Motherhood

What Are Your Family Rituals?

uno family game

Last week, we got a request from a reader names Catherine: “Could you please, please, please have a post where readers submit favorite year-round rituals from their childhood or ones that they’ve started doing for their children? My daughter is at the age where we’d like to create fun traditions, and I know the Cup of Jo community would be a gold mine. Weekly, annual, mundane, extravagant, I want ALL the ideas.”

First, here’s one of ours: Before dinners at restaurants, we always play a game of Uno. We’ll usually play it at home beforehand, or in a hotel lobby if we’re on vacation, but sometimes we’ll play it at the table before the food arrives. The game is often accompanied by wine for the grownups and juice (or Shirley Temples) for the kids. It’s such a fun ritual and helps set a relaxed tone for a family dinner out. That’s all, short and sweet!

Now, please share below what fun things you do regularly with kids in your lives — and let the inspiration begin! xoxo

P.S. Jenny’s ode to rituals, and our five holiday traditions.

  1. Tita M. says...

    Among other things like Sunday pancakes for breakfast, special birthday mornings, summer evening walks, Christmas celebrations, having family dinners every single day, movie nights etc, we take International Women’s Day as one of the most important days of the year. In my country women already have very good and almost equal positions in the society. But each year me and my partner take our sons (15 and 5) to a traditional protest known as Women’s march and after that we go out for pizza. We try to raise our boys into a respectful individuals knowing that equality of rights and opportunities (not just between genders) is necessary for peaceful world.

  2. Mollie says...

    When I was a kid, we couldn’t leave the table until we shared “one interesting thing”. This was often a fact we had learned that day about the world, science, something that happened to us at school, something we learned in a book we were reading, etc. I truly think it contributed to my curiosity about anything and everything, and also my yearning to share everything I learn with those around me (sometimes to my husband’s chagrin haha).

  3. Ann says...

    I’m loving all of these comments! I am a mom of four (2 girls: 15 and 14 and 2 boys: 12 and 10). We have some fun rituals in our family: Taco Tuesday, pizza on Friday’s, etc. One thing I started when they were little (and still works today!) is assigning each child a day of the week when it’s their day. Out of cereal? The child whose day it is picks the next box out of the pantry. One slice of leftover pizza left for lunch? Decision made! Super easy!

    One thing I started about a year and a half ago was for all of the kids to eat whatever they want for dinner on the last Sunday of every month. Literally whatever they want! I do tell them to listen to their stomach and consider how it will make them feel, but otherwise they can pick their dinner. They come up with a grocery list and a menu.

    After I started this ritual, I decided to put one child in charge of creating a balanced dinner menu for the second Sunday of the month, complete with a grocery list and a menu. It has to include a veggie and a fruit and a nicely balanced main dish. They need to make the meal, set the table, serve dinner AND clean up! 😊 This has given them a new appreciation for all the work that goes into a meal.

    I can’t wait to start my family yearbook and finger spaghetti night! Thanks for the ideas! Keep them coming!

  4. Jen says...

    In this digital age of pictures, I realized my kids didn’t have many pictures of themselves that they could look at anytime or even take with them when they grow up, until I found an easy & cheap way to make them albums through Chatbooks. I gave them each a Chatbooks photo album for Christmas one year with about 25 pictures from the year, mainly highlights of the fun things and major events from the year. Now we do it every Christmas. I love they know it’s coming, so they start talking about it before Christmas day and look for it under the tree. They call it their “highlights” book. I especially love that I always have this gift idea ready to go each year, it’s different from giving a toy, it’s fun & simple to put together, and it only costs about $15 each. And the boys still go back and look at their photo albums from time to time.

    • Gemma Demasi says...

      Great idea!

  5. Alexis says...

    We live far from our families so we have had to make up a lot of our own. And as 2 busy parents, it’s not easy to stick to them!

    We do one present to open on Xmas Eve. Also, Christmas stockings. And I try to do Advent/Xmas countdown activities and presents. Sometimes it’s as simple as posting a countdown of index cards on the wall and ripping them off one day at a time.

    Summer holidays to me have always been BBQ holidays. So to kick off each year on Memorial Day we do Japanese style BBQ (yakitori). When our son was about 1 and still in a high chair, we prepared this huge feast and were in the process of finishing and bringing it all to the table. We were both in the kitchen and turned to see that our son had climbed OUT OF HIS HIGH CHAIR and was hanging by his arms onto the table with his legs kicking for footing. The food looked too good, I guess! Since then, yakitori every Memorial Day.

    We live in Brooklyn and love Coney Island. It’s not a far ride on the train, and we don’t have to pack too much since anything we need is purchaseable out there if we forget it. Each year on our first trip out there, we take a photo as we exit the subway station with the giant “stained glass” hot dog. This year because of covid we weren’t able to, so I drew one on easel paper and took a photo of our son in front of it :(

    Thursdays used to be the nights when my partner would work until midnight at his restaurant. So for dinner, I would set up TV trays in front of the TV and we would eat simply. Usually leftovers or finger foods. As my son got older, he would be the one to set up the TV trays, napkins, etc. I miss those Thursdays when it was just the two of us!

    And for bdays:
    Dad gets a steak dinner and chocolate souffle (I’ve mastered this now!)
    Son gets a show/trip/something fun and an ice cream cake from the same place in our neighborhood. It’s an older Chinese couple who make all the flavors in-house like taro, cookies & cream, and black sesame. In the past we have gone to Vancouver to see my mom and did a birthday park picnic. Others include Cirque du Soleil and Big Bounce America (giant bouncy houses). We’ve never done a “real” bday party because daycare/pre-K took care of everything and all we had to do was bring a cake. Now that we are in big boy school we will start having to plan those! We also do some sort of dress up/costume photo to document.
    And for me, I always want to try a new restaurant.

  6. Adare says...

    Love the fast food and Christmas lights! Stealing this one!

  7. Susan Moran says...

    If it’s possible for a child to declare their favorite day of the year not being their birthday or Christmas but April Fools Day, I did something quite memorable for my children. Firstly, we called it Backwards Day (Momma didn’t care for the other name). Breakfast included a table setting with cloth napkins, pizza, fizzy orange juice and ice cream sundaes; ended with pancakes, bacon and hot chocolate with whipped cream for dinner. As simple as this sounds, they would dash off to the school bus announcing to their friends “we had pizza for breakfast”! The Sweetest memory has me smiling many moons later … + I didn’t have to think about what was for dinner ; ))

  8. Jaime says...

    We started something new for my daughter’s 6th birthday this year a result of quarantine, and I think it will stick as a tradition for our kids from here on out. Feeling bad that we couldn’t do much out of the house or have a party for her, we pulled out our 4 foot pre-lit Christmas tree and decorated it with balloons. She woke up to her “Birthday Tree” with birthday presents under it and was so excited.

  9. Tina says...

    On the first day of school every year we would go out for dinner. This way the kids could tell us all about the first day of school with our full attention. Also, every night at dinner each child had was asked about their day. The requirement was no one-word answers were allowed.

  10. Meghan says...

    I know I’m late to the game! However, as the mother of a teenager I’ve been struggling with walking the line of supportive parent and “smother”. As a result, my daughter and I have devised a code. If she needs a little extra TLC, she tells me it’s been a bird in the nest day. It’s our code word for her favorite snack – an egg fried in toast with a jaunty circle hat for dipping. I fix the snack and then rub her hair or paint her nails – quiet comfort. It lets her know she can have boundaries but get an extra level of support even if she doesn’t want to “talk about it”. It gives me comfort that I still can do something for her without driving her crazy (or crazier then normal). This ritual makes her feel valued and me feel seen. Best of all – it was her idea!

  11. KH says...

    We had many that others have shared, but a few in particular I remember fondly:
    -Easter Egg scavenger hunts (the clues got more complicated as we got older)
    -Doughnuts for breakfast the first morning of a new school semester
    -Every Halloween, my Dad and I would carve pumpkins while listening to the “War Of the Worlds” radio broadcast.

    • Shannon says...

      Pumpkins plus war of the worlds broadcast is brilliant! My dad would have liked that one.

  12. Heather says...

    This is by far my favorite comment section! As a mom of young children, it’s sometimes difficult to do things that require so much thoughtfulness and planning, but reading these remind me it is worth it! I made a note of the small ones, like “tea and toys” and “vacation cereal” which are so easy, but so sweet. 
    One of my favorites that we do is the German tradition of ‘Schultutes’ on the first day of school, which is just a paper cone filled with fun supplies and goodies from the dollar store which just makes the anxiously awaited first day of school a little sweeter. 
    I love that even during these strange Covid times when we find ourselves in the midst of difficulty and change, rituals and traditions help serve as an anchor and constant reminder of what is most significant and important. 

  13. Blaire says...

    This is one of my husband’s family traditions that we have passed onto our children– when they are tucked in bed and just not ready or wanting to sleep, we pick four animals for them to imagine placing around the house (most times at least one fierce animal to make them feel extra safe) and they usually fall asleep before they’ve placed all the animals! The next day, they get such a kick telling us where and why they put the animals where they did!

  14. Natali Millan says...

    My family did this too. I think its a Latino thing. My golden birthday was 8th and I still have the medallion they gave me of my birthday saint.

    I can wait to do it for my daughter, hers would be 18th and Iḿ so happy it falls on a big birthday, I was always jealous my sister’s golden birthday was her 16th and she understood it better than me at the time.

  15. Nat says...

    My daughter used to go to elementary school close to a donut shop so we started doing Donut before school on her birthday, and it has grown to besides sharing a donut breakfast to always gifting her something that has a donut. Sometimes it is a big gift, sometimes is something small, from a sticker, pjs, sunglasses, to a blanket. Its never the main gift but its something she tries to predict what will be to add to her collection.

    • Jessica says...

      I take my sons on a “donut date” on Valentine’s Day before school. Started about 7 years ago with one son, then another in the car seat on the floor, now they both will walk or ride bikes to Dunkin Donuts. We regularly eat apple cider donuts from the farmer’s market, but Valentine’s Day is for big, pink frosted, and sprinkled sugar bombs.

  16. After we watched Dead Poets Society, my husband and I took to holler “YAWP!” out the car windows any time they were all down. I taught my daughter this and every Friday all the way through school (until she drover herself) we would pull out of the school parking lot “YAWPing” all the way. We still Yawp together from time to time and it makes me happy every. single. time.

  17. Lisa DiGangi says...

    We love playing “Pick a Movie” where we either lay out DVD’s &/or write a list of what’s on and each person takes a turn taking out (or crossing off) a movie until we get to the end. It’s a fun way to feel everyone’s choices are included at the beginning, we end up on a movie all can agree on & we don’t waste 1/2 hr. scrolling through all of the streaming choices.

  18. Love to read everyone’s traditions!

    One of my favorites is measuring my boys’ height every year on their birthday. Currently at 43” tall, my oldest son is so thrilled he can now ride the “big kid” rides at the carnival and theme parks. SO exciting!

    We bought a fabric growth chart on Amazon and I stick a name label with their age next to the measurement. I plan on gifting them a copy of the fabric when they leave home.

  19. jenn says...

    once a year my kids get sugary cereal–always lucky charms on st patricks day. such a sweet and easy tradition. although just this week i caved and let them order the sampler pack with all the other old school sugar cereals. #quarantine.

  20. Alexandra says...

    In France where we come from we celebrate our given name day. All calendars mention what name is celebrated on each day of the year, which correspond to a “Saint du Jour”.

    For instance 25 July is “la fête de St Jacques” so everyone named Jacques will have their party today.

