie of the Week. Traditions take work. Planning. Orchestrating. Plus a good bit of discipline and thick skin to keep them alive. Most aren’t immediately embraced. Some need to be set aside. While others need to be dumbed down.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about default traditions. Those are the kind of things that just mindlessly happen out of habit. Like where you sit at the dinner table. We all seem to gravitate to the same spots all the time.

Traditions Don't Just HappenDuring the holidays, putting up the Christmas tree is kind of a worldwide habit, but the whole ritual of decorating the tree when everyone is gathered together, sipping hot chocolate while listening to the first of the season’s non-stop Christmas music, is the mindful kind of tradition I’m talking about.

And that one, so ideally depicted in movies is often nothing like the ideal, and not as easy to pull off as you’d think. But for me, it’s a tradition that launches the whole magical bubble of the Christmas season that I hold so dear.

I inherited our tree-trimming tradition from my mom. When I was growing up, my mom would give each of us six kids a new ornament to add to our growing collection, then we’d all decorate the tree together. Every year, the joy of revisiting all my ornaments from years’ past and racing for the best branch to display them was too powerful not to continue with my own family.

For years, I’ve tried to get this one down to movie-like magic, but have mostly failed in comparison. When the kids were little, they were all on board. Little kids are sooooo much easier in so many ways than big teenaged, hormone-raging, independantly-minded, going different-way kids.

When the kids were little though, Dad’s participation consisted of lying on the couch, sleeping through the whole thing.

When the teen years started piling up in our house, the pinnacle moment of disaster was when I packed up all the ornaments of one child and nearly threw them all in the fireplace. Thankfully, I resisted the urge and just tossed the box into her cesspool of a bedroom and released them for good.

Now, a year later and moved onto her own place, those same ornaments followed her and she’s continued the tradition by inviting us all over to help her decorate her own first Christmas tree.

Complete 180. Happy!

Regardless of the wart-stained reality, this tree-trimming tradition has always ended worthy of repeat as we all sit and marinate together in the sparkly glow of Christmas tree wonder.

Keep Strong

What on the surface or at the moment seems silly or unnecessary, in the big picture really matters for keeping a family connected. The hardest part for the Tradition Keeper is selling it to the others to get them all on board, and keeping it alive. So often, especially with teenagers, traditions that require emotional sharing are always a tougher sell. But, they’re really the best ones to keep digging into for a million reasons, not the least of which is developing the skill to be real with one another and freely share both our love and fears.

And then, once you’ve got them on board, it’s a whole ‘nother thing for the Tradition Keeper to keep it going. Over the years, I’ve abdicated some really awesome traditions that I was just too lazy to continue. Then, 100% of the time, I look back at my inactivity with regret.

The value of tradition reveals itself over time with care and feeding. Stick with it and watch it grow. [click to tweet]

A couple years ago, I started a new New Year’s tradition, inspired by an innocent stroll through Pinterest. (I know. Never innocent. Always full of nagging want.)

I love New Year’s probably as much as I love Christmas for entirely different reasons. To me, Christmas, is all about family; filled with the juicy happy kind of ideals we all know and love. It’s the time when it seems like everyone on the planet is, at least in some way, participating in family, however that looks for each.

But New Year’s is all about looking ahead. Both personally, and now as the Tradition Keeper in our family, with the creation and tweaking of more family juicy.

So back to that Pintererst board.

Gratitude and positivity has been my religion since ever. My parents instilled invincible in me, lead by a staunchly Can Do Mother. I learned early and quickly that I could do anything. Never mind the mess in my wake, it’s all for a good cause. Over the years, I’ve come to realize dream making is indeed a messy business but it’s always worthy.

The key to all of this Can Do is gratitude and faith. You can never thank someone (or the universe) enough, and faith in the cause, the process, the timing and overall faith in ourselves is the stuff of Happy. [click to tweet]

So, two days before New Year’s 2013, I woke up with an idea for a new tradition that was burning a hole in my head and heart. Before my feet hit the ground, I decided I would unveil it to the family on New Year’s Day.

Welcome to Gratitude Jars

Value of Tradition Over Time_p

I printed out these little labels (shown here) that I found on Pinterest and dressed up six mason jars for each member of my family. I wrapped them all up and set them at our kitchen table on New Year’s Day. At dinner that night, which by tradition has become something of a special occasion with festive touches to the table that elevate it from just a regular dinner, I unveiled our new Gratitude Jar Tradition with high hopes that it would not only be received with cheers, but stick.

As the kids unwrapped the jars, there where the expected question marks floating above their heads. What do these empty jars with labels mean?

I had some ‘splainin’ to do . . .

The rules were that each person picks someone’s jar from the center of the table and then writes one thing (on the small pieces of paper provided) that they’re thankful for, or like about that person, and sets it on top of the jar. In addition, everyone writes one thing that they are thankful for, or like about themselves, and sets it on top of their own jar.

Then we go around the table and read them aloud.

Now, two years later, our windowsill is filled with jars of happiness and love. It has become a solid dinnertime tradition, to go along with our long-held Nice Nice Game that we started when our oldest two were barely out of diapers. (I’ll save that most sacred Slaby Family Tradition for another post.)

Whenever we gather for a family dinner (which is generally once a week these days due to crazy mixed up schedules) we do the Gratitude Jars. And believe me, it hasn’t been easy keeping this tradition, because yes, there have been moans and groans along the way, but now, standing back and seeing these jars-o-plenty standing proud, I’m happy I stuck it out and nurtured this tradition.

Now, whenever anyone is feeling nostalgic, blue or otherwise, they have a pile of love, hand scribed, and forever reminding them that all is good and that they are loved.


What are some of your family traditions? Who’s your Tradition Keeper? Please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear!

About The Author

Maria Slaby

I'm a lot of labels, not the least of which is a mom / wife with four awesome kids and an amazing husband. My lifelong love of making cool stuff with an eye on our humanness has also turned me into a branding and publishing specialist. I love helping others bring voice to their passions in this wild and tangled digital world. Catch up with me on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @mariaslaby.

  • Kathy Carter Greidanus

    Excellent blog post! I relate so much. Yes, I am the Tradition Maker and Keeper! This year our family unexpectedly lost two very special people in our lives the week before Christmas. It was the pull of our holiday traditions upon the horizon that grounded us in hope and wonder. There is a certainty that traditions provide that we can snuggle into for comfort. We know what to expect, even if it varies a little, and we are prepared to enjoy those traditions we look forward to the most. They are a foundation in our lives, a glue that connects us. The carols played, presents exchanged and homemade Polish food prepared let us drop into the present moment of the joy felt only during this time of year. Now, we move into the newness of a fresh year, only to end it with the same happy traditions.

    • Maria Slaby

      So sorry for your losses Kathy! Thanks for so beautifully sharing how traditions are grounding and guiding your family through this difficult time. So often we go through to motions with not only our traditions, but in sharing our daily lives together. The beauty in traditions is that in our darkest moments they bring us back to the present with a peace like no other. So happy you and your family are feeling that! Peace and love to you.