Why Are Family Rituals Important for a Happy Family?

Tradition Gives a Sense of Belonging to the Family

Daughter on fathers shoulders, picking apple from tree
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Family rituals and traditions are important. They establish a foundation for family values and are a good bonding experience. Rituals also give both children and parents something to look forward to.

What is a Family Ritual?

A family ritual is a set of behaviors that is repeated and that is symbolically meaningful.

Family rituals provide families with a sense of identity and belonging. They often stir up strong emotions and are frequently reminisced about and discussed within the family.

Family rituals also provide a sense of continuity across generations. In other words, they are a way of transmitting family values, history and culture from one generation to the next.

Another term for family rituals is family traditions.

Examples of Family Rituals

Perhaps the best example of family rituals are holiday traditions, such as those surrounding Christmas or Hannukah. Events surrounding these holidays like picking out a Christmas tree, lighting the menorah and gathering for dinner with extended family can become rituals.

Families also have non-holiday rituals that are unique to their family. Apple picking every fall or renting a vacation cabin every summer are two good examples.

Some families may also have a ritual for every member's birthday. It may be as ordinary as baking a special cake that is the birthday boy or girl's personal favorite. It may also be something funny or an inside family joke that becomes a tradition on anyone's birthday.

Family Traditions Through Generations

Many families have traditions that last for generations. These often produce the fondest memories that everyone cherishes and attempts to carry on.

  • Some are related to the family's heritage like going to the local cultural festival or cooking a meal from the 'old country' on a certain day each year.
  • Others may have to do with special events, such as that pearl necklace that is passed down at each daughter's weddings.
  • Still others are simply fun. A family full of baseball fans may make it a tradition to go to the stadium on opening day. It may have started with great-grandpa and is continued to involve the youngest members of the family.

Family Rituals vs Routines

Family rituals can be contrasted with family routines, which also occur repeatedly but lack the symbolic meaning that family rituals hold.

A family dinner every Friday night may be a routine. A family dinner at a fancy restaurant for Mom's birthday may be a ritual or tradition.


Fiese, Barbara H., Tomcho, Thomas J., Douglas, Michael, Josephs, Kimberly, Poltrock, Scott, and Baker, Tim. A Review of 50 Years of Research on Naturally Occurring Family Routines and Rituals: Cause for Celebration? Journal of Family Psychology. 2002. 16,4: 381-390.

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