    In my family on our name days we make the person’s favourite cake to eat after dinner and someone is in charge of drawing the person/Saint as a cake topper.

  21. Hi! We do pizza + cartoon every friday night!! Throughout the year, we have tried different pizza delivery place, we made the pizza, we have wine and pop corn, we recently did it with our new projector in the garden.
    We dont have tv so this is a nice shared screening time while we are typically exhausted from our week :) kids (5-9) still love it:)

  22. Mei says...

    I love this so much. I bought Jenny’s How to Celebrate Everything book after you recommended it and need to read through it again. We have a “new little family” (2.5yo and 5mo) and I’m definitely saving some of ideas to try out. Especially being all home together during the pandemic, the little daily intentions add up!

    My family wasn’t big on celebrating things when I was young, but I loved going on after dinner walks during summertime. It’s a great way to walk off the bloat after it finally cools off and have time for conversation.

    For birthdays, we had the same large candle (mine was Dumbo the elephant) that we reused year after year! Obviously a way to be frugal but it felt special to me as a kid.

    I just purchased a beautiful Waldorf-esque Moon phases candle centerpiece that we will light at dinner time. I don’t currently track the moon phases closely, but have always enjoyed moon-related mythology and artwork (we named our dog Luna!)

    • Bron says...

      1) Every Friday evening, we have pizzas and watch a movie as a family. We usually make pizzas ourselves (great way to use leftovers from the week, or try wacky new flavour combinations). We take turns choosing the movie.
      2) every Sunday morning, we make pancakes for breakfast.
      3) early December each year, we decorate the tree and do Christmas music, baking and crafts on all the weekends learning up to Christmas Day, including making sweet edible treats and Christmas cards for neighbours.

  23. Angela says...

    When my son was little I would occasionally declare a “Yes Day” where everything he asked for the answer would be yes (within reason of course) play legos for an hour? Yes! Build a blanket fort? Yes! Stay in pajamas all day? Yes! Pancakes for dinner? Yes! It felt good to say yes and with every question he was all smiles because he knew the answer would be yes!

  24. Malika says...

    I have recently stolen this one from a friend – we make a playlist for each holiday, adding songs that we have played, loved, discovered, on that particular trip. At the end of one summer we played Mister Blue Sky at top volume as we were driving my son to his new secondary school (a boarding school). Playing it back always reminds us of that exciting time. We started one for lockdown right at the beginning and it’s been great. We have songs from the movies we have enjoyed (Napoleon Dynamite features a lot) as well as ones we just love, like Lemon Tree, which is all about isolation, it’s a total coincidence!

  25. Lizzie says...

    My husband asks our kids three questions before bed each night In the dark before we shut their door: what‘s one thing you learned today, what is one thing you’re grateful for, and what’s one thing you’re excited to do tomorrow.

  26. Emily says...

    So much love in these comments!

    We’re also on the Friday family movie night train, complete with popcorn and ice cream sundaes. There is a complicated voting system that my 8 yo manages, wonder what we’ll pick tonight!

    9 kids 10 adults go on a beach trip with my husband’s family every summer. Kids are in “cousin land” for 10 days. His parents, all of his siblings, spouses and kids show up, you’re not allowed to miss it. I call it “mandatory family vacation” and it is magic.

    We cutdown the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving! My husband is obsessed with Christmas and this maximizes holiday lights and decorations.

    Half-birthdays — thanks Jenny Rosenstrach for this one! My son just turned 3.5 and his sisters went all out for the half-birthday. I love it more than the birthday celebrations — it’s just about our immediate family members celebrating each other. We don’t give gifts, but there is plenty of planning involved. Big Sisters made him popsicles the night before, gave him a home-made golden crown, baked him spice cake, and we sang happy half-birthday as he blew out the candles… I even threw in his birthday story (we do that on birthdays too!). Everyone knows the date of their half birthday in our house!

    it’s not a tradition, but our one family rule… if someone suggests a family dance party, you have to say yes.

  27. Dene says...

    On birthdays, there is always a photo wall (photos taped to the buffet) , of the person celebrating. The photos are different each year.

    When the birthday child/parent comes down for breakfast, there is a muffin or donut with a candle on the special birthday plate, as well as wrapped presents and a pile of cards from out of town family (set aside as they come in the mail to save until the birthday).

    When the kids were younger, we’d always outfit the larger stuffed animals with birthday party hats and set them outside on the bench on our porch, along with a birthday sign.

    Not related to birthdays:
    We’d frequently tell our kids that it’s always possible to change behavior and start over. They took this to heart, and when a day got off to a less than stellar start, or they made an unfortunate choice, they’d sometimes ask, “Mama, can I start over?”

    It was a rule in our family from very young that if you saw a baby, (at the grocery store, at a park etc.) you had to smile at him/her. We wanted them to know they were welcome in the world.

    • Sally says...

      I don’t know quite how, but that comment about smiling at babies totally made me tear up.

      I lost my dad nearly 3 years ago, and one of his most favourite things in the world was babies. Like, if there was a baby to be held, dad would be the first to volunteer. If a baby got fussy during a family meal, dad was the first to abandon his meal and get up to to take the baby for a little walk.
      If he saw a cute baby out somewhere, he’d immediately point and go “aw, look at that little baby.”
      If he was close enough to speak to them, he’d always go, “hello baby!”

      Now, whenever I see a baby (especially an extra cute one!) I always think to myself “hello baby! Dad would like you!”

    • Jo says...

      Damn it, now I’m tearing up as well, Sally! Your dad sounds like he was wonderful.

    • Emily says...

      I lost my dad 3 years ago too Sally and it’s very nice to have little memories like this present in daily life. Your dad sounds like a fantastic guy.

    • Making babies feel welcome in the world made me tear up. What a lovely heart you have.

  28. Susannah says...

    When I was growing up, my brother and I had a beloved babysitter named Jenny and every Tuesday we had !!JENNY NIGHT!! Jenny would come and just hang out with us and sometimes take us in our parent’s car to go get fast food (treat!) or to the local high school (which she attended) to watch sporting events. I have no recollection of what my parents would go do on Jenny Night or if they even left the house and it never, ever occurred to me that Jenny Night was ALSO a gift for them it just felt like the most special treat for US (and also, retrospective RESPECT for them building a weekly night off into their budget and schedule! Seeing it from the other side I am awed and impressed).

  29. Erika says...

    When I was in middle school, I saw my first really impressive full moon and started to research the moon and all of its curiosities with my Mom. I am not sure when this came about but at some point we must have found that it is believed to be good luck if you moon the moon. Even now, 15+ years later, if my mom and I are together on the night of a full moon, we moon it. We laugh so hard every time and something about it actually makes me feel like I walk away a little more lucky.

    • Theresa says...

      Oh my god, I love this.

  30. We celebrate birthdays be serving a breakfast of croissants and strawberries. This year, my husband and I split an almond croissant on his birthday, while we left Scout, our dog, alone in the kitchen. Apparently, Scout likes plain croissants. He needed a nap after that high-fat treat.

  31. Erika says...

    My sweet husband has always spoken about having Sunday Suppers once we had kids. A tradition we could carry on until they had kids. Well we had our son last year and this year during quarantine he finally started his Sunday Suppers. He spends most of the day in the kitchen cooking up the most delicious pasta. All three of us dance and laugh in the kitchen until its done and then we feast. My heart swells every week and honestly it is something I think we all look forward to, even the baby! Can’t wait to watch him do this for years to come.

  32. Dene says...

    We do special cereal on Christmas morning. It’s waiting at the table with the stockings.

  33. AT says...

    – Weekly ritual of Shabbat dinner on Fridays (as many have already said). Usually the dinner itself is nothing special because we are getting home late from work (and sometimes it’s takeout). But we light the candles, say the blessing, and have a big family hug and reflect on the week. During dinner we take turns whispering into our kids’ ears what we are proud of them for this week. They love hearing it.
    – Last day of vacation at the beach we always wake up early to see the sunrise over the water, then go out to breakfast, then head back to the house to pack up and start the drive home
    – Movie night on Saturday night with dinner in front of the TV. Finger foods only.
    – Summer time Fridays ice cream is allowed before dinner on the way home from school or camp
    – Birthdays always start with a special breakfast and a house decorated with balloons and streamers
    – Did this for the first time this year (pandemic birthday in April needed some excitement!) and I think we will continue it: birthday present scavenger hunt! Wrap up those presents and hide them, then write clues to help them find them. Makes all presents 100% more exciting when you have to hunt for them. Also we have a new reader and he loved being able to read the clues!
    – I decorate the kitchen table for most of the minor holidays (halloween, valentines) and have a special breakfast ready (even if it’s just a strawberry jam shaped in a heart on a toaster waffle). I keep a box of streamers, balloons, construction paper (to cut out hearts etc) plus seasonal paper napkins and paper plates to pull this off pretty easily. Kids think this is magic.

  34. Patty R. says...

    When we go on vacation with the whole family we set up a puzzle table that everyone works on throughout the week. It’s so much fun to watch everyone from toddlers to grandparents doing an activity together! The kids ask about what puzzle we can work on before each vacation. It really brings the family together!

  35. M says...

    We do “the rose” every evening at the dinner table – each person says what was the bloom(high), the thorn(low) and the bud(something they’re looking forward to) of their day.
    When they lose their first tooth, we have spaghetti for dinner.
    On Friday nights I make pizza and we eat in front of the TV (they don’t watch TV the other days of the week, so it’s a highlight).
    Ice cream on the last day of school.
    Pancake breakfast on the first day of school.
    On birthdays we hang up the same bunting, and we all say what we love about the birthday boy/girl.
    Three-course dinner on Sunday evenings (with a “proper” dessert vs. fruit or smoothies on other days).
    Chili sin carne on the first snow day of the year – this winter there was only one proper snow day!
    Half cake with X and a half candles on half birthdays.

  36. Lucy says...

    ‘GREY-SUIT NIGHT’!!! On Sunday night, we don our coziest grey sweats, eat copious amounts of cheese and watch nature shows… all of the comforts…

    • Michelle says...

      Every first big snowstorm of the season my next door neighbors come over for a pasta and meatball dinner. They trudge in the snow through our back yard, always bringing wine of course. We all sit by a cozy fire as the plows run up and down the road. We eat, drink and be merry!

  37. Lisa says...

    Some small good memories comes to mind (my kids are older now):

    – When the kids were little I’d give them “good words” at bedtime. The words would change but things like “rainbows, kittens, teddy bears, pancakes” anything pleasant and cozy to send them off to sleep.

    – When my youngest (and only girl) got her period I made it special day, I got her a Mala just for her and made her a special dinner to celebrate.

    – When my son was little we’d do picnic Fridays after pre-school–I’d pick him up with a packed lunch or snacks and drive around until we found a construction site. Then we’d park and put the back down on my wagon and sit and watch the diggers and loaders.

  38. Little Miss says...

    when my sis gave birth to twins while being unemployed both her husband and herself,our family collapsed due to underlying heavy financial burdens.
    but when the boys turned one,i could not bare the thought of not celebrating their birth. so i made all decorations from scratch and the best decoration was their cake topper. of course their mom kept it for them.
    now, 9 years later, everything has totally shifted for the better (financially) and we have everything our heart desires but the kids still expect a cake topper made by their aunt because its a family tradition!

    • ces says...

      Wow. What an amazing memento of love and dedication from their aunt. I love this.

