New Year's is often seen as the last stop on the holiday
train: a time of over-indulgence and annoying noisemakers or plain
exhaustion. But it's also a time of reflection and
Meg Cox, author of
The Book of New Family Traditions (Running Press, 2012), points
out that New Year's traditions cut both ways, allowing parents to
have fun while creating some meaningful traditions. "You can have a
really happy, jump-up-and-down-and-make-a-lot-of-noise time but you
can also, within that same holiday, have a time for quiet
reflection on how you've evolved in a year."
With that in mind, we asked some Chicago area families for their
ideas on creating rituals and traditions that spark memories and
There are plenty of ways easily and creatively to capture
the silliness of a party mood.
The DeBoer family in Clarendon Hills has fun
deciding who will be the first to do something in the new year. For
instance, who will be the first to do a cartwheel or sing a certain
song or eat a meatball.
"It seems strange but they can spend all night thinking of
what they'll do at midnight," says mom Amy DeBoer.
Leslie Goddard of Darien held an Upside-Down
and Backwards party for her nieces to welcome the new year. The
kids would wear their clothes backwards, eat dessert first, sit
under the table and hang signs upside-down.
"We had fun going into the new year backwards," she says.
"The kids thought it was hilarious to break all kinds of rules for
Amy Engstrom Clugg's two children were adopted
from Russia and she and her husband incorporate Russian
celebrations into their New Year's festivities.
"New Year's became a big holiday for Russia during
Communism when they couldn't celebrate religious holidays," she
says. "Even today, New Year's remains their bigger celebration,
with many Russians still putting up a New Year's tree."
Their family makes a big Russian meal and celebrates
midnight for all of Russia's nine time zones, especially their
kids' birth cities, as well as the Chicago New
Linda Kelley of Elmhurst keeps a Greek
tradition alive by baking a Vasilopita, a New Year's cake. The cake
has a coin, wrapped in foil, baked inside. When the cake is cut at
midnight, whoever gets the piece with the coin in it is supposed to
have good luck in the new year.
As any parent will tell you, kids love watching movies of
themselves or going through photo albums of when they were
When Carrie Wujek of Naperville was growing up,
her family pulled out old family movies. "We would have an
appetizer dinner and watch family movies on our old reel-to-reel
projector with the big snap-down screen," she says.
Watching home videos and flipping through albums also
provides a good incentive to transfer video off the camera and onto
a format where it can be enjoyed by everyone.
As kids get older, use the memories stirred up by home
movies and photos to look back on the past year. Cox suggests
making a Best and Worst List.
What is the best/worst thing that happened in the past
year? What was the best/worst movie you saw? Include books, TV
shows and friends. You could also anticipate what current events of
the past year will make history and three things you hope for in
the coming year.
Alternately, consider an awards ceremony for memorable
moments during the past year. Consider: Most Embarrassing Moment,
Best Athlete, Most Improved Sibling.
Resolutions are the most common New Year's
tradition and they're a fun way to get kids excited about the
possibilities of the coming year. It's always interesting to find
out what family members see as areas of needed improvement. Save
the resolutions to read the following year.
If you're tired of resolutions, try making predictions. On New
Year's Eve, determine categories and then predict events of the
coming year. On New Year's Day, open the predictions from the
Our family did this and I've continued the tradition with
my kids. Our categories include "Personal" ("I will get Mrs. Kulp
for a teacher"), "Family" ("We will finally go to Florida"), and
"World" ("The Bears will win the Super Bowl").