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A family ritual is a vital part of family life and brings the family together as one.

Passed down through generations or made up on the fly, the point of a family ritual is that it means something to your family.

In the Castle household, the family ritual seemed to appear from nowhere but has become the most cherished time of the week for everyone (even the dogs).

It’s Sunday afternoon, the end of a busy weekend. Alex (17) has been on the cricket field for most of it. He did manage to squeeze in a bit of social life last night, which may explain why he went out for a duck this morning. Dylan (20) has just appeared. He spent the weekend at a music festival somewhere up the West Coast. He’s looking filthy. Dylan doesn’t live with us anymore. He lives in large digs full of university students. It too is filthy. Greg (50) has just emerged from an afternoon snooze. And I (40 something) have had my nose in a book for the last couple of hours. It’s time to think about that braai. I just hope we have something to throw on it.

For as long as I can remember, the Sunday evening braai has been a stock standard weekly family ritual in our household. From when the boys were little, around five o’clock on a Sunday we’d emerge from our various corners of the house and gather as a family around the Weber. The boys learnt how to make a braai and a salad, and we all learnt to value the time we spend together as a family.

Living separate lives, but holding on to the ritual

As the years have rolled by, our lives have become busier and, in many ways, more separate. It’s often difficult to find the time to be together as a family. Our work, school and university lives are demanding. We scream through the work week, chat in abbreviated monosyllables on the WhatsApp family group, dine at different times and hope to God that someone has remembered to feed the dogs. While we get the rest of the week so wrong, I do believe that we get Sunday evening so right. Our Sunday evening braai has become an absolute constant – by default really. It was never intended to be a Castle family ritual. It just became it. And it is cherished.

It is over these few Sunday evening hours that we chat about the week that was and the one to be. About that duck and Rocking the Daisies. About that test, my grumpy boss and our Christmas holiday. We just don’t miss it and we all make sure we are available for it. Last year, when Dylan was on a gap year in the UK, he’d call each week on a Sunday evening. He knew exactly where we would be and what we would be doing. I even think he could subconsciously smell it. Back in Cape Town now, he makes a beeline for home every Sunday for a feast of family time. May it long continue. And yes, he does bring his dirty laundry as well.

How to create your own family ritual

  • Think long term. Create an occasion or event that will become important to you all for years and even generations to come.
  • Let it be organic. Don’t force the issue.
  • Rituals don’t happen overnight. Give it time to become what it is supposed to be.
  • Be consistent in how and when you participate in this event or activity.
  • Choose an event or a pastime that you all enjoy and want to be part of.
  • Make the circle biggger – while a ritual is an activity or event unique to your family, let it be inclusive and open to others to participate in. I even let my mother-in-law join us and Dylan has invited his girlfriend on the odd occasion.
  • Don’t create too many rules. Be open to letting it follow its own course. It may become something better than you could ever have imagined.

Read about other fun family things to do.

Child Mag editor Anél Lewis shares her favourite family ritual

Our family has developed a rather keen interest in reality shows, such as MasterChef and America’s Got Talent. We love getting to know the contestants and betting against each other on who will walk away with the top prize. So, we have declared Friday evenings to be “reality show” night, and to create an even more fun experience, we also make our own hamburgers. The ingredients – cheese, gherkins, lettuce and different sauces – are laid out in front of the TV and Erin and Conor get to design their own burger. The best part of it all is that we get to eat our “hammies” in front of the telly, while we cheer on our favourite contestants.

Media consultant and writer Samantha Page writes about a childhood family ritual that continues today, albeit in slightly different format

When I was a little girl, my two older sisters and I spent most Saturday and Sunday afternoons in front of our hi-fi, which was a radio/turntable combination with giant speakers. With our ears firmly pressed to the towering boom boxes, we made music and memories, singing together, playing our vinyls and trying out new dance moves. This tradition has carried over into our adult life. Most of our family gatherings today still involve singing, dancing and music in whatever form brings us joy. My nieces and nephews play a variety of instruments and as our voices harmonise and weave together our collective stories, we feel close, cared for and carried, no matter what was, is or will come. It’s the kind of ritual I know our children will keep going and hopefully their children too.

Christina Castle