  39. Stefanie Kastner says...

    When my kids were 2 and 4 and my husband was travelling so much for work, I started Family Movie Night to help me get through the final push of running the household solo for the week. Every Friday night, we rotate which kid picks the movie we watch, we push the coffee table to the side of the living room, throw down some sleeping bags and eat pizza, picnic style on the floor. It is super simple, which I love, and the kids think this is the most amazing thing ever. It is great to break away from the dinner table, with no pressure to cook and we all get to relax and laugh together. Nearly 4 years later, this tradition is still going strong and my fingers are crossed we can keep it going for many years to come.

  40. Meaghan says...

    Once again crying over the CoJ comment section. These are all so great.

  41. Melissa says...

    These are all great, thank you!

    For Thanksgiving we go around the table to say what we’re thankful for. For Christmas, we go around the table and share what we’ve done for others.

  42. Emma says...

    I’m living in a different country to my family so it’s been fun thinking of our traditions. We still do most even though us kids are grown-ups now :)
    – Yum cha for brunch after Easter Sunday mass (One of the two times a year we got to church, so that’s a tradition in itself!)
    – Family evening outing into Sydney city at some point in December for dinner, to look at the lights display at the cathedral, and view the Christmas shop windows at the big department stores
    – We used to drive Sydney-Brisbane in one long day to visit family, meaning we set off/ate breakfast very early. Our ‘morning tea break’ would be at about 8am and we would eat meat pies and sausage rolls from the same country town bakery every time! Then lunch would always be burgers from the same town as well
    – Playing Rummikub on a quiet weekend afternoon
    – Waffles and ice-cream and presents for birthday mornings before school/work/etc.
    – Late afternoon/early evening pizza and cocktails at a nice restaurant in the city on a public holiday (Because they honour their weekday happy hour prices!)

  43. MG says...

    So many great rituals and traditions! On birthdays we set the table with presents and cards and have a special breakfast. The birthday person gets to choose whether to save some gifts for later. On our wedding anniversary, we all have root beer floats and look at our wedding album with our kids. We have ice cream and go to the bookstore (instead of the library) for a new book on the last day of school, though not this year, sadly. When the kids request it, usually once every few weeks, we do “Rose, Bud, and Thorn,” where we each say something good, something we’re looking forward to, and something difficult or challenging. We are not huge holiday people, but every year for Hanukkah we invite our oldest local relatives (in their late 80s) over for a very competitive dreidel smackdown. We also have shabbat dinner every week even though we’re fairly unobservant otherwise. During quarantine we’ve been baking our own challah too.

  44. A says...

    To reader Shannon, who asked about golden birthday rituals for her daughter, I hope you see this! It made me curious about how we will make golden birthdays special for our daughters, so I just went down a golden birthday rabbit hole :)

    Waking up to a bedroom filled with gold confetti filled balloons with gold ribbons hanging down would be magical. https://www.stylemepretty.com/vault/image/3422319

    Doughnuts for breakfast with edible gold glitter! If a bakery near you doesn’t make them, you could sprinkle on some edible glitter yourself, maybe with a little glaze to make it stick!

    For decor, a gold “happy birthday” garland https://merimeri.com/products/gold-happy-birthday-garland
    https://merimeri.com/collections/garlands/products/all-wrapped-up-birthday-garland
    And /or a gold tassel garland – there are tons of options on Etsy or they’re fun to DIY. And/or a gold balloon garland – lots on Etsy as well.

    Gold candles for the birthday cake https://merimeri.com/products/ed19_gold-glitter-dipped-candles
    https://merimeri.com/products/gold-long-candles
    Or a sparkler candle :) (Meri Meri makes these too, in every number or different shapes.)

    A gold birthday crown / headband or party hat – a couple of pretty re-wearable / wear-all-day options: https://www.freepeople.com/shop/lightning-soft-headband1/?color=070&countryCode=US&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9ee_jcbi6gIVBNvACh3nsAcZEAQYFyABEgKpyfD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&inventoryCountry=US&size=One%20Size&type=REGULAR&quantity=1
    https://www.asos.com/us/asos-design/asos-design-occasion-headband-with-gold-leaf-and-pearls/prd/12960778?affid=25250&_cclid=Google_EAIaIQobChMI9q-9yMXi6gIVDtvACh1EkAWdEAQYDCABEgL9svD_BwE&channelref=product+search&mk=abc&ppcadref=10104919888%7C106779534852%7Cpla-294682000766&cpn=10104919888&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI9q-9yMXi6gIVDtvACh1EkAWdEAQYDCABEgL9svD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

    Gift ideas:
    A card, like this beautiful foil-pressed card with a handwritten note from you https://www.etsy.com/listing/275350406/happiest-birthday-card-boyfriend

    A photo book with photos from her life so far https://www.artifactuprising.com/photo-books/everyday-photo-book
    Or a wall grid filled with photos from her life so far that she can continue to add to and edit https://www.etsy.com/listing/486286697/golden-wire-wall-grid-free-clips-school

    A pack of sparklers to do together that night as a family

    A golden bubble bar for a bath would be a fun small gift and way to relax at the end of the night, regardless of her age :) https://www.lushusa.com/bath/bubble-bars/sunnyside/9999904134.html

    If your budget allows and your daughter likes jewelry: my golden birthday was when I was 4, so I don’t remember it at all, but my aunt gave me a gold ring with my birthstone in it, and even though it was sized for an adult and couldn’t wear it yet, I grew up treasuring it. A gold locket would be sweet too. :)

    • Shannon says...

      Ahhhh, A! Thank you for your thoughtful reply! I’m going to use some of these for sure!

    • Nereida Claudio says...

      This is a great list!! Thank you for doing this for everyone

  45. Vanessa says...

    Please share “Jenny’s book on rituals” – where can I find? <3

  46. Charlie says...

    Oh so many! My mom would tuck me into bed every night until I was 18. It sounds silly, but it was really comforting: My mom worked shift jobs and often late hours – but no matter how long her day was or when she got off work, I knew that before bed I’d have time to wind down, have her full attention, and share my day. It was a really wonderful routine that grounded us and gave us time to talk, connect, laugh and share every day.

  47. M says...

    I love this! There are so many great ideas! Here are a few that we do with our boys:
    – 9 year old trips (one parent and the recently turned 9 year old to a reasonable destination of his choice; one currently waiting for the pandemic to end…)
    – fancy Valentine’s dinners with a table cloth, wine glasses and candles.
    – backyard camping complete with s’mores.
    – backwards dinners (dessert first!)
    – Three Things game on long car rides; one person chooses 3 random things to look for (ex. a basketball net, tractor and purple car) and then we all look for the items. The person who finds the last item gets to choose the next three items!

  48. Leigh says...

    I’d read (on Cup of Jo!) an article called How to Raise Grateful Children and because of it decided to create a ritual before bedtime books where my husband, son, and I each share our “Favorite Part of the Day.” We’ve been doing it for over a year now and my son (now 5) always makes sure it happens–even if we forget!. He even does a voice for our dog and shares his favorite part of the day, too.

  49. Catherine says...

    I was one of four kids, and when one of us did well on a test, won a race, etc., my mom would take out the Waechtersbach “You are special today” red plate for us to use at dinner. Such an easy, low-key way to celebrate a little accomplishment.

  50. Nicki says...

    Thanks so much for this wonderful post, I’ve been savouring the comments for the past three days, reading a few of them whenever I find a moment. So much joy!

    My husband and I both come from families with strong holiday rituals, which we’ve continued – and we also love celebrating some less traditional ones (like an open house for all friends to come and eat crepes at our place for “crepe day” on 2 February – my husband is French). Three of my favourite rituals we’ve added for our own children are:
    – Decorations and balloon curtains for birthdays: for every birthday, we put up the same set up bunting/banners and blow up around 20 balloons to tape to the ceiling attached to strings. In the morning, the birthday boy or girl (we do adults as well as children) gets to walk through this curtain of balloons to get to the breakfast tables where their birthday gifts are waiting.
    – Pippi Longstocking Day: our daughters love the Astrid Lindgren books about the strongest girl in the world who does exactly what she wants. One night when my husband was on a two-week trip and I couldn’t muster the energy to get two toddlers through a proper dinner, I told them they could be Pippi for the night and eat exactly as they pleased. They copied scenes from the book (lying on the table with the plate on the chair, eating with their hands) and then started inventing their own. I have been declaring Pippi Days at random two or three times a year since then.
    – Right before falling asleep, after we’ve read them books, we recount “the story of the day”. I’ve been doing this to both of my children since they were newborns and they literally started chiming in with little words (including animal sounds or gestures) from the moment they could speak. We always finish by telling them how much we love them and that we will always be there for them. Sometimes I also tell them what my mom used to tell me – that I should never be afraid to come to her with a problem, no matter how serious, and that she will always believe me. I think it’s so important for children, especially little girls, to hear this from someone trusted in their lives.

    I adored Jenny’s book on rituals, and have grown to love many great ideas taken straight from CoJ (half birthdays are the best!) I’ve now made a list of new ones on my phone to try out this year :)

  51. Ceridwen says...

    We do the same! We always carry a set of uno going anywhere. We have photos of playing in cafes, our youngest too young to hold the cards so had them wedge between to books to see them, her game face on. Also, when someone is having a bad day, get out the deck and it starts to improve.

  52. Jennifer says...

    Saturday night treat! My dad worked Saturdays when we were growing up and he always brought home a brown paper bag with different chocolate bars in it. There were five of us kids and it was so exciting! My husband has started doing this on Friday nights and our three kids love it. 🍫 ❤️ 🍫

  53. Gem says...

    I live in the U.K. and my mum was a teacher at my school, at the end of every semester during primary school she would take me out for lunch in the chocolate-box town to a tearoom called cobwebs, I would always get a ham and pineapple toasted sandwich and a chocolate milkshake. We didn’t eat out very often so it always felt like such a treat being ladies-who-lunch together. Reflecting on it now as an adult I think it was so wonderful to have a little tradition and celebration of the passing of time

  54. Lisa says...

    We celebrate Shabbat with the traditional candle-lit dinner, blessings, wine & challah. Pre-Covid we would have an open invitation for friends and family to join us twice a month and we would sometimes have a dozen people over. Now it’s just our little family. We also make french toast on Saturday or Sunday with the challah. Challah french toast is the best, ya’ll.

    Every Passover we go on a road trip or camping trip after the second night seder – our own family exodus. It takes a lot of planning to figure out meals, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    On our anniversary we watch our wedding video and talk about highlights of the last year and our dreams for the next year.

    • Charlie says...

      My best friend in High School’s family celebrated Shabbat every Friday – and because her family stayed home to be together, they became the gathering place for all our friends. So all of us – self, Indian-American, etc. would gather at their home for dinner and an evening of discussion, hanging out, singing, etc. I probably still know the words to light candles! It was a table full of love and wonderful memories.

  55. Jess says...

    We have pizza and a movie night each Friday. Everyone in the family gets a week to pick the movie. We usually make pizza from scratch, but sometimes I’ll order out and freeze all the leftovers so we are ready for a busy night. This has become a household favorite. My boys really count on this weekly. They love picking out a movie and piling onto a couch with bowls of popcorn. When school was in session this was a major moment of relaxation and peace; they really felt like they were finally home.

    We’ve also made an unofficial ritual of rotating which kid picks a recipe for baking. This way everyone knows they will get to have something they really love at some point. And usually they want to help with part of the process.

    Another little ritual is to bike to a pond in our neighborhood in the early summer to look for baby ducklings. Then we keep count and watch them grow up through the summer months.

  56. anon says...

    I posted earlier but feel like I need to post more that are more “mundane” traditions instead of those centered around birthdays and holidays.

    Every summer, on the first day of camp, I take my daughter to the get a start of summer(camp) doughnut shop for breakfast to start summer, then at the end of camp (she goes for the full summer), we go again to get an end of summer(camp) treat to close it out.

