Whenever new people enter a family, things shift a bit. It doesn’t matter whether the new person is a significant other or a newborn infant. New traditions come into being, or get passed on from one family segment to another.

The first time my husband and I spent Christmas together, he got a stocking as a gift from my family. For my family of origin, Christmas stockings and Christmas breakfast go together like peanut butter and jelly, or bread and butter.

This year, we’ll all have a piece of fruit on top of our stocking for the first time, because fruit in stockings is a tradition my new sister-in-law Alicia grew up with.

Holidays may be one example of a time of year that’s designed to foster family traditions, but they don’t have to be your family’s only excuse for creating its own traditions or rituals.

You may spend time consciously thinking about developing routines or rituals in certain parts of your kiddos’ lives, whether it’s bedtime or the first day of school or celebrating holidays.

But don’t forget to pay attention to the other traditions that evolve on their own, even if they may look strange to your family of origin.

For example, shortly after she turned two, Essie decided we should have a Family Dance Party every night before bed. Kimmie was wholeheartedly behind this plan (I think because Sandra Boynton’s The Going-To-Bed Book, with its pre-bedtime exercising up on deck, is a favorite in our household), so who were my husband and I to say no?

As a result, many nights after supper is over and the toys are put away, before the girls head up to their baths and stories and lullabies, my husband pulls up some dance music on his iPod. (Kimmie’s favorite dance track is the Commodores’ Brick House, while Essie’s fave is Toots and the Maytals’ Funky Kingston. If the choice is mine, I tend to opt for a PG-rated track from Prince’s early years.)

And for one or two songs, we all stop what we’re doing and dance like crazy in the living room.

Then it’s off to bed for the girls plus whichever parent is on bedtime duty, and back to the kitchen for whichever parent has cleanup duty.

Traditions don’t have to be elaborate, and your kiddos may have more insights on what traditions would be good for your family to foster than you’d imagine.

Just don’t expect anyone else will understand your family’s traditions, such as they are. (I have a sinking suspicion that my family of origin thinks our nightly dance parties are, well, downright weird – or, at the very least, our musical choices are questionable.)

Whether they work for other people is not what matters. All that’s important is whether they work for you and yours.

Here’s to closing out the old year and welcoming in the new with some new traditions for your family, both immediate and extended.

What are your family’s favorite traditions?