Holiday Traditions to Start as an Adoptive Family


The holidays are a time for family traditions. With the addition of new family members through adoption, bringing in some new traditions alongside the old ones can be a great way to reflect on your family’s special history.

Children often benefit from routines and knowing what to expect each year at their favorite holidays. This may be even more true for adopted children. Adding a new tradition to your annual festivities that they can look forward to and participate in is both fun and provides that sense of security in family.

Here are a few tips to consider as you start new holiday traditions as an adoptive family:

Incorporating Birth Family

One of the most common traditions to start with adopted family is to include birth parents in your celebrations. If your child’s adoption is open or semi-open, here are few ideas:

  • Birthdays can be sensitive times for children and their birth parents. Call up birth parents to share what your child did for their birthday, or make a special card from your child to their birth parents to let them know you’re thinking of them.

  • Thanksgiving is a time for family, and that extends to birth family, too! The time off from school and work might be the perfect opportunity for an annual lunch or dinner with birth parents.

  • For those who celebrate Christmas, send birth parents a tree ornament that your child made or picked out as a small but meaningful gift.

  • At the end of each year, send birth family members a letter and some photos from your child’s year. They may wish to keep each year’s updates in a scrapbook!

Even if your adoption is closed, it can be important to symbolically include birth family in holiday traditions for your child. Consider:

  • Writing letters to, or drawing pictures for birth parents and saving them.

  • Sending up a balloon for birth parents on your child’s birthday each year.

  • Lighting a candle or saying special prayers on religious holidays or Sabbaths.

Even small gestures at important times can be a great way to acknowledge and honor birth family.

International Adoption Traditions

Incorporate the new traditions with the old. Families who adopted internationally can add special holiday traditions unique to their child’s birth country.

  • Is Christmas commonly celebrated in your child’s birth country? Bake a traditional treat, play Christmas songs in their native tongue, make some traditional decorations together or find out what Christmas traditions are unique to their country of birth!

  • One night of Hanukkah, give your child a gift that links to their heritage somehow: Korean dolls, a book about Russia, or a candy that’s popular in Brazil.

  • Try celebrating entirely new holidays in your own way! You can put your family’s own spin on things, but do something special for Chinese New Year, Chuseok (a kind of Korean Thanksgiving), or a major holiday in your child’s country of origin.

Bring your child’s birth culture together with your own traditions to form truly unique family celebrations that embrace every aspect of your family!

A Few Tips for Making Holidays Special

Still trying to think of the best way to include your family’s adoptive roots in the holidays? Just want some suggestions for having the best holiday with your kids? Here are a few tips for making your holidays memorable:

  • Ask for your kids’ input! Half of the fun is the preparation and planning. They probably have some ideas, and they’d probably love to help with any task you can give them. Getting them involved can help give your kids a sense of ownership in your new family-built tradition. Every year, your daughter hangs stockings for Santa, your son decorates the porch for Halloween and they’re both in charge of making desert for Thanksgiving, etc.

  • “Gotcha Days” and adoption anniversaries can bring a mix of emotions for adoptees, so most families avoid making a fuss out of these days. Instead of focusing on the original event of the adoption, center your celebrations on the current status of your family.

  • Find other adoptive families to include in your holiday traditions. Volunteer together at your local food pantry for Thanksgiving, or organize an Easter egg hunt, a Fourth of July barbeque, or get-together for hot cocoa in the winter. It doesn’t have to be adoption-centric — just fun.

  • Get non-traditional with your traditions! Sometimes, that makes childhood memories even more vivid and fun for your kids (and yourself). Make a spaghetti feast every year for Thanksgiving if your family isn’t really into turkey. Have a movie marathon together on New Year’s Eve leading up to midnight. Take trips instead purchasing presents. Host an annual neighborhood water balloon fight. Your kids will tell their own kids about it, and maybe even pass it on.

Adoption is an important and cherished part of you and your child’s life. Holiday traditions can be a wonderful way to honor that special part of your family.

Do you have any ideas for traditions to start with adopted family? Let us know your favorite family traditions in the comments!

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