Life + Arts

Students share family traditions

From Sunday dinners to reunions and annual vacations, traditions are central to student life, and students reflect on their families’ unique personal and cultural customs.

According to research from the Journal of Family Psychology, families that engage in shared activities together were less likely to experience conflicts in five years, and traditions highly impacted the children’s development and well-being.Roberta Nutt, interim chair of the UH Department of Educational Psychology, defined family traditions as structured behaviors that organize families and become part of the family system.

“Family traditions teach us how to cope and how to find comfort during emotional events like weddings or funerals,” Nutt said.

Having come from a Russian and British background, Nutt understood the mesh of diverse ethnics as a way to preserve legacies and to create new rituals.

“Every couple will bring different traditions together to create something new, and their circumstances will change,” she said. “They choose to change for the better, and that’s healthy. You need a strong cycle to keep the traditions alive.”

Nutt also stressed the importance of family traditions.

“Traditions aren’t always obvious, but people begin to notice them when they think ‘routine’ or ‘repetition,’” Nutt said. “Whether big or small, traditions allow you to make life fun. Starting your own personal tradition to get over anything is great as well.”

Nutrition sophomore Justine James explored several traditions, which include Guyanese, Indian and British cultures.

“Even though my parents migrated to America over 30 years ago, they kept the food traditions alive,” James said. “Every Christmas morning, we wake up to the aroma of fresh bread and a slow-cooked, sweet stew called pepper pot. We also place a Christmas sock filled with fruits and sweets on doorknobs of our loved ones on Christmas Eve.”

Beyond her cultural background and religious ties to Christian holidays, James’ family and she created a few traditions that celebrate Spanish, Chinese and Hindu cultures.

“Some of our new traditions include Chinese food, and we celebrate Chinese New Year,” she said. “We established that each child in our family must be fluent in Spanish, which began when my mother became a Spanish teacher. My family and I also began celebrating Hindu festivals like Holi, the festival of colors.”

Having integrated an extensive variety of cultural customs, James explained the importance of preserving her family traditions.

“What makes these traditions important is how they’re a reminder of the fusion of my newly-created culture,” James said. “My family was able to craft a unique identity that makes us stand out from other Guyanese-American families. Our traditions give me a sense of identity and values to pass on to the next generation.”

Accounting sophomore Aimee Muniz discussed her family’s love for spending quality time watching movies, discovering events and listening to music.

“Every Sunday, we watch action-packed movies and dine at a nice restaurant to celebrate an achievement or an awesome week,” Muniz said. “We continued this tradition even when I lived on campus because it was something we all enjoyed. We also visit the Renaissance festival yearly to enjoy the cold weather and awesome food, to take memorable pictures and to enjoy the sights.”

Muniz described her family’s union through the exploration of music.

“We listen to old songs and discover new music together every night, and sometimes we sing along,” she said. “This tradition is really important because it instills a type of confidence and happiness when we sing that’s harmonious.”

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1 Comment

  • Christmas Web has been a part of our families Christmas celebration for the past 20 years. As our children grew older we found that their interest in Christmas morning waned and the sparkle in their eyes was gone. So in 1992 Nita and I introduced the Christmas Web. When our two teen-aged children came down Christmas morning they found a Magic Wand in their socks that had for years been hung at the fireplace mantel. Attached to the wand was a piece of yarn (70 yards of yarn) that wound through the house into the front and back yard and ended in a closet or cabinet which held their special gift from one of Santa’s elves, an elf who had been looking out for them for the past year and knew of their desire for this special gift.

    The Christmas Web continued as each of our children got married and as they had children. We now have seven Magic Wands (the 40 year old children will not give up their magic wands) each with 70 yards of yarn winding through our house every Christmas Morning making getting a cup of coffee an acrobatic achievement before the winding begins. The Christmas Web has become the signature event of the Grinkmeyer’s Christmas day activities. It’s my hope that families around the world will come to enjoy the excitement that we have for the past 20 years.

    As grandparents Nita and I have found that The Christmas Web is brings our family together for the holiday season. Some year’s in-law family conflicts dictate that it doesn’t always happen in our home or exactly on Christmas morning, but for 20 years it’s always happened. When our granddaughters moved to Florida Emma asked, “Poppie will we still be able to do the string thing?” “Yes Emma we always be able to do the string thing.”

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