Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.
Traditions are usually formed around a person’s core beliefs and support values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility and a strong work ethic. Traditions are based around daily events or holidays, and even around weekdays or weekends, showcasing things that are important to us.
Daniel Willingham states, “Family traditions reveal what you value enough to repeat. And, if done with love – build warm, happy associations.” Over time, we have formed a number of family traditions that reveal our values of faith, love and importance of family. They are connected with Christmas, summer vacations and school/sporting events.
OUR FAMILY TRADITIONS
Just thinking about Christmas brings about sweet memories. I personally kick Christmas off by watching Hallmark Christmas shows…alone. To this day I am teased about watching them. Now, our daughter-in-law joins me. The entire family watch the seasonal movies about the real meaning of Christmas. The Saturday after Thanksgiving we decorate the Christmas tree with ornaments that have meaning… they were made by our children, represent a special event, or was given as a special gift. And, each year we purchase the White House ornament to hang on the tree.
The big Christmas dinner takes place on Christmas Eve. For dessert, we always have a birthday cake that has “Happy Birthday Jesus” written on it and we sing, Happy Birthday to Jesus and the Christmas Eve program at church is always in order.
Each family member opens one gift. The gift is always a pair of Christmas pajamas. When the kids were little, I supplied and wrapped the Christmas Eve gift. Now, we have a friend secretly assign each adult a Secret Santa and he/she is responsible for buying the pajamas for that person. The parents buy and wrap pajamas for each of their children. The highlight of the evening is when the gift is opened, starting from youngest to oldest, and the pajamas are modeled. The funny thing is, you never know if your pajamas will be traditional or if they will be a gag gift. It is so much fun and brings about laughter throughout the year.
Breakfast is very light on Christmas day and most of the day is spent opening gifts, watching the kids play with their toys and sometimes joining in with them. Throughout it all, we remind each other of the true meaning of the season and why it is important to us.
We also have traditions tied to school and sporting events. Some of our friends told us that they would pay their children for receiving good grades. However, Dennis and I believe that the grades were their reward. So, we would look at the report cards, talk about not just the things they did well but discussed how they thought they could improve. We sealed it with a dinner out to celebrate the close of another marking period.
For the sporting events, all of us attended if the games did not conflict. If there was a conflict, we would divide up and each child was represented by a family member-cheerleader. And, we would arrange to meet up for lunch or dinner. We spent time at dinner discussing how the games went, what could be done to improve etc. The famous phrase that came out of these games was, “Talk about my game.” And it is a phrase that is still used.
Like all families, we look forward to summers and many traditions center around being together and enjoying each other’s company. We gather together for a week or so and a few things are always on the list of “things to do”. One day is set aside for a big water fight using balloons and water guns. Another day we leave early, travel to our favorite amusement park and spend the day on rides, playing games and eating all sorts of junk food and yes, this includes cotton candy. More often than not, we are there until the park closes. Another “must do” is a series of games of laser tag. We go to our local Laser Tag Game Store, and play several very competitive games of Laser Tag. The winner is always photographed and a big deal is made of it. The important thing is that it was a legitimate win. We never wanted the kids to think that they were getting something for nothing. It was never, “Everyone wins” but it was always, “Everyone has a good time.” When we moved out of the area, the first thing the grandchildren asked was, “What about our summer visits? Believe me, the tradition continues with slight modifications even though we live in a different place.
From each of these traditions, our children were learning values that were and are still important to us. Daniel Willingham statement is true, “Family traditions reveal what you value enough to repeat. And, if done with love – build warm, happy associations.” Our traditions, are done with love, and has allowed our children and grandchildren to build warm, happy associations with family.