    My daughter is adopted, so on the anniversary of her adoption we always mark the occasion and celebrate with something special (sometimes it’s food, sometimes it’s an activity).

    Lastly, we do family “sandwiches” regularly. It involves a family hug, starts with one person in the middle and the other two on each side. The person in the middle says what sort of filling they are (PBJ), and each person on the outside says what type of bread they are. Then we switch so everyone gets a turn at being a filling and being hugged.

  57. Sarah says...

    This is a silly one: when my mom is too tired or too busy to make dinner she always declares, “Mermaids only eat hors d’oeuvres!” and we eat chips and salsa or finger foods for dinner. 100% influenced by Cher in ‘Mermaids’ so it always made me feel spontaneous and cinematic. Now that I’m an adult and live alone, I still find myself loudly announcing it on nights I don’t plan on cooking.

    • Meg says...

      Related, one thing we do when no one feels like cooking is have “picnic dinner.” Basically, put baguette slices, crackers, sliced cheese, salami, fresh veggies and fruit on platters, maybe some hummus or other dip if things are extra-fancy, and everyone can snack to their heart’s content for dinner. My two kids love it.

    • Jenna says...

      Growing up my family also had “Mermaid suppers” that consisted of just hors d’oeuvres and finger foods – completely inspired by Mermaids! I love that your mom did this too. Thank you for reminding me of that fun tradition! Doing this with my kids very soon.

  58. Libby says...

    I make an advent calendar, which is odd, given that I am Jewish. Throughout the year, I collect small interesting items that I think my nephew will like (i.e. removable tattoos, a tiny mechanical robot, a Lego man, a ballpoint pen with multiple ink colors). In November, I wrap them individually and then place them into a basket. He opens one gift every evening starting on December 1. The gifts are a little bit of excitement that help him to feel the energy and fun of the holiday season.

    • cg says...

      My coworker is not Jewish, but her partner is, and they have a daughter. When my coworker was pregnant they were trying to figure out how to make celebrating both end of year holidays fun and unique. They decided to have an Advent calendar leading up to Hanukkah! Her partner didn’t want to hang a stocking, so they took one her dresses she grew out of and sewed it into a bag to hang instead.

  59. Laura says...

    I lived in Belgium until I was 29 and then moved to Israel. So for me new year’s eve is supposed to be a big thing; nice dinner, outfit etc. But in Israel it is a normal working day followed by another normal day. Youngsters might go to a party in a club but that’s all. So on the 31 December we always go an watch the last sunset (ideally on the beach). First my Israeli husband thought it was exotic but finally liked the idea. You close a year, you start a new one.

  60. Reb says...

    The Saturday after Thanksgiving we put on crazy holiday sweaters and go pick out a Christmas tree. When we get home, we order a large cheese pizza for delivery and decorate the tree while watching Home Alone. A fun way to kick off the holidays.

  61. Daniela says...

    *we do this when we are having dinner!

  62. Daniela Lucia Viva says...

    Every weekend, my boyfriend’s daughter comes over and stays with us. She’s 8. I started this little tradition years ago of asking each of us what was our favorite part of our day, and it’s always SO worth it. You get to practice gratitude and appreciation for the little things. It’s really special :)

  63. Jessica says...

    Every night, after dinner and tubs, we go downstairs, turn on the lamps and let our 2 boys play with their toys while my husband and I drink tea and talk. We call it “Tea and Toys” and our boys now ask for it by name and refuse to go to bed without it. Tea and Toys sometimes morphs into a dance party, sing off, or game of Life, but whatever form it takes, the ritual – complete with cozy lighting and the smell of Chamomile tea – grounds our day…something that is more important now than ever. I foresee a time when our boys will transition from toys to tea and we’ll all talk about our day….or more likely erupt into an adult-sized dance party.

  64. Leslie Young says...

    Every year on the last day of school I would play Alice Coopers Schools Out for Summer and we would dance around the living room. We would then drive up to the family cottage and the boys (3) would get to bring their school papers bundled in their respective big green garbage bags to burn it all in the campfire that night! Needless to say it would bring them all tremendous joy!!

    • Lauren says...

      I love this so much :) What a great tradition!

  65. Erika says...

    We celebrate half birthdays. The honoree chooses dinner and a half dessert (i.e. I make/buy a pie and cut it in half for the presentation). We also sing half of the birthday song and the child blows out a half candle! :)

  66. Sam says...

    Every year on the night before school starts we would have a root beer floats as a family, we’ve been doing this since I started elementary school, and my sisters and now one of my sisters and I are teachers and we still continue this tradition! We do it to symbolize good luck for the year!

  67. Kari says...

    Every year on the weekend before the first day of school, we have a Family Fun Day – no chores, like a local vacation where we pick something new to experience, eat fun foods, and just celebrate begin together before the next school year begins. It is a sweet way to wrap up the summer.

  68. Kelsey says...

    We do Fantastic Fridays with my kids (ages 6, 9, & 12) during the school year. We usually have a fun snack like cookies or the newest flavor of Oreos or whatever other junk food my kids have been wanting to try. Then everyone gets to watch a movie before dinner. It’s our celebration for making it through the school week. My kids love it the change in routine. I love that everyone loves it so much but it doesn’t require a lot of work or planning.

  69. Suzanne says...

    I have a lot of summer rituals with my daughters, but they have 2 favorites. The first is on the first day of summer vacation, I take them to the grocery store and they can pick out any cereal they want. We normally stick to Cheerios, Rice Krispies, and Chex so this is a big deal! Their other favorite ritual is ice cream for lunch day. Once a summer, I surprise them by announcing “It’s ice cream for lunch day!”. We try to go to interesting locations like local farms or creameries, and they can get a larger-than-I-would-normally-allow ice cream (since it counts as lunch)!

    • Frankie says...

      love the cereal bit!

    • Adrienne says...

      We have “vacation cereal” that is whatever their little hearts desire for a vacation trip.

  70. Rebecca says...

    Once my parents got divorced, my dad created his own traditions with my sister and me. On Wednesday nights with him, we would always go out for pizza and be allowed to get sugary sodas – a novelty not for the sugar but the expense! He would also always take us strawberry picking during the season; a tradition I plan to continue with my daughter. Another treat was to always open one Christmas present on Christmas Eve. I was so excited one year to choose the largest present with my name on it only to discover it was a brown suitcase. Womp! That was not my most grateful moment.

    • Shannon says...

      I have a ritual question – my daughter is obsessed with the idea of a Golden Birthday – her’s is next year, but this is not something my husband or I celebrated in our own family traditions. What special rituals do your families have for Golden Birthdays?

  71. K2 says...

    I’m thinking of this now, because we just did it at a family birthday dinner. My parents have these silver napkin rings with their names engraved on them. They only come out on very special occasions, and one year at Christmas dinner we started trying to stack them. It’s difficult, but not impossible. The fun thing is that, when the family grows (someone is born, or gets married), we add a new ring, so it keeps getting harder. I just won this evening by stacking five, but the all-time record is six!

  72. Violeta says...

    Oh this is an awesome post, really truly comforting at this time when we are marinating in the day to day life.
    We always have blue berry pancakes and scrambled eggs on Saturday morning, cooked by by early bird husband. Now the boys are starting to help him.
    Always Irish coffee on st Patrick’s day for as many friends and neighbors as possible.
    Handmade birthday cards for friends and family.
    Sunday morning hikes in the nearby woods with snack on the very same rock.
    When my husband and I both worked from home on Fridays, we always had lunch out with a nice drink, which was basically our only date as no babysitting required and we would otherwise be falling asleep by evening time.
    Half birthdays are gaining a foothold, especially as we have a lot of Christmas birthdays!
    I hope to add more as we go on- they make our memories and I love thinking back to my own family rituals. Don’t ever want to be too nostalgic or stuck in a rut, but there is a good balance to be found I think!
    Look forward to reading many more comments, thanks again!!!

  73. Allison says...

    One of our more everyday rituals is that if it’s raining or chilly on the walk home from school then we can make hot chocolate. And if it’s super hot then we can have popsicles. It’s calmed so many weather-related complaints about walking.

    • Allison says...

      Another random one: For Halloween I make pumpkin pie since we have another dessert that I like to make for Thanksgiving but I still love pumpkin pie. Now that I do it this way I feel like pumpkin pie makes so much more sense as a Halloween treat!

    • Rebecca says...

      I love this and will tuck it away. Currently we are at home with our 1.5 year old and always take the opportunity to go out and play in the rain with her. She loves it and now stands at the front door asking to go out when it’s raining.

  74. Leigh-Anne says...

    This probably started so that my mom could sleep in on weekends or when my younger brother was born, but weekend mornings my dad would take just me to the beach. We would stop at a newsstand and he would get a newspaper and I would get a Golden Book, and then 7-11 to get “hard rolls with butter” for breakfast. We would sit in beach chairs during the early morning, reading and eating.

    • angela says...

      i love this so much. Makes me feel comforted and yearn for the pleasure of summer.

  75. Meagan says...

    We have chocolate chip pancakes on Saturdays. We’ve been doing it since we got married 14 years ago. I do the pancakes my husband makes the bacon and eggs and we have a nice little routine/dance in our small Brooklyn kitchens. Now our children help me mix them up and they play while I flip.

    Since having kids we pick one night each summer for a picnic and lightening bugs. They get to stay up super late (for them at least) and it’s always a magical evening.

    I made a birthday bunting for my older child on her first birthday and now we hang it up and they take a picture with the bunting each year.

    We also have a special cookie we make for any large family gathering.

  76. Kris C says...

    Our “prayer” at the dinner table was to all hold hands, raise them in the air and say “family!” We’ve passed it on and my three year old loves it now.

    • Anna says...

      <3 so good!

  77. Vikki H says...

    My husband didn’t work in his office on Fridays. When our boys were in school, lunch out became our weekly date and included them during school vacations. Still doing this at 47 years of marriage. We also ate Mexican food on Friday nights. When our youngest son left for college, his main query was “you’ll still do Mexican on Friday nights, right?” And so we did.

  78. Catherine says...

    We have “Chill Wednesday,” as my youngest son named it. We usually get takeout food for dinner and watch a movie. Pre-Covid, our boys were allowed to play video games on Wednesdays after homework. It’s a nice way to break up the work week. Right now, it’s basically always Chill Wednesday, though, ha ha.

    • Liv says...

      Love this so much!

  79. Greta says...

    Love this post. We have a ton of rituals: half birthdays with cake, kids get to pick the dinner on the first day of school, etc. but my favorite might be this: On December 23 our family exchanges books in front of our tree (we usually draw names) and the spends the rest of the evening reading and eating chocolate and Christmas cookies.

    • Naomi says...

      That reminds me of our last-day-of-school ritual. It started when I was a kid, and I’m doing it with my daughter. On the last day of school we go out for ice cream and you can get whatever ice cream you want, in any size, with any number of scoops and toppings. I always got the banana royale from Baskin Robbins. Great memories for me, and my daughter is loving the tradition also!

  80. Sonja says...

    For the last nine weeks, we have a 10 week old and a four year old, we’ve hosted homemade pizza (TJs dough, obvs) and movie night. So far our quaran-bubble has made each and every one! Magic. It’s amazing what even the tiniest bit of structure and routine will do for you. We look forward to it all week and it gives us a great excuse to put on real pants.

