Most people don’t want to think about what happens next. What happens to the family after a person passes away? What happens after a family member has dementia or Alzheimer’s? It’s sad, but also a part of life – so that makes the importance of passing down family traditions a vital part of everyday life. One of the main causes of grief in these situations is not having your loved one there with you anymore, but having these traditions is just one more way to help hold them close even after they’re gone. It doesn’t take away the pain, but helps to bring some smiles to those still here.
You may not even realize the importance of your family traditions, as you may just take them for granted. These are the things that shaped your childhood, and often help you to shape the childhoods of your own children. Those little things that you took for granted with your family, those things you thought every family probably did it the same way until you started realizing that what makes every family unique, are your traditions. What happens if you don’t carry on those traditions or teach the next generation about them? They disappear forever, and that is a true loss.
You may be thinking to yourself that you really don’t have any expensive family heirlooms or jewelry to pass down, but what you pass on doesn’t necessarily have to be something that’s thought to be an antique. Think back to your childhood – to when you interacted with your parents and grandparents. What memories are your fondest? The tradition of gathering together as a family every Christmas Eve? Getting to go through your grandmother’s or mother’s costume jewelry to play dress up? Cooking a family recipe for spaghetti sauce that had never actually been written down that usually requires several taste tests before it’s just right? These are all great starting points.
These are the memories that you need to keep alive for the future generations, as they will become fond memories for them and their children. Family recipes can be lost to time, and all those tastes you savored as a kid will be gone forever. Canning is a lost art that is slowly making a comeback, and can be great to pass on. Photo albums that showcase how the family lived can never be replaced.
Family heirlooms might not be something that have been around for ages, but can be something as simple as dog tags from World War II or china from a fiftieth wedding celebration of your grandparents. Porcelain dolls that were collected when your mom was young or jewelry can all be lovely keepsakes for future generations to enjoy. Passing down the stamp collection you started with the help of your grandparent can be an heirloom and a new tradition of adding to the collection. Preserving the past helps to educate the future.
You may be thinking to yourself that you don’t have any particular family traditions that are worth passing on to the next generation, but that isn’t necessarily the case. There is nothing that says that you cannot create your own family traditions. Think outside of the traditional box. For instance, teaching children about ways that the family has saved money or helps others financially can be a wonderful tradition to start now. Perhaps you’ve always set aside five dollars a paycheck to go into a Christmas account to pay for presents. This may not seem like a tradition, but it’s a great one to get future generations involved in doing themselves.
Maybe you can create a new family tradition based on something that you’ve started doing now. For instance, maybe you’ve taken up quilting to help the community programs provide quilts for hospitalized children. This is something that can be fun to pass on to your children or grandchildren, especially when they come for a visit. A lot of kids today are thought of as only being interested in video games and television shows, but that’s often because that’s what is offered as an option as something to do. Giving them other options can open up doors to fun activities that can be passed down to them like cooking, canning, crafts, and collecting items like stamps or dolls.
The phrase “getting older is not for sissies” certainly holds a lot of truth in it. One thing that is vital to remember is that you’re not in it alone. Moving forward with your life doesn’t mean that you have to let go of all the family traditions that you were exposed to in life. Share what you know with your family or your friends. Traditions should be shared with future generations to keep a sense of family alive. These are all things that can be links between the past and the present, and help with remembrance.
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*This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living