What traditions do your family observe or implement, year after year?
Who makes the turkey at Thanksgiving?
Who puts up the star each year on the tree?
Where do the stockings go?
Who do you celebrate at Christmas time?
Thanksgiving: In my family, we use my grandfather’s recipe for the turkey. Butter stuck up inside the skin, sage, rosemary and a little thyme for seasoning. Cornbread mixed with the same sage, rosemary and thyme, stuffed inside the turkey. We bake a pumpkin pie and make homemade whipped cream: heavy whipping cream, a dash of vanilla, and just a smidge of sugar. Sometimes I’ll do another pie, such as apple, and still do whipped cream. I let the girls lick the spatula or spoon when we’re done. We cream potatoes, leaving the skins on, and mix with seasonings, butter, and milk. Serve everything with green beans, salad, or other vegetables. We then go around giving thanks for things that have happened in the last year, or things that we’ve discovered.
Christmas: a time of the holiday season also celebrated in some homes as Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or other.
We always decorate the tree together. The girls alternate years to put the star on top of the tree. Each year, I buy them a new ornament. So far, we have nutcrackers, horses, names, birds, and “toys”. An angel on the wall watches over us from November through January. We read the Nativity story, found in Luke (of the Bible) – and that’s our “advent tradition” – we take it a couple verses each day until we culminate with the Birth of Christ on Christmas morning. We always have a birthday cake or pie or some kind of dessert to celebrate Christ’s birth. Each year, the girls get to choose either a large-ticket item, up to $50 (or more, if I’ve saved up enough all year); OR they can choose four items: 1) something they want, 2) something they need, 3) something they’ll wear and 4) something they’ll read. I wrap their gifts – all the gifts for one child – in the same wrapping paper. I’ve even seen where their paper isn’t marked, but a slip of it is stuck down in the bottom of their stocking – they then have to match their paper to the wrapped presents. A new tradition we started about three or four years ago is going to Christmas Eve services at the Orthodox Christian church. We break the fast with them and enjoy a Christmas dinner with friends and family.
Some families exchange their gifts early, some forego gifts altogether and instead opt for serving at the soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or elsewhere. Some families pool their money and adopt an Angel Tree Christmas family. Each year, my own family gives at least one shoebox for Operation Christmas Child – or we’ll give enough money to ship several boxes overseas.
In addition to these traditions I tell the girls about St. Nicholas. And this year, in family tradition, we watch the Hallmark Christmas movies almost as soon as they begin airing. One of the movies mentioned “Santa Magic”. I have to catch myself sometimes explaining to my youngest what Santa Magic really is, but she is so excited about the idea (we personally do not celebrate Santa Claus). Another couple movies have mentioned “Christmas Miracles” – whatever you celebrate, instilling the belief in something wonderful, something beautiful – that is important in establishing traditions with your family.
Why are traditions important to the family? Just as establishing routines help with a child’s development and growth, establishing routines – traditions – in the family help the family develop and grow closer. These are good, happy, healthy memories you’re making with your family. Your children will remember them for years to come. They’ll take the best and work them into their own family traditions when they have children of their own. You’re leaving a lasting legacy – one of love, togetherness, and joy.
What traditions do you and your family observe? What do you hope to hand down from year-to-year? What are some of your own favorite memories of the holidays? Favorite traditions?