When you’re raising your kids, it can be difficult to notice how much they’re changing just because they’re always around you. Then, before you know it—they’re teenagers then they’re graduating from high school, and leaving for college or to start their own families.

Kids really do grow up fast. So to keep some pleasant memories of his growing daughter Hua Hua, father Hua Yunqing came up with the idea to take an annual photo with her at the same place. He started taking the family photos by a lake in Zhenjiang, in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, in 1980, and kept the tradition up for 40 years!

Scroll down to have a look at how the dad, daughter, fashion styles, and the scenery changed year by year and let us know what you think of the photos in the comments, dear Pandas! Which pic is your favorite? We’d love to find out. And be sure to scroll down to the very bottom for Bored Panda’s full chat about the importance of having family traditions with Lenore Skenazy, president of the nonprofit organization Let Grow that promotes childhood independence. “Traditions nourish families. They give a sense of who we are,” Lenore said.

1980

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1981

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1982

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1983

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1984

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1985

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1986

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1987

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1988

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1989

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1990

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1991

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1992

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1993

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1994

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1995

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1996

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1997

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

1999

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2000

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2001

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2002

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2003

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2004

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2005

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2006

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2007

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2008

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2009

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2010

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2011

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2012

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2013

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2014

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2015

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2016

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2017

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2018

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

2019

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

Here’s Yunqing looking over the photos in his album

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

Image credits: Hua Yunqing

Yunqing was 27 when he took the first photo while his daughter was just a one-year-old. At first, he didn’t have any plans to make this into a tradition. But all of that changed when he actually saw the first photo and absolutely loved it.

“I didn’t have any thought of doing the same thing again but when I got the photo back, I liked it so much that when we went back the next year I repeated it,” he explained.

“After that, it became sort of the family tradition and we did it every year with only one break in 1998 when my daughter did not join us for the family holiday and was abroad,” Yunqing pointed out that there was a small gap in the photos.

Things changed quite a lot over the years. His daughter grew up into a beautiful woman and started a family of her own and that meant that Yunqing became a grandpa. Hua Hua’s first daughter was born in 2008 while her second daughter came into this world in 2012.

“When I started, I never guessed that I’d still be doing this when I was in my 60s and my daughter is now no longer alone, she is a mother-of-two,” he said, adding that he was pleasantly surprised by the positive reactions to the family photos online, even though he didn’t expect to continue the tradition forever.

Traditions help families understand who they are

“It is wonderful to feel cherished by any family member. Being loved, trusted, and respected is the wind beneath any child’s wings. A tradition like this seems like it would be one of the bonds keeping the family together through the years,” Lenore went into detail about family traditions.

“And if the family members were far-flung, the sort of ‘obligation’ to get together annually would keep the family from drifting too far apart. That’s why holidays are so important—they often bring families back together, knitting them together with shared memories,” she highlighted the importance of traditions for maintaining bonds between family members over the years.

According to Lenore, traditions help families understand who they are. “We are the family that always sings this particular song, makes this particular food, gathers for this particular event, or even honors our elders—dead or alive—in this particular way. Just as religions have special holidays, activities, do’s and don’ts, so do families—and they serve a similar purpose: defining and binding a group by what they share.”

Creating traditions is easy and your kids will love it

She pointed out that traditions can be extremely varied. For example, they can give hope and something to look forward to, as well as solace. “I have experienced loss, but I still have something I belong to that belongs to me. Traditions can be ridiculous—I have a friend whose family always falls to the ground and ‘dances’ on their backs at any get-together. Traditions can harken back to roots, as I’m trying to do myself, by cooking the foods my aunts made, as did generations before them.”

She continued: “They can be fun—a beach house every summer. They can be quirky—always cooking chicken in beer on Mother’s Day. And they can fall by the wayside and still be revived. Just because you skip a year, or two, or 10, doesn’t mean you can’t start doing something meaningful again.

The president of Let Grow stressed that creating a family tradition is easy enough: all it takes is doing something a couple of times in a row while noticing that you’re doing it. “Your kids will love it—they’re hardwired for meaning and continuity. Creating traditions with them enriches their lives and yours.”