  81. Julia says...

    Traditions are so important to our family. We have many that are tied to birthdays and holidays, but the everyday ones were/are important too. It’s fun to have things to look forward to on a regular basis.
    – bonfire in the driveway with the neighbors at the first snow of the season
    – dad camp, when my dad would take a week off in the summer and we would go do the same exact local touristy things every year (the zoo, the beach, the big city, the factory tour, etc)
    – cribbage night with our neighbor once a month
    – frozen yogurt to celebrate the last day of school every year, slurpees to celebrate the first day of summer vacation
    – annual summer block party

    • April says...

      Love that you celebrate the first snow. May have to steal this.

    • T says...

      Dad camp! How adorably sweeet!!

  82. Meredith says...

    A fun one that I started doing with my roommates (and that I hope to continue with my own kids one day) is that we make “breakfast for dinner” the night before a snow storm! As soon as we see our local weather team announce snow is coming we get the eggs, bacon, pancakes and mimosas ready for dinner ;) A fun and delicious ritual for sure.

  83. Jana says...

    This is a really weird one, and I am sure there were others, but the one “tradition” that jumps out at me from childhood is that when it was really cold in the winter, my mom would make bread balls (literally take a slice of white bread, like Wonder Bread, and squish it into a tight little ball in your hands) and we would sit on the heater on the bathroom floor and eat them. We had a fireplace! We had other food! Why? I have no idea.

    • lol “We had a fireplace. We had other food! Why?” That cracked me up. Bread balls were the best. I remember my grandma making (not sure if “making” is the right word here haha) them for us.

    • Julee says...

      This.is.so.weird.
      I love you and your weird family and bread balls (didn’t know, now I can’t un-know).
      Isn’t it great to be humans? And alive and making our memories?

    • Jana says...

      Update with an explanation from my mom via text: “Because you woke up at night often. It was cold. Grazing bread and sitting by heater was very fun. I’ve always liked sitting by heater in winter and definitely grazing white bread.”

      Sure, mom. That solves it. Thanks, Cup of Jo, for inspiring fun family conversations!

    • cg says...

      I used to like to spread a thin layer of mayo on white bread (when we did have white bread), then squish it into small balls and pop them in! I also have wonderful memories of sitting by the heating vent with my feet propped up to it to warm my toes while talking to my mom as she tried to balance the checking account. But I never did both at once! LOL

  84. Pam says...

    Two rituals my family loves –
    We celebrate the kids’ half birthdays too, just with our family. They get half a cake, and we sing half of the happy birthday song! It’s a big milestone when you’re 4.5 instead of plain 4.
    And Sunday evenings have developed into a reggae and bbq tradition. It’s nice to have a ritual that day and time to ease us into the new week with familiarity.

  85. Elizabeth says...

    Nightly walks as a family complete with races (my 6 year old is fast!), ice cream, popsicles, or if we’re stuffed, Wint-o-green Lifesaver mints. Sunday morning pancakes and music. And always lots of books, magazines and crosswords at the kitchen table!

  86. S says...

    Ours are low key – blackjack, uno, monopoly and candyland during our annual summer vacation. Tidepool time when at the beach. Watching the sunset on vacation at a specific beach but this could be done anywhere with a nice view (bonus points for anyone willing to get up for a sunrise and go back to sleep). Valentine’s Day – the evening before I would attach streamers to their doorway with custom messages on attached construction paper hearts so the kids could wake up and walk through them and read their messages. After dinner trips to different ice cream shops in the summer. Christmas time, we would do a “white trash” Christmas drive, where I would pile the kids into the car with the radio playing Christmas music, get drive thru food as a treat, and drive around to see Christmas lights and decorations around our local area. Hikes in the summer and fall with packed snacks.

  87. Becky says...

    We have the family game on a Sunday night after dinner. Each of my boys picks a game and we all play together. That and pizza picnics with a takeaway picnic in the garden on a Saturday night are the highlights of the week!

  88. Susie says...

    My 4 children always wanted those sugary cereals that seem to be right at their eye level in the grocery store. On each of their birthdays I would take the birthday child to the store and they could pick out one box of whatever cereal they wanted. They shared with the siblings so it disappeared quickly. All of my children talk about how fun that was. Who knew?

    • Kate says...

      My family did this too! I looked forward to picking out my ‘birthday cereal’ every year.

    • AG says...

      We pick out “camping cereal” for summer camping trips. I wanted to be sure my kids would love camping like I do, and Lucky Charms seem to have sealed the deal.

  89. L says...

    We do grilled hot dogs for dinner on MLB opening day. (Simple but fun.) On Christmas Eve, we always read Twas the Night Before Christmas as a family. Annual beach vacation with three generations (about 30 people in total) sadly had to be cancelled this year; looking forward to the time when it can return.

  90. Emily says...

    When my girls were younger we always set one weekend day as “day-j day”: we had a special pair of cozy pjs reserved for daytime wear (day-js) and they would wear them all day, no matter the activities.

  91. brittney nichols says...

    When I was a kid, my dad would burst into my room on weekends (before a fully day of yard work *insert eyeroll emoji) and shout the same thing every. single. single. time.

    “RISE AND SHINE, SUNSHINE! IT’S GOING TO BE A BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL DAY! FEET ON THE FLOOR! UP, UP, UP!”

    It was so obnoxious but it’s also now one of my favorite memories.

    • Erica says...

      Omg we have the same dad.

  92. Tara says...

    My dad invented screaming contests. Looking back, I imagine my parents recognized the need for everyone to blow off a little steam. Every now and then we would have a screaming competition. Who could scream the loudest, the longest, the highest, the lowest.? My sister and I went head to head belting out full bodied screams at the dinner table. Laughter always followed. Gosh, it was so cathartic. Thinking of my dad trying to do a high pitched scream makes me smile every time. Soon, friends asked to play when they came over for dinner. We had a screaming contest at my wedding. Highly recommend screaming for fun with your family.

    • Michaela says...

      I love this. I want to do this when I have kids.

    • Allyson says...

      This is so funny! I’d be worried about scaring the neighbors and having the police show up ha

    • So great! Allyson…we did this in the car….no neighbors to scare. (If you don’t have a car, it’s a fun thing to look forward to if you occasionally rent one)!

  93. Erin says...

    My dad’s birthday is Valentines Day and every year he would give my sister and I a rose on that day. The rose I received when I was 18 and heartbroken from my first break up was everything.

    • My dad always bought my mom and all us kids our own box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. They’d be sitting at our place at the breakfast table. I was never very popular or had a boyfriend growing up, but this made me feel loved and like the day was mine, anyway. When my siblings and I grew up and moved out, my dad would mail us chocolates, instead. He died in 2018, and I swear, that next Valentine’s Day was harder than Father’s Day, his birthday, or the anniversary of his death.

  94. Katie says...

    A simple thing I’ve started doing that came about organically is giving my children each a “huggarooster” before bed. My husband usually puts the kids to bed because he works a lot and I stay home with them all day. I asked one of the kids if she wanted a huggarooster one night and just let out a loud “cockadoodledoo” as I embraced her. She was delighted and asked for one every night from then on. Her brother got wind and began asking for one too. So, now it’s our nightly ritual.

    • Relyn says...

      This is so great! I think silliness is WAY under-rated.

  95. Em says...

    Every Friday, we order pizza and take a family walk (dog included) to go pick it up.

    Every single night, after dinner is game time. Our little is only 2 so it’s mostly a lot of chasing, hide and seek and running games around the apartment. Not sure if this will be a family ritual forever but right now it’s one of my favorite times of the day. I love seeing my daughter ending her day on a joyous note full for squeals and laughter. No matter what kind of day we had, we still come together to have fun and play.

  96. Elle says...

    – Fridays are pizza Movie night and the kids look forward to it all week! Now that they’re a bit older, we started inviting their friends, it’s the best way to end the work / school week!
    – On your birthday, you choose breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, I bake our favorite family chocolate cake, and we tell the kids about the day they were born (they LOVE hearing those birth stories over and over, how my oldest came our like a “champagne cork” and my youngest came out so peacefully!)
    -We always go to the beach on their last day of school (along with all the other kids from school!)
    -Every year, we go to the Zoolights a few weeks before Christmas, eat cinnamon mini donuts and hot chocolate there, and then have a late dinner of Ramen at home because it’s the quickest thing to make when it’s already late and bedtime!
    -We go back to the same vacations spots every year, so that specific time of year is linked to a specific location, we love discovering new places, but there is something special about going back to your favorite place and knowing you will be back next year when you leave!

    • Amy says...

      I love all of these!!

    • Annie says...

      My mom always told us our birth stories as well. I loved mine, which was the easiest birth where my mom had been watching tv at home until 10 pm and an hour later I was born. There had been no time to go to the hospital so I was born at home, which was a fact I always liked. My youngest sister’s story was very dramatic with an emergency c-section, but since we all knew it had a good ending we loved that one as well.

  97. Catherine says...

    OMG- I feel like I won the lottery! Thanks so much for seeing my request and writing this post. I can’t wait to read through all the comments. I know I will come back to this list many times over the next decade or so as my daughter grows up and we incorporate more and more of these ideas.

    Thanks COJ… and thanks COJ community! :)

    • Jes says...

      Love the suggestion and also your joyful reaction! Happy memory-making!!

    • jodi says...

      it’s great love these and so does everyone..i think we are all happy to remember what we love and focus on the positive and hear what others do , like the rituals..what everyone likes to do for self care, etc.. we have to keep that up in the midst of all the craziness! i will incorporate some of these ideas as a new grandma…

  98. Meg says...

    Our favorite is super simple – every Saturday is “Beatles & Pancakes” which is exactly what it sounds like. Our 7 year old picks an album and we blast the Beatles while my husband makes pancakes with the kids and they get to take turns flipping them. They usually finish up in time to watch Jack Hanna’s animal show that comes in Saturday mornings. We love it!

    • There’s a a radio station in Chicago (XRT) that does “Breakfast with the Beatles” every Sunday morning, too! Same vibes!

  99. Ashley says...

    I’ve always wanted my kid to be as “culinarily adventurous” as my partner and I, so just recently I found a way to incorporate some of our three favorite things (color, food, and novelty) together in one monthly or bi-monthly tradition that we just call Color Day.

    The best way to do this is to send the kid off with grandma on Saturday or take a Friday afternoon off work while kiddo is at kindergarten. I’ll pick a color randomly and decorate the dining room in whatever cheap thing I can find of that color at the dollar store or around my house. Then, the big challenge, I’ll also cook up a few things of that color. Our first one was an easy Yellow Day. That was just turmeric rice with chicken, corn on the cob, grilled pineapple and lemon cake! I’m already trying to brainstorm in preparation for Black Day and Purple Day, but I’m ready for Brown Day… bring on the chocolate! :)

    • Hilary says...

      What a fun idea! I’m a big Trader Joes fan, and I immediately thought of their Ube ice cream and Ube pancake mix for purple day.

    • Meg says...

      I love this and we do a kind of related thing! There is an AMAZING Japanese grocery in our town and going there for an adventure is one of my kids’ favorite activities. We will sometimes do the Indian or Mexican groceries nearby too. I love learning about and introducing my kiddos to these wonderful cultures. We wander the aisles and pick an assortment of unfamiliar foods (a fruit, a vegetable, something frozen, canned, snacks, and of course, candy). Sometimes a kind passerby will translate instructions or point us to a favorite. Then we go home, lay out the spread, and have tastings! It is sooo interesting and hilarious and fun! And we’ve come to discover countless new foods we love!

