The Power of Place and Family Traditions

Is there a place, a smell, or a song that makes you feel like you’re home?  What traditions make you feel like all is right in the world?  Feelings of nostalgia and belonging take us to happy places.  Especially in today’s busy world of distractions, getting in touch –or staying in touch– with our roots is vital.  We need to connect and to feel at home.  Traditions do that for us.  Places do that for us.  Looking back at photos and recorded memories does that for us.

We Long for Home

Have you heard the story of Bobbie the Wonder Dog?  Bobbie lived with his family in Silverton, Oregon, in 1923.  His family, the Braziers, took him on a road trip to Indiana.  Not far from their destination, they stopped for gas.  Bobbie was charged by a pack of dogs and ran off.  The Braziers thought Bobbie would eventually show up at the home where they were staying, but he never did.  They searched for Bobbie, but had to eventually return to Oregon without him.

Six months later, a mangy-looking Bobbie was spotted walking the streets of Silverton.  He had walked over 2,500 miles, crossing rivers and mountains to get back home.  Like Bobbie, our longing for home is innate.  We feel connected somewhere.  It might be the place we grew up or a place where we feel peace.

I have several “little” happy places, but my two main happy places are:  the beach and the campus of my alma mater.  Many people love the beach, but the main reason it’s a happy place for me is that I have sweet memories of going to the Oregon Coast with my grandparents.  I remember finding agates and starfish with my grandpa.  It’s my happy place because it’s beautiful and peaceful, but also because I’m always happy there.  Similarly, the campus of my alma mater is full of happy memories.  I LOVED college.  I met my husband there, I loved collegiate life, and I loved everything I learned there.  Every time I go back, I’m happy just walking the sidewalks and visiting the bookstore.  It’s really my happy place.

The Power of Place

I love the experience shared by Rachel Trotter in “The Power of Place.”  The town where she grew up, was married, and is raising her children is home to her, but she feels a similar belonging in a place she doesn’t actually frequent that often.  Her father grew up in a little town in Texas, and as Rachel grew up, she and her family would go back to visit during the summertime.   She wrote:

There are no words to describe the feelings when we stopped at the Cleburne sign for a family picture or when my son stepped onto the football stadium where his grandpa won a state championship – hollowed ground for my football-loving family. It was pure joy to see and feel all those memories of love and home and to share them with my husband, children, sister and her children. It was pure joy for me as I walked into the cemetery. I couldn’t help but feel emotion as I saw name after name I recognized my dad talking about over the years, names on a genealogy fan chart that I realize are real people – my kindred – my blood. I imagined the hardscrabble life they led – tying their babies in trees to work the fields to protect them from wolves – killing snakes with hoes on the daily – unimaginable to me today. The power of place there was something special.

Places can be special things.  Like Rachel, places can cause us to appreciate those who have gone before us.  It can help us feel tied to those we love.  Places can draw us there because we are connected.

The Power of Family Traditions

From reading bedtime stories to making gingerbread houses, family traditions create meaningful ways to connect.  Traditions strengthen family connections and relationships within families.  Family traditions are often fun, memorable occasions.  I think one of the biggest reasons that family traditions resonate with us so much and touch our hearts is simply this:  it’s quality time spent together.

Some of my favorite traditions from my childhood involve holidays or food –something special and out of the ordinary– but traditions can be very simple, too.  This guest post by Cranial Hiccups at Mrs. Lady Wordsmith gives some great examples of simple traditions their family enjoys.  I love these ideas:  Friends Night, writing letters to grandparents every week, a back-to-school dinner, family outings once a month.

I see the power of place in family traditions!  They’re kind of the same thing!  Traditions help us feel we belong somewhere.  Events, places, sights, and smells all contribute to our sense of belonging.  Like Bobbie the Wonder Dog, we all long for home, in whatever form that may be.

Where Are Your Photos of Family Traditions?

Do you take pictures of your Christmas gingerbread house tradition or your summer family reunion tradition or your birthday breakfast tradition?  Where are those photos now?  This double-edged sword we call digital photography usually means that most people have hundreds and hundreds of photos that they don’t have time to do anything with.  But have you ever thought of preserving your favorite photos AS a family tradition?

Memory-keeping is often just an item on Mom’s to-do list, but the process of memory-keeping is something the family can enjoy together!  The process of going through photos, picking favorites, and then preserving them with the memories you have of them can be a great bonding time.  Here’s why the process of memory-keeping is so good for the person or people doing it.

I have FIVE STEPS to beginning a family memory-keeping tradition here at this link, “Preserving Pictures as a Family Tradition.”  Try them and see what effect this tradition has on the relationships and happiness of your family!  There’s a lot more power in family traditions, photos, and memories than you might think.


Digital scrap pages shown were created here.


  1. Heritage Makers. (2018). Retrieved from
  2. John, J. D. (2011). Offbeat Oregon History. Retrieved from
  3. Montserrat. (2017). Mrs. Lady Wordsmith. Retrieved from
  4. Trotter, Rachel J. (2017). Evalogue.Life. Retrieved from
  5. Wise, Jennifer. (2017). Evolve. Retrieved from
  6. Wise, Jennifer. (2017). Evolve. Retrieved from
  7. Wise, Jennifer. (2017). Evolve. Retrieved from

Jennifer Wise

consultant at Heritage Makers
I'm Jennifer, and I'm passionate about connections.I enjoy helping people discover the very real benefits of preserving stories, photos, and memories because of the impact they have on children, families, and individuals. I blog weekly at sharing tips, ideas, solutions, and inspiration, and I'm over at, too. Learn more about me at the "About" tab.

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Place and Family Traditions

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Patrick. This is one of the things I absolutely love about traditions–we are always in charge of them! Even if we didn’t grow up with any, we are in charge of creating them now. I love that you’ve developed some with your kids. They can be so meaningful for years to come!