Education Wednesday Christmas Edition: Family Traditions

Traditions such as holiday customs commemorate important moments in life and help us share lessons from our family past and culture. For child learners, traditions are important because they help with the development of non-cognitive skills and support students to be engaged active learners. As crucially, traditions provide a sense of inclusion in a wider community and closeness with your family, both contributing to developing a positive self-identity.


For me, Christmas has always been a time of celebration shared with several generations in my family. As a child I looked forward to going to my great-grandmother’s house. Preparing for her yearly large family gathering, I would watch her whip up marvelous holiday delights. I would listen to her stories about Christmas when she was a girl. Once aunts, uncles, and cousins arrived, I loved the hum of the house filled with conversation and holiday cheer.

Singing "The 12 Days of Christmas" (my favorite holiday tradition) hand-in-hand with my cousins remains one of my fondest memories. Though my great-grandmother is no longer alive, I still cherish those special Christmas gatherings and our passed down traditions. As a family we re-committed to our close family bond and Christian values central to the holiday season such as faith, hope, renewal, and forgiveness.

Just as I look forward to continuing the traditions I shared with my grandmother, this year I happily started a new holiday tradition with my siblings. Now that we are older, Christmas is one of the rare occasions we are all home together. We decided to make each other ornaments for the Christmas tree. This simple family activity allows us to learn from and about each other while we spend quality time. I am sharing other ideas for you to try this holiday:

Aundrea's Learning-Centered Family Holiday Traditions:

  • Christmas Caroling: In Spain, Christmas or Navidad is celebrated by singing villancicos, or religious songs, at holiday gatherings with friends and family. In the U.S. songs such as Silent Night are traditional favorites. Share your culture and learn more about others by singing holiday songs from around the world. This is sure to be a fun activity you will want to repeat each year.
  • Family History Project: Much as I discuss in Education Wednesday: Making the Most of Winter Break, a Christmas where I received a family history journal is one of my most memorable. As I spent time talking with older relatives, I not only learned more about their lives but also the origins of my family. While everyone gathers, make interviewing relatives a new learning tradition.
  • Story Reading: Reading stories such as Gift of the Magi and the Night Before Christmas always get me in the holiday spirit. As a kid I would look forward to sitting down with my parents on Christmas Eve and reading my favorites next to our Christmas tree. Find story suggestions at Latinas for Latino Lit (L4LL), co-founded by The Wise Latina Club’s Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.
  • Holiday Baking: Food is a fun way to pass along traditions. This year get the kids involved in the kitchen. Share dishes that are traditional to your culture, country, or family, explaining the importance of these foods to your young ones. For healthy recipe tips check out our Natalie Fierro's Christmas Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Latino Holiday Dishes.


Studies have linked practicing family traditions to kids' higher test scores and happiness. Participating in learning activities promoting shared purpose, accountability, and long-term goals–such as continuing family traditions–are external factors that help cultivate successful students because they pique a child’s interest to learn.

Beyond the academic benefits, traditions are special to children because they represent positive events to look forward to each year in which they feel supported and safe. This Christmas as you participate in rituals from the past and create new traditions of your own, pass along the gift of family and  culture to your young ones.

Aundrea_Gregg-TheWiseLatinaClubAn education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.

Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

What traditions are unique to your family?