  100. Love this post! One of our family rituals is just to sit down with a nice glass of wine before the meal and chat about our day. So cathartic and good for the soul! Thanks for posting this :)

  101. Naomi says...

    We have our own version of the alphabet game: One person starts with a word, any word. The next person has to say a word starting with the last letter of the previous word. We love to use big fancy-sounding words and also take it as an opportunity to teach new words. It’s a great car game and can last a very very long time…

  102. EJ says...

    My husband and I don’t have kids yet (though I just entered my second trimester with our first!!), but I have so many wonderful family traditions from growing up that I can’t wait to start with our little one:

    – It was never planned, but typically one Sunday morning per month my dad would poke his head into each of our rooms (3 kids) and go, “McDonalds run?” It meant mom needed to sleep in – and I just recently found out it was usually when mom was hungover from the night before! – and we could go in our PJs to the local McDonalds and get WHATEVER we wanted to bring home. We were a pretty food-regimented household so this was wild to us. Have such fond memories devouring the Big Breakfast Platter while my mom looked on in horror :)

    – We generally weren’t allowed to eat in the car, except for road trips. In the days leading up to the trip, my mom would start taking our “fancy sandwich orders,” which could be any sandwich we wanted from any of the many delis nearby. It was definitely a huge hassle for her to coordinate getting all the sandwiches/drinks/sides the day of, but it pretty much guaranteed we wouldn’t ask for anything at the rest stops along the way.

    – Being a Jewish household, we were always sort of bummed to not get to put up string lights and fun holiday decorations outside. So to make us feel better (and make the house feel a bit more festive), we’d spend the night before the first night of Hanukkah decking out the inside of our house with dreidel lights, blue string lights, window stickers and lots of paper chains. It was always SO exciting to see the house come alive in our own holiday way

    – Too many Halloween traditions to count (pumpkin picking/jack-o-lantern carving/pumpkin seed roasting the Saturday before the big day, staying up late after trick-or-treating to do strategic candy trades, making Crazy Candy Brownies in mid-November with all the leftover candy)

    Ugh wow. My parents are great <3 <3 <3

    • Elizabeth says...

      EJ (I’m also an EJ!), your parents do sound pretty great. Tears over here missing mine during this pandemic.

    • Kate says...

      I love your family rituals! Crazy candy brownies in November sounds amazing – I will be doing this with my kids!

  103. Haylee says...

    One of my favorite traditions growing up was once a year we’d have a dinnerware-free spaghetti dinner, usually in the summertime. All of the cousins would come and we’d eat salad, spaghetti, and dessert with our hands (gloves optional) right off of the table (Mom would put down a plastic tablecloth). Drinks were served in plastic bags with a straw because cups weren’t allowed either. Such a funny/silly time and I looked forward to it well into my teenage years.

    • Aimee says...

      This is hilarious!

  104. Meg says...

    Since quarantine I’ve been watching one section, of one episode, of Cutthroat Kitchen with my 7yo and 10yo during bedtime tuck in. (HAHA ALTON BROWN IS THE BEST!) It started out as a random thing and now we never miss it. At first I felt guilty that we “should” be reading instead (which we do other times). But one day my little boy whispered “mama, this is the happiest part of my day” and it changed my heart… now I kick that guilt to the curb, embrace the screen for 15 minutes, and giggle and snuggle with my babies until sleep time!

  105. Simone says...

    During this home-bound time of Covid-19, we have been working through the Great British Bake off series with our 4 & 5 year old boys. They love it, and on finale nights we go all out and attempt extravagant desserts, which is quite the adventure having their “help” in our little kitchen! Tonight: Mary Berry’s Lemon Curd and (fingers crossed) Pavlova!

    • Lindsey says...

      Simone, my son and I also love the Great British Baking Show! It’s such a fun show to watch together and then get in the kitchen to see what we can create. We don’t really watch tv in general, but cooking shows have sort of become our thing. Ina Garten is another fave…I think he might have a crush on her <3
      Happy baking!

  106. Meg says...

    I have a family heritage of pioneers who traveled west across the plains. Incredibly, there are still possessions and documents that came with them that remain in the family. My great great great grandfather kept a journal and in it recorded incredible life lessons though stories of faith, hardship, and love. Whenever we get together as an extended family we gather everyone up (with children crunched together cross legged on the floor) and read the stories together. I’ve done this since I was a toddler on the floor at the foot of my grandpa and now my three children have taken their place there too. It’s a sweet, grounding, tradition I cherish.

    • Kerry says...

      Oh wow, I love this so much. So important for kids to know their family history, and in such a tangible way!

  107. MmmmN says...

    High/low/thankful! At dinner every night each person has to provide their high and low of the day, and one thing they’re thankful for. It gives great insight into how our kid is doing, especially when we hear “I didn’t have a low today” or if we hear the same low every day for a week. I also learn more about my husband’s day and what’s on his mind. When we have dinner guests they participate as well and it sparks lots of interesting conversation.

    • Aimee says...

      I love this! I did this each night for the kids in my cabin when I was a camp counselor… Very meaningful

  108. Samantha says...

    this isn’t really a fun or exciting one, BUT my partner and I do all of our house cleaning/laundry on *THURSDAYS* so we have our weekends free to just chill or do other things.
    now that we are both working from home full time, we manage to squeeze little jobs in throughout the day…i start the laundry first thing in the morning, switch it over at lunch. he cleans the bathroom on his lunch break, ect. so generally by 5:30 thursday night the house is clean :)

    we open our stockings on christmas eve before “midnight” mass, valentine’s day gifts are always consumable (chocolate, wine), one person gets up early to make a special birthday breakfast for the other

    • Emily says...

      An old friend does the Thursday big clean and it’s so smart. They all pitch in for about an hour and the house is spotless for the weekend.

    • Aimee says...

      Yes! In Ukraine there is a special day called Cleaning Thursday – Chistyty chetver!

    • Lisa says...

      We also clean on Thursdays. I love doing the chores in batches so I don’t have to think twice about it the rest of the week, and I love having the house fresh and clean for the weekend. I do a million loads of laundry, water the plants, make sure our budget is accurate, pick up for Shabbat, etc all on Thursday. (My husband also does things. My 15 month old does… not.)

  109. Em says...

    You guys should try Skip-Bo. We found it at a thrift store before a family trip to Mexico. And now every member of our family has their own copy of the game. Super easy and lots of fun!!

    • Aimee says...

      Our family lives Spot It!

  110. Dana says...

    All of these comments are really comforting to read. I have a few fun ones from my childhood, too:

    * Playing the “initials game” while we waited for the fireworks display to start on the Fourth of July (or in other situations where we were stuck waiting). Very similar to 20 questions, one person thinks of a well-known person and then shares their first and last initial with the group, everyone asks yes or no questions to figure out the mystery person.
    * Opening up new pajamas every Christmas Eve & wearing them during our dinner made up of appetizers only.
    * On summer days when my dad would grill, we would play the “quarter game,” while waiting for the food to be ready. Just place a quarter right in the center of a crack on the sidewalk, each player steps back one sidewalk square away from the quarter and takes turns tossing a tennis ball trying to hit the quarter. One point for each hit, two points if you flip the quarter, play to 21 points. Simplest game, surprisingly challenging and fun.

  111. Yelena says...

    When I was a kid, we would take a vacation every year that involved a pretty long car drive (usually 8-10 hours). The very first time we would have to stop for gas, my parents would always buy me a Flintstones Push Up (do they still have those) at the gas station. It was the best!

    • P says...

      This cracked me up – haven’t thought of those in years, but your comment just transported me back to the 90s. I can TASTE that orangey flavor! We called them “push pops.” Thanks for the memory :)

  112. Susie Brito says...

    – We live in rural Alaska where the community is only accessed by plane, we eat lots of harvested foods and so our annual rituals revolve around the seasons. Salmon fishing in spring, berry picking this time of year, trapping rabbits in the winter my kids know the cycles and anticipate what each season change will bring! It’s also very fun to talk about the day we harvested what we are eating at dinner when no one wants to talk.
    – Every night at dinner we say our good things from the day. There are bad things they mentioned too but these are optional, what is not optional is finding the good thing. Something that is difficult for our sullen teenager at times but they can always be found even if it’s just what they had for lunch, I always learn fun things about their days this way.
    – Finally at dinner we play this or that a lot (something I originally read on Cup of Jo!) it’s finite you get this or that, some simple examples have been coffee or tea, singing or reading, summer or winter, but others are more fun too fairy wings or breath underwater… having kids 14, 8, and 4 lead to very fun this or that’s!

  113. cg says...

    There is such a lack of milestone rituals and rites of passage in contemporary Western society. Family traditions are as close as it gets, and I’m loving reading all these. I’ll categorize mine.

    When I was young:
    Growing up with immigrant parents, my mom fully embraced Christmas. Because they were young when they immigrated (22, 25), and on one income, on the first year upon arrival, my mom went to the basement (sale) section of Woolworth’s and bought three ornaments: one for her, my dad, and me. In subsequent years, she would only buy one, for me. This lasted for a number of years, and as they became more financially stable, the ornaments reflected their stability (higher quality). I’m 50 now, when I got married, she passed on those ornaments to me.

    One summer, when I was about five or six, my dad would take me to McDonald’s for breakfast every Saturday. It was a huge thing because my parents didn’t *frivolously* spend money of fast food then. He would take me to a specific one in the City because it had a trolly inside that you could sit and eat in. This also allowed my mom a chance to sleep in.

    Married but no children:
    When I got married, my husband was still in college, and I just finished grad school. We both studied art, and were just starting out. He subsequently quit college because it was going too slow for him, so at one point we were on one income until he was done working on his portfolio. Money was tight, so for Christmas, we always bought a Charlie Brown tree, the smallest, scrappiest, little guy we could find to give it some love. We continued this tradition even after we found stable work, and into the first few years of our daughter’s life.

    Not a tradition, but sorta and we laugh about every year:
    For a few years in a row, my husband had this habit of buying my gift (Christmas, birthday, anniversary) and coming home and plopping it somewhere then going off to work out, nap, or something. I’d come home unexpectedly and see what I was getting before he had a chance to hide, or wrap it. Hahahaha!

    With child(ren):
    Once our daughter was old enough to have an opinion (and they will have opinions!), she requested the largest Christmas tree she laid her eyes on. But we have a modest house with modest ceiling height, and I’m not big on large trees. So we came up with a tradition to purchase a tree that is her height that year. We take a picture of her standing next to the tree we’ve picked out at the lot. (For me, this is so much easier than buying or making an ornament each year for her). Lucky for me, she seems to have topped off and is on the petite side, so I don’t have to worry about getting a very large tree (again, lol).

    I made her Halloween costume each year. Be prepared to do this for the long haul, I had no idea she’d love it so much when I first started when she was a toddler. She’s 15 now and still requests homemade costumes for any sort of dress-up event.

    Daughter gets to open one gift on Christmas Eve, then on Christmas morning she can open one from Santa (she says she will always continue to believe even though he *is* us) before breakfast. We wait for the grandparents to arrive, have breakfast/brunch, then open our stockings, then presents. She is in charge of passing out the gifts to people, and wears a Santa hat while doing it.

    For a while when she was in middle school, she and my husband would go for a drive. They would go to a section of the City and drive up and down the streets. Come home, take out the map, and mark off the streets they drove on. Their goal was to have driven on all the streets in the City. They stopped doing it, but have covered more than half. Now they go on epic walks/hikes all over. Sometimes they leave from home and walk across town, other times they drive to a trail. This allows me a few hours to myself on a Saturday afternoon, and they get some time with one another. This has been especially wonderful as we’ve been sheltering in place because she and I are home together A LOT (I am a teacher), and he still has to work.

    • April says...

      I love the idea about the Christmas tree! Definitely plan to use that with my son.

