Family traditions are often a meaningful aspect of all celebrations, from birthdays to holidays to summer vacations, but new traditions can be just as rich as the classics.
Many families, no matter the size, strive to create their own traditions either in tandem with long-time family rituals or completely separate from the ways of their clans.
Pamela Houghton’s family has a Dia de los Muertos tradition that’s a few years strong now.
"We do the Dia De Los Muertos parade in Walker’s Square and set up an ofrenda to teach our daughter about her family members who have passed on," says Haughton. "Also, for a Norwegian, I make a mean mole negro."
Maria Datzer started a Christmas tradition with her two daughters, who are now 28 and 30, many years ago. She takes them out to dinner, asks them 10 questions and then documents their answers in a journal.
Every year, she comes up with new questions like, "who in your life makes you laugh the most?" and "if you could only have one book with you on a desert island, which book would you choose?"
"She always comes up with great, insightful questions and our girls really love looking back on the answers from previous years," says Datzer’s husband, Frank. "And someday their children will enjoy the answers from their mothers if my daughters continue this tradition."
Laura Williams and her husband, Shaun Navis, started a "new" holiday tradition more than a decade ago. Every year, while driving with their daughter to Indiana to visit Williams’ parents, they leave Milwaukee in the late afternoon.
"Once we're out of the Chicago traffic and it's starting to get dark, we put on our CD of Patrick Stewart's one-man ‘A Christmas Carol’ and listen to it for the last couple hours of the trip," says Williams. "I think we all know long sections of it by heart now, but we still listen to it every year anyway."
Every New Year’s Eve, Melanie Ariens carves out a few minutes from the festivities to continue her tradition.
"I write a letter to my two child. They don't know this yet, but hopefully they will enjoy the letters when they are older," says Ariens.
Matt Michaelis has a sightly less heartwarming tradition, but a holiday tradition all the same.
"We always go out on the night before Thanksgiving. We call it 'Boozegiving,'"say Michaelis. "We always start at La Fuente and end at New Yorker with stops in between."
The question of how long a practice has to occur before it’s considered a tradition is arguable. Lisa Gatewood and her boyfriend started what they are certain will become a tradition last year.
"I guess technically it isn't a tradition yet, but we've got it on the calendar for this year too, so it will be one," says Gatewood.
Since the couple does not see their families on Thanksgiving, they had a seafood boil last year with lobsters, mussels, clams and shrimp from St. Paul's Fish Market in the Public Market.
"We had a wonderfully lazy Thanksgiving day, and then boiled everything up at the last minute," says Gatewood. "We're looking forward to our seafood boil this year and are already researching new side dishes since I recently went gluten free."
Keith Brammer and his wife, Janet, have a themed-movie marathon each New Year's Eve.
"Going out on New Year’s Eve ceased to be fun about the time I stopped playing shows on New Year’s Eve," says Brammer, who was the bassist for Die Kreuzen.
The only challenge, he says, is coming up with the theme. Recent ones have included film noir, trashy B-movies and Blaxploitation.
"This year may be Audrey Hepburn. Or Lee Marvin," says Brammer.
A number of new-found traditions, much like old ones, have to do with trees.
Renee Scherk-Meyer’s in-laws converted about 60 acres of land into woodlands through a Department of Natural Resources conservation program and planted more than 40,000 hardwood and softwood trees.
"Every year, we go into the woods and find double-trunked pine trees and cut down one of the trunks. This cut enables the remaining tree to stay alive and grow straight," says Scherk-Meyer. "And our Christmas trees have a 'Charlie Brown' look to them."
And sometimes, traditions must come to an end. Milwaukee cellist Janet Schiff can attest to this.
"A few years ago when I got together with my boyfriend we started to collect the end part of the Christmas tree that is cut off at the lot. We collected three, one for each year. It has been fun to watch them accumulate and age in a windowsill," says Schiff. "We are broken up now so I have burned them all."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.