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Traditions in Marriage: Setting a New Course

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Husband and wife setting new traditions in marriage decorating the Christmas tree with daughter
© Jonathan Borba/Unsplash
As you begin to meld your family’s customs with your spouse’s, what will you carry forward, and how will you form your own traditions in marriage?

I remember New Year’s Day, all of my family sitting around my Nana’s table, her green-tiled kitchen filled with the aroma of her traditional New Year’s meal: Country ham, collard greens, black-eyed peas, rice and cornbread. For two decades, I was force-fed that meal and loathed it.

As the years went by and new faces appeared around our table, the desire to keep the tradition alive outweighed my intolerance for that meal. I realized that no matter how much I dismissed the traditions of my childhood; I ached for them when they were gone.

As a newlywed, you may not have given your family’s traditions much thought, but they may take on greater importance as you approach your first holiday together. Traditions connect us to loved ones past and present and maybe even bind us to those we haven’t met yet.  I encourage you to safeguard pieces of your family history.

Discover your past

Ask older relatives questions about your family’s traditions. Listen to their answers. Dig deep for rich, funny or quirky stories with specific names, personalities, dates, locations and recipes. Remember to pay attention to your spouse’s family too. Your curiosity in their past instills a deeper connection between your families. When you’re aware of their history, you can ensure its longevity.

Be the glue

The early years of marriage are a wonderful time to preserve old traditions and create new ones. How do you create great traditions in marriage? It starts with the belief that traditions bring us together and produce memories that last a lifetime. 

Whether you grew up in a home of wonderful customs or did something different each year, aspiring to create them within your new family is the first step.

Be intentional

Traditions aren’t planned — they’re nurtured. I tend to be the person in our family who organizes our events, due in part to my eagerness to unite us all together. My son-in-law often joked that my plans were “forced family fun.” So, in an effort to steer you away from planning those obligatory occasions, I’ve included some factors to consider when gathering the group.

It’s really quite basic when you narrow it down. Who do you want to make memories with? Start with just the two of you; simple and shared moments are the first steps to realize new traditions in marriage as you begin your life together.

Here are some ideas:

  • Grab sleeping bags and sleep under the tree on Christmas Eve.
  • Slow dance on the balcony beneath the harvest moon. 
  • Celebrate a raise or promotion by taking each other out for dinner.
  • Jointly whisper a shared goal for the New Year at the stroke of midnight.

These suggested starter rituals can then be built upon to create unity and memories with extended family and friends — anyone you hope to share your life with through the years. Once you’ve selected the clan, plan an outing based on everyone’s combined interests, favorite places and events. When possible, include a meal or special beverage to enhance your time together.

Adopt one

If you think about it, we have something to celebrate all the time. From New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve, our calendars fill up whether we realize it or not. Any of these gatherings can become a new tradition in a marriage. Make them special with your own twists!

Look for opportunities that come around seasonally or annually, as we tend to remember who we were with and what we did on holidays, birthdays and reoccurring events, such as festivals, parades and vacations.

Here’s a guide to help you formulate your traditions:

  1. Choose your people. Who do you want to be a part of it — family, friends or just the two of you?
  2. What are your interests? Do you like food and creative arts? What about outdoor adventures like hiking, camping and biking? Perhaps traveling and sight-seeing appeals to you? The choices are endless.
  3. Where will this happen? Will the tradition take place in town, far away or at home?
  4. When can you do it?
  5. What’s your budget? Should you start saving now or will the activity be inexpensive?

As you venture in search of a new custom, try not to put high expectations on an event becoming a tradition. Rather, let it organically unfold. You’ll know you’ve started something lasting when you’re asked to bring it, plan it or host it again next year. Remember — the best traditions make themselves.

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