  114. Lori says...

    My favorite tradition is Pie Night, started by a family friend and continued 30+ years later. Our motto is “Eat Dessert First”, so the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving we make dozens of pies and invite our friends and neighbors over for coffee, cocoa, and, of course, PIE. Children are particularly delighted.

    • Lindsey says...

      This is such a fun idea! So glad you shared it. I’m adding it to my list!

  115. Adel says...

    On your birthday you decide the family menu for the day – breakfast, lunch & supper. What is better than all of your favorite meals on the same day? And you are also allowed to skip all your daily chores – making your bed, helping in the kitchen, taking out the trash and walking the dogs. They day is dedicated to being treated like a king/queen!

  116. Audrey W says...

    Every Valentine’s Day my parents would bring us breakfast in bed and the highlight was sugar to dip strawberries in and one of my grandma’s sugar cookies. There would always be a card and often a Rose.

    Snow Days would result in making Snow Ice Cream. We would put a bowl out to catch the flakes and add vanilla and milk. So yummy!

    Saturday’s were for cleaning our rooms but we would first wake up and stay in our beds to listen to a kids radio show.

    Sunday nights we didn’t eat dinner and would just have snacks instead like popcorn, cheese, and apples.

    • Kerstin says...

      My family also had a tradition of popcorn, cheddar, and granny smiths! I thought we were the only ones. Usually it was at the end of the day when we came home late from an outing. Now whenever I come home from a trip to the beach or a long hike, I crave popcorn, cheese, and apples.

      Non-food related: many years ago my two sisters and I started “soundtrack for life.” We kept a Google doc all year and each month we each added a song – something that spoke to us during that month, a new song we dug, whatever. At the end of the year we would collect it all into one big playlist. We stopped doing it a few years ago but sometimes i hear a song and think “That should be my soundtrack for life pick of the month!”

      Lastly, we have a ton of music (we call it our music archive). Even before the pandemic but much more now that we are home together, we listen to one of the same two albums at breakfast (one is one we have listened to for over ten years almost every morning). This sets the morning pre-coffee tone. Then, one person gets to pick the first album of the day, and we rotate through all day long. I opened the computer one day to see my husband had created a “soundtrack for life coronavirus edition” out of the most-played music over the past months. The best!

  117. Hillary says...

    – We’ve never been big NYE people so we buy hot appetizers and watch movies that night and go to bed whenever we feel like it.
    – Thanksgiving morning, before our 25 family members come over, we bake pumpkin muffins and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade together. It’s a nice calm before the (joyous!) storm.
    – Day after Thanksgiving we decorate the house for Christmas.
    – Scone Saturdays: I’ll bake scones and my SIL/BIL/kids come over (they live down the street) for an hour of two of adult conversation while the kids are spoiled by our video game systems in the basement.
    – When there isn’t a pandemic, our neighbors gather on Friday nights for dinner with all of our families, potluck style. It never goes late (varied bedtimes for kiddos) but it’s a great way to connect as a community.
    -Growing up, we’d watch TV as a family on Friday nights with pizza and homemade popcorn. No friends allowed (our house was otherwise always overrun with neighborhood kids), just family.

  118. E says...

    Before family movie nights we have pre-movie talent show or show and tell. Once everyone is set up on the couch and the popcorn is made and the movie cued up, we take turns, before the trailers, each getting up and reciting a poem, doing a magic trick, singing a little song, telling a joke, etc.

  119. Elizabeth Harris says...

    Valentine’s Day “red dinner”…all red foods- steak, strawberry cheesecake, beet salad. So ridiculous, so fun/festive, so many variations!

  120. Christina says...

    We started a ritual during quarantine when I realized my 5 year old was not getting enough time with just me. Friday nights are now “Kate & Mommy movie nights”. While I put her 2 year old sister to bed, her dad helps her build a fort in the living room and make popcorn. When I come down, we make cozy spots under the fort, share a giant bowl of popcorn with chocolate chips, and she gets to stay up late and watch a move, just the two of us. She has started picking the movie by announcing that on the count of 3, we will both say the name of the movie at the same time and see if we match. I always know what movie she wants to watch (because she’s been talking about it all week), and say the same movie as her at the same time. We always agree. She thinks it’s magic.

    • emily says...

      It IS magic, Christina! You are the magician for sweet Kate.

    • Alyssa says...

      Start to finish, this is so impossibly lovely. I don’t have children, but this is exactly the kind of special tradition I would have loved to have with my mom when I was a little girl. What a precious gift you’re giving her!

  121. kim s says...

    breakfast in bed on your birthday! my dad would set whole thing up on a tray and even if it was cereal and milk it would be fancy with the milk in a little dish you pour in when you’re ready. juice in a fancy glass. cloth napkin and of course, the funny section of the newspaper.

  122. M.S. says...

    Every ounce of this is dripping in love. Thank you for being you!!

  123. Sarah says...

    We have a tradition of Solstice Sunrises. We’re not early morning people (at all), but each summer solstice, we set the alarm and go for a walk at 4:45am or however early it might be, then take a nice long mid-morning nap. We also try to take vacations during that week, which makes for extra-special morning walk memories!

  124. Rachel says...

    I’m the oldest of 4 girls and in our house the sisters do each other’s stockings for Christmas. We draw names and try to keep it secret but everyone always finds out who has who very quickly and you can swap :) now two of us are married so we add the boys into the mix, and we plan to do it with the next little generation although there’s just two grandkids, so they just get each other. It keeps Christmas relatively affordable ($100 or less per stocking) and it’s the most fun thing to open on Christmas!

  125. Hilary says...

    These are so fun! I think of rituals as the guideposts through childhood (and, let’s face it, life!). A few of our family’s are…

    1. For birthdays, we fill the birthday-boy or birthday-girl’s bedroom with balloons and decorate his or her door.

    2. We have “Random Dinner” (named by our kids) the night or two before leaving on vacation to clean out the fridge (and build the excitement!). Sometimes, if we’re not planning a vacation but have a lot of strange leftovers for dinner, our kids get suspicious: “Mom, are we heading out on a surprise vacation tomorrow?!” Haha! :)

    3. We have lasagna and salad for Christmas dinner. We realized several years ago that nobody wanted to spend Christmas Day in the kitchen, so my mom makes her famous lasagna a few days before, freezes it, and then we bake it on Christmas Day.

    4. Every year, I make one “yearbook” of our family photos, and when it arrives from the photo-book company, our kids sit together on the couch and relive the year. I try to include both highlights and “regular life”–shots of kids lolling around reading, or baking, or bugging each other. :) I learned from an older mom that she treasured photos of vacations and graduations, etc., but she REALLY treasured the photos of her littles in their favorite PJs on a sleepy morning or with their beloved stuffies, or goofing off with the neighbors in the front yard, etc.

    5. I still sing the same songs to my 8- and 11-year-olds before bed that I sang when they were babies. (I’m dreading the moment this ends!)

    • Lisa says...

      I love that “year book” idea! I take so many photos on my phone, it would be nice to have a physical version of them

    • Shira says...

      I also do the yearbook. Just a tip, because it can get expensive, I always wait until Shutterfly has one of their “free extra pages” sales. I try to have the book ready so that when the sale happens, I can just add the book to my cart.

  126. Julie says...

    Growing up fridays were always family movies and pizza night. Even as a grumpy teenager I loved it.

    • Our were, too! And we weren’t a pop family, so we did fruit punch. To this day, every time I have pizza, I also want fruit punch and carrots with ranch!

  127. Chelsea says...

    Every Friday night, we do pizza and movie night. Not original, but what makes it special is each kid gets to pick a favorite candy which we buy earlier in the week, we use a special dish to serve the candy and they set the couch up with certain blankets. They watch plenty of other movies throughout the week/end, but “movie night” is the only time the setup is like this and they LIVE for it. They start counting down Saturday for the next Friday and we look forward to it just as much!

    We also do “Sundae Sunday” – ice cream sundae’s Sunday night with all the sugary over-processed maraschino cherries and whipped cream!

  128. LJ says...

    This comment thread is so wonderful – I’ve so enjoyed these little peeks into everyone’s families. A nice one from my childhood is appetizer night on Christmas Eve – my mom would make fancy meatballs, cocktail weenies in crescent rolls, shrimp cocktail, etc and put it all out like we were having a fancy cocktail party, except it was just me, my mom and dad and my sister. We still do it! It’s fun to see how appetizers do or do not evolve (meatballs with chili sauce and grape jelly are still good!)

    • Nicki says...

      A daily ritual we do is Fruit Snack – bedtime snack of yummy fruit. I don’t know how it started but bedtime doesn’t happen without it!

      Weekly rituals are the ever common Friday night movie night and taco Tuesday.

      Special events (bdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day etc) are breakfast in bed on a special tray with a tiny vase (shot glass haha) with flowers from the garden (sending the kids out to gather flowers in the early am is so funny and cute to me).

      Larger and older family traditions for special holidays too, like certain meals etc.

      Nothing groundbreaking, but I find rituals really are grounding in childhood and build a family “team” feeling that I love.

  129. My family did this too! While I no longer get gifts as an adult, my mom still calls to wish me a Happy Name’s Day. :-)

  130. Alli says...

    – I like to do homemade Halloween costumes for my son (we will see if I keep it up once we have our second baby in a few months). So far, he’s been E.T., a feathery chicken and a Trex that looks more like a regular lizard.
    – we decorate a tree with homemade bird feeders (made of peanut butter and bird seed pine cones, apples, toilet paper rolls, popcorn strings, etc.) after the first snow of the year.
    – my husband and I always do popcorn and peanut butter m&ms for dinner on Sunday night after our son goes to bed. This has become a once in a while thing now that our son is older and goes to bed later, but I loved not stressing about dinner and just hanging out watching movies together once a week.

    My son starts preschool this year, and I can’t wait to hear some ideas for the night-before-school-starts traditions!

    • Natalie says...

      My son is going into his second year at primary (elementary) school in September. When he started preschool I started the tradition of standing by the front door on the first day, taking a picture with his school bag and a letter board with the year and class on. We do the same the last day of the school year. We are only three years in and I adore it. He even waited at the front door a few weeks ago, knowing I’d want a photo. Ha ha. It’s already so cute seeing the pictures all lined up. It’s crazy how fast kids grow! I do his favorite dinner after the first day of school and we go for ice cream after the last day.

      (Michaels sometimes have cute chalkboards this time of year with little sections to add their height and favorite color and teachers name etc).

    • Emily says...

      We did a chalkboard with little facts about him and it was very sweet!

  131. Sandra Seidel says...

    Growing up Saturday night was always bath & clean sheets. I still remember cold winter nights and the warm sheets.

  132. Whitney says...

    As a kid my parents worked down the street so they’d often come home for lunch. When we were home (like summer or holidays) we’d wave at the door or window until they were out of sight. We’d also always “hide” to “scare” my parents when they came home from work. Still do this when I go visit even though there are only 3 places total to hide. Also on Friday or Saturday nights my mom would warm up ALL the leftovers in the fridge and set it out for leftover buffet. We’d all serve ourselves a little of everything and she’d empty the fridge. I do this now but it’s only 2 of us so the amount of leftovers we clear out isn’t as much as our family of 5 growing up. Other traditions my husband and I have started:
    – birthday forts (can stay up for 1 wk)
    – Camping under the Christmas tree the 1st day it’s set up.
    – We buy ornaments & magnets on every trip.
    – Weekend breakfasts are my husband’s job. He can choose to make or buy but my only involvement is eating! He makes GREAT banana chocolate chip pancakes!
    – Special breakfasts before big tests (so many rounds of medical boards).
    – The first big snow fall means a snowball fight is on!
    – Travel means special junk food snacks like muddy buddies and full sugar sodas. And always sandwiches in the car.

