New Year’s traditions to start with your family

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 hope.

We asked some Chicago area families for their ideas on creating rituals and traditions that spark memories and enthusiasm.

Meg Cox, author of The Book of New Family Traditions 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 enthusiasm.

Embrace the fun

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 forone night.”

Cultural traditions

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 NewYear.

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.

Re-viewing the past year

As any parent will tell you, kids love watching movies of themselves or going through photo albums of when they were younger.

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.

Capturing the past year

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, TVshows and friends. You could also anticipate what current events of the past year will make history and three things you hope for int he coming year.

Alternately, consider an awards ceremony for memorable moments during the past year. Consider: Most Embarrassing Moment, Best Athlete, Most Improved Sibling.

Predictions versus resolutions

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 previous year.

Our family did this and I’ve continued the tradition with my kids. Our categories include “Personal” (“I will get Mrs. Kulpfor a teacher”), “Family” (“We will finally go to Florida”), and”World” (“The Bears will win the Super Bowl”).

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