Every December for nearly a decade, Mahir Mahbub and his friends meet in a halal steakhouse to enjoy all-you-can-eat ribs and wings, and exchange gifts.
“We’d all been friends for years but didn’t have many traditions around the holidays. None of us are really religious, despite all being raised in Islamic households,” Mahbub says. The group of nine, all in their late 20s and 30s, have been exchanging gifts and eating countless wings together since 2012. Gifts over the years have included everything from watches to bottle openers and, in 2007, a scooter that was given as the result of an old high school bet between two friends, Faz and Zid. It’s a Secret Santa, basically – but it has come to hold a special place in the friends’ hearts.
“We don’t want it to ever stop,” Mahbub says. “It’s a nice way for the lads to come together and have a meal, which we rarely do as a group. We’ll probably get our kids in on it in the future, although the gift limit will probably be $500 by then, thanks to inflation or whatever.”
Most families have an entire history book’s worth of traditions – Friday night takeaway or movies that get watched whenever everyone’s under the same roof. But unlike Mahbub and his circle, many of us don’t know the specific joy that comes with developing and celebrating traditions within friendship groups.
But where to start and how to make it last? Well, there are a few ways to do both.
As fun as it sounds to plan an annual overseas trip with your best mates, traditions that revolve around holidays, gifts and food can be both time-consuming and expensive. Thankfully, there are many different ways to start traditions with people who are short on both time and money.
Each year, Declan Peach and his group of friends make an effort to celebrate birthdays in a low-effort but high-reward way.
“At everyone’s birthday, we all get in a circle and go around saying why we love the birthday person,” Peach says. “What started out as a fun game after a couple of drinks has become one of my favourite birthday traditions. There’s something really special about telling someone why you love them in a group setting like that. And, of course, hearing 20 best friends tell you why they love you isn’t so bad either.”
Build a tradition out of a shared interest
Identifying what brings you together is a great starting place when it comes to brainstorming new traditions.
Perhaps you watch the finale of every season of RuPaul’s Drag Race together, or see every new Marvel movie at the cinema on premiere day with a friend who shares a common pop culture obsession. Hosting an annual end-of-summer party or an election party every three years could also appeal to different kinds of friends.
Set an intention for your tradition
In addition to their birthday compliment circle, every New Year’s Eve Peach and his friends decide on a theme or intention for the upcoming year. “One year it was ‘loving your friends more’ and the next it was ohana, a Hawaiian word for family, because we’re so close,” he says.
The perfect first step to starting a tradition is to consider what you hope it achieves. Are you looking for company? A new way to stay in touch with long-distance friends? Or an excuse to celebrate together more often? Whatever the reason, setting an intention for your tradition is a surefire way to make sure it ends up a fulfilling one.
Honour your tradition by giving it a name
Several years ago in the dead of winter, my colleague Anjali and I decided to start Soup Club. The idea came to us after Anjali made far too much soup on a Sunday night and brought an extra serve into the office, along with a spare bread roll. I happily accepted both and the following week brought my own soup for us both to enjoy. While Soup Club was a short-lived tradition, it was a highlight of my least favourite season.
Sharing lunch with a co-worker – especially a big-batch meal such as soup – isn’t particularly revolutionary, but giving our lunch club a name made it feel more official than it probably deserved to be and, as such, warranted extra effort from both of us.
Don’t force it
Most Saturday nights Sylvia Fitzgerald, 87, goes to the movies.
Sixty years ago she moved to a new street in Charlestown in New South Wales where she met a group of women who have remained some of her closest friends since. For the past three years – save for weekends spent in lockdown – on most Saturday nights Sylvia cooks dinner for one of these friends, Margaret, before they go to the local cinema together.
“We do see quite a lot of movies. And I do have quite a different opinion on some movies she likes,” Margaret says. “We like to go between 6pm and 6.30pm. Some time ago there was a movie we desperately wanted to see and it started at about 8.30pm. We felt very adult going out at that time of night to see a movie.”
While Sylvia and Margaret’s weekly movie date is something they both look forward to, they always understand if something else comes up. “I’m a widow and she’s also a widow, so on a Saturday night we’re both usually free,” Margaret says. “But we have this understanding that if anything comes up with the family that takes priority, of course.”
Traditions need to be a little flexible – holding them too tightly will often cause them to crumble. Above all else, it’s important to remember that a tradition doesn’t have to take place every single week, month or year to count.
July 16, 2022 at 01:44AM Gyan Yankovich