family dinner building traditions

Photo by Macniak

This past holiday season we have spent some time together communicating what kind of new things we could add to our traditions as a blended family.

The very nature of a blended family is that two people have come together to start new. This new union causes a group of people to come together that have not yet had time to establish the type of strong natural bonds that a biological child generally has with a parent who has been present since birth.

This includes family traditions. In a blended family, each person is coming in with their own expectations, anticipations, and even hesitations.

The New Year is an excellent opportunity to think through how you want family traditions and holidays to be carried out within your home.  

Why do we say this?

Well, after having jumped in head first into our blended family, we recognized we each had our own expectations of what the family traditions would look like in our home.

These unspoken expectations led to a lot of conflict within that first year and although conflict in itself is not always bad, it created division and unnecessary confrontations between us.

Blindly expecting everyone to fall in line with whatever individual traditions created became a source of contention.

Our first couple’s fight was over Thanksgiving. We had just signed our marriage certificate the day before and it did not occur to me (Hannah) that John would expect to be involved in making Thanksgiving dinner.

No one had ever helped me before, and I was use to making and doing things my way.

I was appalled at how he was sauteing onions for the stuffing. In fact, I had never put much effort into stuffing because I didn’t like stuffing. I always just made it from the easiest box recipe I could find. But John wanted it, and he cared. The stuffing was an important part of Thanksgiving to him.

It was then that I began to realize that John planned on being an active participant in the holiday cooking.

I tried to establish rules on what he could make, which did not go over well at all. We had an all-out fight about who was making what and how. Not our best Thanksgiving memories ever but we made it through.

Last November was our 6th Thanksgiving together, and things have gotten a lot better.


Because, since our second year together, we have learned to discuss (ahead of time) what our desires are for a holiday.

He loves baking and making pies; I like cooking and making desserts. He loves white meat, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and stuffing. I like the dark meat, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes. He liked the mashed potatoes peeled and whipped; while I liked my mashed potatoes skin on, lumpy, with giblet gravy. 

We have learned to compromise on making the mashed potatoes skinned and lumpy with two gravies.

This was when we realized that even the small things, like Thanksgiving expectations, needed to be communicated about and it’s okay to hit the restart button.

So what does the restart button look like?

Since we now have a one-year-old, a two-year-old, and our 13-year-old daughter in our home we try to consider what traditions are important to our 13-year old to help us establish what may be valuable to our one and two-year-old.  

This year, we went on our first trip as a family to Walt Disney World in March 2017. I (John) wasn’t sure I would enjoy it at all, I had never been there, but Hannah was adamant I would have fun.

We both were unsure what we were getting ourselves into with taking two babies on a plane and on a week-long trip. But it was an outstanding experience.

This was mainly due to Hannah deciding we needed advance practice for Disney. We called it our Disney Bootcamp. We went on trips on the light rails in our town, trips to the zoos and museums. Strolling them on long walks to build up for the big trip.

Once we made it to Disney, we all had to work together to be up in the morning and get everyone on and off the buses. I have come to call this our Family Team Building experience. It was the first time I felt we all came together as a true family.

We cannot wait to go again.

Up until our Disney training, we always took turns doing errands and shopping. One of us would stay home with the kids while the other left so that we would never have to have our babies lose it in public.

This trip was how we came to recognize that to foster a new family identity we needed to have our own family traditions.

Every family holds traditions.

When a couple gets married, they at some point will realize that they each bring with them the ideas and traditions of how they were raised. So in order for us to establish traditions in our household, we took time to sit and share all the traditions we each had experienced, good, bad, and even ones we have heard others follow, when we were growing up.

We decided we wanted to create traditions that would support growth and unity for our family unit. Holiday traditions are big ones, but we wanted to add some that occurred more frequently.

After our conversation, we came up with a Sunday Family Dinner.

Though it may be very traditional, and may seem unpopular to the “microwave” society we live in, we chose this because we want to bolster the desire for being with family in an inviting atmosphere once a week.

My dream is that it continues for decades.

I am hopeful that one day our home will have a formal dining room where our children will bring their children to our house for Sunday Dinner.

But today, we choose to form traditions and make memories as we pull out our fold up table in the living room, dressing it up with nice tableware and make tasty homemade meals.

We then do a family activity, share stories and enjoy the moment as we begin to embrace our new family tradition each week when Hannah says, “ Today we’re having Sunday Dinner again!”

And everyone is excited!


We would love to hear your feedback!

What family traditions have each of you experience growing up?

What family traditions have you established in your own blended family? If none, what traditions would you love to see start in your blended family?


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