Consider starting a new tradition this winter season with your family

You can create a culture within your friends and family and start traditions that last a lifetime.

Gingerbread houses.

What is culture? One definition from is: “The sum of attitudes, customs and beliefs that distinguishes one group of people from another. Culture is transmitted, through language, material objects, ritual, institutions and art, from one generation to the next.” Often people think of culture as only belonging to a particular ethnic group, but everyone has their own way of going through life. This series of articles can help you look at your own culture and those around you, and maybe create some new traditions. By better understanding your own culture, hopefully you can understand and appreciate those around you.

Winter holidays are full of cultural traditions. All those traditions got started somewhere. Many times, the origin of those ideas have been lost when the people who create them pass on. Holidays are a great time to create new traditions with your friends and family. Here are some potential ideas from Michigan State University Extension to try:

  • Create a new decoration or ornament every year. You can add it to your own home, or give them away as gifts and expand your tradition to other families. Both the creation of the decorations and displaying them year after year can be a great holiday tradition. If you start this tradition, putting a year on the decoration can allow future generations to see how long the tradition has been going on.
  • Many traditions involve lights, but how about trying the opposite? As the nights grow longer, you could have a day with absolutely no electric lights. This could even be expanded to include no use of electricity at all. The family can play games, sing songs, or play musical instruments. This kind of activity can help us appreciate what we do have.
  • Try foods from around the world. Shop online or in ethnic stores to taste things from other traditions. The advantage of doing this during the holidays is that with many people around, probably someone will like the new food, even if it doesn’t have universal appeal.
  • Have you got any candy leftover from Halloween or homecoming parades that never got eaten? Usually this is the stuff that no one likes anyway. Use any leftover candy in your home to make gingerbread houses during the holiday season. If you want to go real quick, cheap, and easy - use graham crackers instead of gingerbread.
  • Purchase and wrap a toy that reminds you of someone and donate the toy to a charity. Write a note to your friend to tell them about it; consider also telling them why you appreciate them. 
  • Watch the sun go up or come down (or both) on the longest night of the year.
  • Set goals for the new year with your friends and/or family. Talk about what you accomplished this past year and look into the future.

These are just a few ideas of things you can try out and maybe start a new holiday tradition. Continue to explore them and those around you in your club, your community, your country and your world. What new tradition would you like to start this year?

This article was inspired by and adapted from the 4-H Folkpatterns curriculum. Additional resources of interest may be the The Folkpatterns Leaders Guide and Foodways: A 4-H Folkpatterns Project.

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