“Hey Mom, don’t forget that we’re going out for pizza after this last game of the season – it’s a tradition, remember?” “Dad, when are you going to get the bales of hay and pumpkins for your autumn masterpiece? Can I go, too – it’s a tradition, you know!” Tradition – just the word sometimes sounds old and from past generations, doesn’t it? Yet, it has been family traditions that helped many a family stay together and strong over the past years, and probably for generations to come.
Traditions are so important in families – the sense of security and love that is felt when observing traditions as a family will stay with our children for the rest of their lives. As homeschooling families, we have a unique opportunity in today’s society to enjoy a wide variety of traditions for all kinds of events and observances, and integrate them into our learning lifestyle. These traditions are woven into the fabric of our family, making it stronger and memorable for everyone.
As a child, I grew up in a family filled with love, children and plenty of traditions. My parents worked to build the strength of our family with some traditions that were simple and yet special. We lived far away from any relatives, so our traditions had to be based on our immediate family and friends, and what a blessing those traditions were. My parents didn’t realize that these traditions would get us through some very tough times, and keep our family close through thick and thin, over many years and generations yet to come.
Early on Sunday mornings, my dad would drive to Krispy Kreme to get hot doughnuts for our family while Mom got all of us ready for church. To this day, when I bite into a warm Krispy Kreme doughnut, I remember Sunday mornings and my dad’s smile as he came through the door with those warm doughnuts. It was a very simple tradition that meant so much then and even more now. When we are visiting my childhood hometown, we still visit the same shop, and share smiles and memories that cross generations.
When I was a young teenager, our family lost my father to cancer when we were all from 8 to 15 years old. Yes, it was tragic and it was heart-rending, and we drifted in and out of being convinced that our happy family life had ended. However, my mother worked hard to keep us safe and housed and educated, but she strived even harder through it all to maintain our family traditions, and these added much-needed cement to our family through some very trying times. We still belonged to the family, the family was still strong, and these traditions gave us a sense of security and predictability in a world that had changed very quickly. Traditions became the ties that we needed as we grew and changed – while some things never changed.
There are many kinds of traditions -- seasonal traditions, holiday traditions, weekly traditions, and special occasion traditions. They provide a wonderful time for coming together as a family. Daily prayers, family reading time in the evening, Sunday soup and popcorn prepared by Dad, the welcoming of summer with a water balloon fight, preparing our hearts and home for special holidays, and so much more.
The variety of traditions is infinite, and I’ve heard of some very unique family traditions in all of my travels around this great country. But that is one of the things that make them special – they are YOUR family’s traditions, unique to you all.
As we approach this holiday season, I know that there are plenty of traditions that are observed in American homes. At our house, autumn brings an exciting collection of family traditions. With the start of autumn, I make sure that we have chrysanthemums on the front steps. They start off on the front steps, then we plant them in the ground when they finish blooming. Dad collects several bales of hay, some corn stalks, and a few pumpkins and gourds to make a fall decoration by the driveway – Dad’s autumn masterpiece, as the kids call it.
After taking care of the decorating traditions, we move on to those that can be appreciated around the kitchen table. With the harvest of the apple crop here in
Sometimes traditions can span the miles between family and friends. Years ago, family members and friends began choosing which NFL teams would win the Sunday games. We named this process “Football Picks,” the object being to see who could pick the most winning teams, This tradition now is carried on by email for a collection of friends and family across the country, and it is a simple and fun celebration of the season, crossing miles and keeping everyone in touch.
With the advancing cooler weather, we have other traditions here at the Bennett home. We make quite a production of the first fire in the fireplace, enjoying the beauty of the fire and using the occasion to thank everyone for their firewood labors of cutting and splitting the wood for the coming winter. With the cooler weather, we also begin our autumn weekend sky-watching parties around large campfires – so that we can watch for stars and planets and satellites, and enjoy the Milky Way as it spreads out in the dark country sky. Family and friends come from all over to join us in this endeavor, and while we don’t work out
Here are some ideas for traditions that your family might enjoy:
- With the end of a sports season or a church performance or other special occasion, have an ice cream sundae party at the local ice cream shop. Sometimes a tradition like this can be a “floating” tradition – one of recognition for feats accomplished.
- With the birth of each child – plant a special tree, have a flag flown over the US Capital building (contact your congressman to do this), hold a special family celebration to welcome the new family member, and don’t forget to take plenty of pictures.
- With the marriage of each child or sibling – have a flag flown over the US Capital building, or plant an evergreen tree to mark the occasion.
· When having a holiday get-together or family reunion, try to find a ceramic plate that can be autographed with a permanent marker, then have everyone sign the plate and bring out the plate at future get-togethers for sharing memories and smiles.
One holiday tradition that we have observed for many years is enjoyed around the kitchen table. In the evenings, we gather and paint those small plaster village houses to create an interesting holiday village. As the children have gotten older, we have created villages for their new homes and homes-away-from homes. The tradition of gathering around the kitchen table to paint and be creative has brought about some fascinating conversations and treasured insights into each family member, not to mention the “unique” pieces of art that have been created!
Early in November, we pull out the favorite family holiday recipes, and my husband begins the preparations to make his German family’s recipes, handed down from generation to generation. Many of these take time to prepare, and some of them have to “age” at various parts of the process. Yes, the house smells fantastic this time of year, and the kids have come to appreciate the smells and time with Dad in the kitchen.
What are some fun traditions for preparing for Thanksgiving?
· Planning the holiday weekend with the whole family in early November (who shall we invite, which relatives will be here, what games shall we all play after dinner?)
· Planning the menu so that everyone gets to choose one of their favorite foods to be included
· Putting up a blessings tree when the children were younger, making the tree trunk from brown paper and each family member adding colorful construction paper leaves to the tree. Each leaf has a written item that the family member is thankful for – a blessing on each leaf.
· Finding ways to bless others – sharing the blessings by packing Samaritan’s Purse Christmas boxes for children, taking homemade gift baskets of goodies to neighbors and those in need.
· Bringing out the special Thanksgiving creations collected over the years – a model of the Mayflower, a special Thanksgiving unit study tablecloth, handmade pilgrims and native Americans, pinecone turkeys, and a basket of some of our favorite holiday books.
Christmas traditions are also special at our house – from the close of the Thanksgiving holiday, we begin our Christmas traditions. We all plan this special month, inviting friends and family for this very special celebration, bringing out the favorite Christmas books, setting up the family crèche collection, making wreaths for the house and barn by hand, enjoying the observance of Advent with a special wreath, candles and devotions, and so much more.
Whether for birthdays, seasons, holidays, or other special times, traditions make up an important part of family life. Traditions will be passed from generation to generation, perhaps changing a bit as time goes by, but the core values and family love will carry along with the tradition.
Why are traditions important?
- They help families come together
- They remind us of times together in the past
- They give children a sense of security and predictability
- They help our values and character span generations
- They remind families that love and continuity go hand in hand
- Traditions can be old and many are new
- Traditions give children something to anticipate, a perspective on time passing by
What are your favorite traditions?
Ask your children about their favorite traditions
Ask your children about their favorite parts of autumn, Thanksgiving, and Christmas
Now that I’ve given you some ideas, perhaps you can begin to reflect on some of your family’s traditions and possibly create some new ones. Recognize them and get ready to enjoy this season of fun and fellowship, laughter and celebration, thanksgiving and blessings.
Until next time,