  133. Kathleen says...

    My favorite ritual from when I was growing up was called Happy Friday. My mom would bake cookies every Friday before we’d get home from school and it was the highlight of the Friday. It became wildly known among my friends and neighbors and they’d always come over as well. It’s something I hope to one day repeat with my future children.

  134. Kate says...

    On Christmas eve we would receive two “family gifts” that my sisters and I would open together – it was always a new Christmas movie that came out that year and a new board game to all play together. It was a wonderful family tradition and created so many fun memories of watching movies and playing games. Additionally, our Christmas eve dinner was always a delicious assortment of appetizers, we saved the the big turkey dinner for Christmas Day and usually at someone else’s house (clever, mom)

  135. Ll says...

    Oh I grew up with so many! Few examples: open sandwiches and chocolate milk after swimming lessons. Going for a drive during thunderstorms (we started doing this because the electricity went out and we had nothing to do, but it quickly became a thing). For Christmas we made gingerbread cookies and my sister and I decorated the tree the night before Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve morning we opened a gift each, usually something to wear or a game to play (Swedish, so celebrated the 24th). For holidays we always bought crappy but entertaining magazines at the airport. My dad used to take one child at the time to do something special: he took me to Stockholm (a flight away) for a horse show as I loved horses, and we stayed in a nice hotel and had pancakes for breakfast. Another time we drove a few hours to a water park and played and enjoyed all the slides for a day, just the two of us. My parents were big on homemade healthy food so every time we did something special we also had ice cream or dessert as a celebration. Felt super fancy.

    I don’t have kids it my sister has two, and I have started the tradition of taking them for a special treat, one at a time. As they are still so young, it’s been riding the bus into the city where we buy ice cream (as big as your face if you want) and a balloon! Just going somewhere alone with auntie is an adventure and I love that I can share that with them!

  136. Krista Cone says...

    Our daughters joined our family through foster care, so we intentionally created rituals and rhythms to help create predictability when they first moved in.

    -No matter what the day holds, we want the first and last thing they see/hear each day to be positive. So, being mindful to start the day with a smile and a greeting, and ending with a snuggle and “I love you”.
    -A chapter from a good story read aloud before bed each night. Even though the kids are tweens now, it’s still a special time together. We always end by reading one poem, then reciting ‘Good Night’ by Victor Hugo.
    -My youngest loves for us to ‘squish’ her each night, which entails putting some pressure on her body from head to toe (which doubles to help her mindfully begin the night focused on her body and not in her brain).
    -The week before Christmas, we take each daughter out on a separate date to a toy store, where they hunt for a ‘Sister Gift’, which they’ll then wrap back at home. It’s the first gift they want to open each year and is so special to see what they select for each other.
    -Growing up, my family didn’t have much money, but everybody always received a new game for Christmas. The night school went on break (usually Dec 19), we’d prepare our big enchilada feast (a hold-over from my parents growing up in Texas and missing this meal most), then my parents would tell us to go listen to Christmas music in the car while they “cleaned up dinner”. We’d drive around town looking at lights, then return home to discover Santa had come while we were away! We’d play our new games together the entire school break. Our kids now always get a new game in their stockings.
    -On St. Patrick’s Day, the girls create a Leprechaun Trap from the recycling. We haven’t caught a leprechaun yet, but each year one will be tempted in and accidentally leave a few pieces of candy with gold wrappers.
    -On somebody’s birthday, each family member gets a French macaron, with one candle stuck in the person of honor’s.
    -Our kids’ birthdays are one day apart, so we’ll hang streamers in the doorway of the birthday girl. They only stay on for their one special day.
    -First day of school balloons filling the living room floor
    -Dinner together at the table as often as possible. We’ll each share a highlight and struggle from the day.
    -My husband makes pizza one night each weekend.
    -Whenever my husband or I would travel, we’d bring a pack of gum home for each girl. I think it started because you can always find it at the airport, even if you didn’t have time or want the added pressure of seeking out souvenirs. Now, when grandparents come visit, they enjoy bringing the girls each a pack of ‘Genuine Texas Gum’. The girls love it!

    Long before we had kids, I would leave the house at 6:15 to go to school to prepare for the kindergarteners I taught. My husband would get up when I did to make me coffee and pack me a lunch, then he’d go back to bed for an hour when I left since he didn’t need to be to work until 8:30. It’s still one of the sweetest acts of consistent kindness I can recall being shown.

    • LB says...

      This is all so delightful. I’d like to live in your house, haha!

    • Em says...

      I loved reading this! so so lovely and thoughtful

  137. Olivia says...

    These are so great!

    We have BIG ICE CREAM DAY. Every summer, we rent a cottage for two weeks. Our first year doing it, we realized on the next to last day that we had a ton of leftover ice cream in the freezer, and we couldn’t bring it home. Enter: big ice cream day, the day the kids got to eat up all the left over ice cream in the freezer (while the adults pack and clean and get ready for the return trip).

    The first year was a disaster, since the kids ate ice cream at different paces and squabbled over total number of ice creams and who got which kind. So now, they are tasked each year with collaborating over their own rules, presenting them to us, receiving feedback, making changes, etc., before we agree on terms. It is a hilarious window into what’s important to them (this year, it was how to split up the freezer space for each person’s ice cream).

    There are sometimes conflicts, but we tell them they have to work it out in the rules next year. It takes zero adult planning, costs less than $30, and keeps them occupied while we do all the last-day logistics. The kids say it’s the best day of their lives (oblivious to the fact that we spend hundreds of dollars and countless hours planning birthday parties and Christmas throughout the year, but whatever).

    For anyone considering doing this: we leave the morning AFTER Big Ice Cream Day, so the kids run off all of their energy, crash, sleep, and then we just pack them into the car in the morning. Do. not. give. the kids unlimited ice cream on the same day you plan to drive.

  138. Maggie says...

    Every Valentines Day my mom would set out little gifts in the morning – card, candy, cute socks, a novelty toy from the drug store. They turned into care packages when we went to college, and now she sends them for my kids. I remember freshman year in the dorms girls moping about not having dates/valentines and I was like, who cares? Come to my room and have some chocolates and gummy hearts and check out my new socks!

    • Sarah says...

      This is the best! My Mom still does this for me…and I’m 31. She always made it important to emphasize that Valentine’s is a day about all kinds of love not just romantic. I’ve now taken on this mindset and send my family & closest friends, girls/guys.. single or not, their kids etc. valentine’s cards each year to remind them how loved they are!

    • Kerstin says...

      I love this tradition. It reminds me of a time I got a valentine from my mom, the only one I got from her. We had been going through a hard time as a family and I think she just wanted to remind everyone that the love was still there and strong. Sometimes, having the thing be precisely not a tradition can be just as meaningful.

  139. Sarah says...

    Love this! We have two traditions (kids are almost 4 and almost 1).

    – My dad took my sister and I out for breakfast on our birthdays every year – just the two of us! Sometimes, if he had morning meetings, we were at breakfast when they opened at 6am – but we still loved the tradition and looked forward to it every year. We’ve done the same for our oldest, and will continue it with the youngest.

    – The day after Thanksgiving we stay in our PJs, eat leftover pie for breakfast, and pull out the Christmas decorations. We’ll put up the tree listening to Vince Guaraldi, watching The Muppet Christmas Carol, and generally having a lazy family day – just the four of us!

    • Alli says...

      Your thanksgiving tradition sounds JUST like mine (Except our movies are Christmas Vacation and Charlie Brown Christmas)! I look forward to that more than I do thanksgiving. Lol!

    • Alli says...

      We also listen to the Chieftains Christmas album. :-)

  140. Amy says...

    We always start the holiday season by listening to the Saint Olaf Christmas Festival on public radio and eating pot pie. My wife and I did this the first holiday we were dating and have continued. So many of our traditions are tied to our extended family – but this is just the two of us.

  141. Amy says...

    I love reading about all these traditions! Some of ours is when it’s your birthday, we pull the birthday person’s ears. A sign that you are getting bigger. We also sing the happy birthday song in French, English and Romanian! Twice a year, we do a family road trip with the same family. We all always have a blast and really look forward to this trip. An added bonus is our friend’s husband takes amazing photos and a few days after the trip, he’ll send the pictures to us. It’s one of my favourite parts because it just brings us back to the moment again!

  142. Jenny T says...

    When I was growing up, the Sticker Fairy would occasionally leaves stickers in the silverware drawer.

    • Laura says...

      That is so fun! Such a small thing that would be magical for kids.

  143. Everytime it snows (it doesn’t happen that often in Paris, France where we live) we sleep on the convertible sofa in the living room instead of our bed. And we just love it
    <3

  144. Yael says...

    We are Orthodox Jews so our lives literally revolve around rituals; they have been especially grounding during this crazy time and give structure and meaning in the midst of the chaos we have been experiencing.

  145. Kat says...

    We have what we have called a Music Round when we sit down to dinner as a family at home. We each take a turn to choose a song to play while we eat. There’s been a lot of Let it Go and Moana, but as the kids get older it’s so fun to see what they choose and what music they like.

  146. Kat O says...

    A few of ours, being a childless couple in our mid-thirties:
    – We don’t celebrate a lot of traditional holidays, but the changing seasons and the changing light are really important to us, so every solstice and equinox I make a big meal highlighting the foods of that season (ie, this past summer solstice I made garden salads, a tomato goat cheese galette, strawberry shortcake, and cucumber gin and tonics).
    – Most years we go for a hike on our anniversary.
    – For myself, on October first I watch Hocus Pocus. We also always watch Arsenic and Old Lace at some point in the month, usually accompanied by Dogfish Head Punkin Ales.
    -Every birthday we choose the dessert we want and the other person makes it. Although it’s not always dessert, I guess; one year my husband chose guacamole, and this year I wanted fancy cocktails!
    – One of the more traditional traditions (ha) for me growing up was playing fun party games at Christmas with my mother’s large family, and ALWAYS a few rounds of bingo (with prizes!).

    • jjb says...

      Love these! We are also child-free and it’s nice to hear about things that we could do around our happy family of two! We do the same thing for birthdays, but I want to adopt your solstice/equinox idea! :)

    • Saya says...

      Another family of two here! We do bed days on Mondays (get home from work and pretty much get straight into bed and read/watch movies and snack). We also go to the same special place in the mountains every year for 10 days and relax and think about our life together.
      We also listen to NZ public radio every morning together while we have breakfast and commentate, such geeks.

  147. Lori H says...

    My favorite of family rituals occurred on the last day of school each year. When kids got home, there would be a plain brown grocery bag on their bed, and inside were a few fun summery items and a good book. Not like Christmas with big gifts, but perhaps a new beach towel, sunscreen, pool toy, nail polish, Dairy Queen gift certificate – a few of these not all! My kids looked forward to it every year and it kicked off summer in a fun way. I continued this through college and no one ever suggested they were too old :)

  148. Jessica Melindy says...

    My parents were excellent with rituals and I hope that I will just as good when I become a parent!
    – Growing up in Northern Canada Spring always felt far away so on Groundhog day we would have a fun summer themed evening. We would turn up the heat in the house, wear our shorts and summer dresses, drink kid friendly pina coladas and have BBQ for supper.
    – Most Fridays we had “finger food Friday” – aka bar style appetizers (wings, nachos, spinach dip etc)
    – When I was in highschool apparently I had an attitude? Who knew. So Dad started sarcastic Tuesdays. You guessed it, everyone could be sarcastic at the supper table.