Every year around Christmas time we go camping along the coast with our extended family. It has become our new tradition, a big annual event that we look forward to from the second it finishes. It's a time when we all get together with no distractions, and feels like a pair of old slippers in winter, warming and comfortable.
This family ritual helps bring us together and helps us discover what is important to us and each other. It's a time of sharing and understanding that you can't achieve through the everyday run of the mill activities. It also strengthens our relationships and becomes a part of who we are.
Here are some tips to help you create your own family tradition, or strengthen the one you already have.
The best thing about having a tradition is being able to talk about it afterwards
"Remember the time Uncle Jeeza fell off his kayak into the river?"
"Remember the time we forgot milk and ended up eating Milo straight out of the container?"
"Remember the time we had 50 people playing cricket and I took a classic catch?"
These stories create wonderful memories and only get better over time (as well as elaborated slightly). The best stories tend to happen spontaneously, but as they say, you have to be in it to win it. So go exploring and get involved in as many things as you can.
Make room for growth
In order for a tradition to become a tradition, it needs to happen year in year out, and have some consistency. A once off trip to the coast, does not make a tradition. So if you are going to a specific location, whether it be camping in the mountains or staying in a shack near the beach, it needs to have options and room to grow.
For example, heading down to the beach offers so much for a family at any age. The young kids can play in the sand and make sand castles, the older kids can go swimming and body surf, and the teenagers can go for a surf with mum or dad. Having options for each age group is essential to the longevity of your tradition.
Make it easy
Traditions need to be simple and realistic otherwise they won't last. If it takes you too long to plan or to pay for, or has you stressing already, it will have a very short lifespan. The best traditions are the simplest. This doesn't mean don't be organised, it just means K.I.S.S
Make friends / meet new people
If you pick the right spot, I guarantee this will happen organically. All you need to do is take the footy or cricket bat and ball out, and you will instantly have 10 new friends. The sense of community around a caravan park or camp site is second to none. For the kids it tends to revolve around activity and for the adults it tends to revolve around experiences. Kids love playing together and will gravitate towards each other.
Adults like to share experiences and knowledge, very often you can find the best local coffee spot or cafe by asking the family next to you. They can also point out some hidden gems that you would have otherwise missed out on.
Don't sweat the little things
This is easier said than done if you are like me and have a slight case of OCD, but focus on fun and forget the rest. Let the kids stay up past their bed time, don't stress if they don't eat their veggies, let them run around in dirty clothes...basically as long as you are doing things together, it's all good.
Planning a holiday with kids? Cristie shares some genius camp recipes that will keep their bellies full and their hearts happy
Escape the city, don't bring it with you
One of the best things about getting out of the city is leaving all the things associated with it. Think computers, electronic devices, TV, traffic, noise etc... It is actually very hard to unplug and stop checking facebook, instagram, twitter, tumblr and countless other social media sites, but it is well worth it.
Who remembers Uno?! On a recent camping trip I rediscovered Uno, and all the memories of playing it as a kid came flooding back. You can play it for hours and all the while chat and laugh and interact with the people you are playing with, pretty much the opposite of being on your phone seeing how many people 'liked' your status update.
Not having a TV is also a very liberating experience. You have to be imaginative and find things to amuse yourself. This generally leads to something active: walking, hiking, kicking the footy, playing cricket, surfing, the list goes on.
Another perk is you will sleep so much better. I've always found when go camping that you tend to go to bed earlier than normal as you are outdoors and your body starts to slow down as it gets darker. It is also less stimulated as there's no bright TV or computer screen to keep you awake. This calms your nervous system down and allows you to fall into a deep sleep.
All shapes and sizes
Families come in all shapes and sizes, so it makes sense that a tradition should as well. Our family has always been beach bums, so our holidays and traditions revolve around the sun and the beach. For others an annual fishing trip might be the perfect family activity.
Also be mindful that you aren't going to be able to please everyone, but you should try. The last thing you want is one member of the family missing out, or dreading the annual activity.