What traditions do you celebrate with family and friends? Traditions have an important place in our lives, and as I grow older, I value them more than ever. This month, I took part in a decades-old tradition with friends and created a new one with a family member.

Keeping Old Traditions Alive

Two friends and I were born in the same month of the same year. For many years, we have met together every March for a combined birthday celebration to share stories of our lives and make plans for the future.

Some years, just the three of us have met for lunch. Other times, we’ve included our husbands in a special birthday dinner.

One year we celebrated by having dinner on a paddle wheel boat while touring a waterway. The year we took a cooking class where we made our own dinner together is a fond memory.

It never matters whether we exchange gifts or just birthday cards, or whether the cards or gifts are homemade or store-bought. The times we spend together and the gifts all express the same sentiment, “I cherish your friendship.”

This simple annual gathering is something we look forward to and wouldn’t miss. We value this tradition because we value each other. Our tradition reinforces our bonds of friendship and holds the promise that our friendship will continue into the future.

Creating New Traditions

It’s never too late to start a new tradition. Our town hosts a nationally-known three-day art festival every year. It’s a huge undertaking for our small community.

We’ve been attending the art festival on and off for years. We would go at odd times, whenever we could fit an hour or two into the weekend between our children’s activities and weekend housework. Some years, so inundated with family responsibilities and work, regretfully, we would miss it entirely.

Attending the art festival is something we always want to do, but we have not always prioritized it. As a result, it has fallen short of becoming a tradition.

This year, because the art festival coincided with my birthday, my husband planned a stay-cation. He booked a room in the fancy new hotel within walking distance of the art festival.

We spent the day browsing the many booths overflowing with colorful paintings, sculpture from metal to glass, mixed media collages, prints and jewelry.

We chatted with friends we bumped into as we perused the booths. At day’s end, the hotel’s restaurant veranda beckoned with an al fresco birthday dinner. Over a scrumptious dessert, we decided that creating a mini-vacation around our visit to the art festival would be a wonderful, new tradition.

Instead of the frequently haphazard timing and often all too brief visits to the art festival, we would make our visits a special annual event. By making it a tradition, we’ll set aside time to enjoy each other’s company as we engage in an activity we both value.

Establishing this new tradition also ensures our continued involvement in our community, multiplying the benefit of the tradition.

The Importance of Traditions as We Grow Older

Many life changes happen as we grow older. We retire, downsize and even move our residence. Our family grows up. Our friends begin to scatter to the four winds.

As we experience these dramatic, or subtle, life changes, we crave more opportunities for connection and closeness that we can look forward to. Friendships become even more important.

By keeping with old traditions and creating new ones, we establish the means to stay connected with friends as well as family.

A Sense of Belonging

Traditions practiced over time engender a sense of belonging to something greater than ourselves. Family celebrations around religious holidays, birthdays and anniversaries create predictability in our lives.

Participation in group events regularly creates the same kind of predictability. We know what is expected of us. When we are predictably included – and expected to participate in – our family’s or groups’ traditional celebrations, we know we belong.

A Source of Identity

We garner our sense of identity from the associations we form. Traditions form a point of connection between an individual and a family or other type of group.

We revel in the fact that we are Irish by celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. We identify with being an artist by participating in our community’s “en plein air” paint out day each year. We call ourselves a bike rider because we participate in the group rides every Sunday.

Strong Bonds Between People

The more frequently we participate in our various social groups’ or our family’s activities, the stronger our bonds with its members become. Others depend on us too for predictability.

Often, others show up to participate because they count on our participating. When we are uncharacteristically absent, we are missed. It is commonly known that people who interact with others regularly are more likely to live longer and be happier.

Comfort and Security

We are harried and pulled in so many directions by life. We can find comfort and security in our family and chosen social groups.

Here is where we are known, accepted and valued. With each interaction, familiarity and ease grow. We can be ourselves when we feel at ease. Being authentically ourselves is a hallmark of happiness.

Happiness

Happiness is something I write about often. For me, it is important to be happy and to spread happiness. You may know the saying “Happiness is someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to.”

Participating in our family’s and social groups’ activities satisfies all three elements of this happiness formula. Actively involving ourselves in events and traditions we value gives us not only “something to do,” but also people to interact with and memories to treasure.

To have hope and optimism, we need “something to look forward to.” Our family traditions and social groups provide us with events on our calendar to anticipate with joy.

What are some group activities that you love? What are your favorite family traditions? Please share them in the comments below.

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