When I was a kid my mom, my brother, and I slept on the sleeper sofa every Friday night. We ate snacks and watched movies until we fell asleep. I have many wonderful memories of this tradition; comfort and fun; closeness and warmth. And, every Thanksgiving my family and I watch “Christmas Vacation”. It’s my favorite thing on Thanksgiving and it brings me such a sense of comfort.
On Christmas Eve, my husband reads “The Night Before Christmas’ to our 3 year old and we record it so we can listen to it later. The book is my original pop up book and it is special to me that our 3 year old gets to experience the book the way that I did.
Almost every family or group of friends has a tradition. Why do people have traditions and what makes them so special? Rita Barreto Craig from Lessons About Tradition From a Little Brown Bag, said, “Traditions touch us, they connect us, and they expand us.”
Traditions can be fun and exciting; that excited feeling of knowing the tradition is about to happen. They can bring joy and comfort. Traditions bring us closer and connect us. At times traditions can be bittersweet or sad, yet continuing them brings closeness and comfort.
Gustav Mahler sums up the importance of continuing a tradition perfectly in this quote.
“Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame.”
Creating traditions and having them is about passing something special from generation to generation. I interviewed people from all over about their traditions. What was apparent is that they are all different, all unique and everyone was proud of their traditions.
Here is what they said…
“Family tradition for us is when we celebrate a birthday in the family. We’ve gotten away for birthday parties and we just do a family dinner. With it comes singing happy birthday and blowing out the candles. We all get our phones out, one person records and everyone else FaceTimes family that aren’t able to make be there. We text the time on our family group chat and everyone at that time is in a place they can take the call. We don’t start until everyone is on a FaceTime with someone. Juan’s kids have uncles in Arkansas and El Paso; they all get together to be on FaceTime, cousin, bf/gf, aunts and family friends. That way no ever misses your birthday party. And everyone can speak to the birthday boy/girl and say happy birthday.” Jose Bedolla, Solution Specialist
“Kids birthday parties can be hectic to plan & exhausting to pull off. We also didn’t like the idea of our kids looking forward to the pile of presents a party typically brings. Instead of throwing a big birthday party for our kids, we started planning a family day together. It can be as simple as a movie date in the theatre or a trip out of town. We have fun celebrating them & spending time together! Every year, we buy a Christmas ornament for each member of our family. It relates to something special from that year. Ballet shoes for her first dance recital, a player from his favorite sports team, a Beagle ornament when we got our puppy, keepsakes from our Disney trip… Now we have a big collection of ornaments & love reminiscing every year as we decorate the tree! One day the kids will each have their own ornaments to take & continue the tradition with their own families.” Michelle McCaskill, PA-C
“When I was a kid, every Sunday we would drive to Bismarck, Arkansas from Arkadelphia, Arkansas and drop my dad off at his mom’s house. He would play the card game “Pitch” with his dad and brothers. Mom and us kids went to church and when that was over, we went to grandmas for lunch. Every Christmas Eve when us kids went to bed, dad would start putting up “Santa” gifts and as soon as he was finished, whether it was 2 am or 6 am, he would come to our bedrooms and say, “Santa came last night, y’all get out of bed”. He was as much excited about us seeing playing with Santa gifts as we were.” Joyce Watson, Medical Office Manager
“My memories of this event are of the fine china and extremely large meals. There was a huge breakfast in the morning with languica Portugese sausage and eggs for Thanksgiving and Christmas.” Brian Steelsmith, Farm Maintenance Hand
“Every Friday night, mom and dad would go out on a date and my sisters and I, would make a Chef Boyardee pizza and drink a 2 liter bottle of Coca Cola.” Frank Murphy, Psychiatrist
“I work 10 hours a days, 4 days a weeks. So what that means is I’m off Fridays. (Three day weekends till I retire!) On those days I take Celia to school. On our way to school we always stop at a donut shop and get 2 chocolate sprinkles donuts. We’ve been going to the same place for so long that by the time we pull up to the window they have our order ready. I make Celia order for us so she learns to engage with people to build some self-confidence. It’s been a struggle but she sometimes says please and thank you without being reminded. Once we get donuts we head to school playing her songs. I put up the Christmas tree and wait until I have Celia as a family and decorate the tree. I NEVER move an ornament she has placed. The first year she did it all the ornaments were on the bottom. But she smiled through the whole thing.” Jose Ramos, Machinist
“Corey’s mom made him a stocking when she was pregnant. And of course he has his adult stocking from Pottery Barn. But I always stuff his mamas stocking with period appropriate stuff. He was born in 1979. So I spend the year finding stuff that was popular in 1979. It’s hard but worth it!” Lindsey McTee Jones, CFO of 521 Motorsports
“Whenever I was a kid we did breakfast out on Friday morning, so like Chick-fil-A or something and Tuesday was always spaghetti night too. On Christmas we always got to open one gift on Christmas Eve… our new pajamas. And growing up the Dickeys BBQ was right next to the Christmas tree lot so we always do that as well. BBQ then Christmas tree. Also, on Christmas my mom makes my grandmas homemade lasagna still.” Colleen Scott, Teacher
“Six years ago, as a joke, we tried to see how many Galles women could fit into our bathtub and now it has become a Thanksgiving tradition!” Vonda Galles, Self-Employed Bookkeeper
“We do the traditional Thanksgiving tradition with the exception that we bake, fry and smoke three turkeys. We have a million cousins so we cook way too much food and gain about 15 pounds.” Juan Bedolla, Special Investigator
“Every Thanksgiving my grandmother would make Texas Trash and she taught me. Now I make it every Thanksgiving in her roasting pan with her recipe.” Jennifer Mitchell, Teacher
“My family has a tradition where every month we would pick a country and make traditional recipes from that country for a week. No matter how strange we would pick something without making any American alterations to it. Like they once searched around for rabbit for like a week in advance and special ordered rabbit from Skinners to make rabbit stew for when we did England. At Christmas we always get a pair of Christmas pajamas, open them on Christmas Eve and wear them to sleep that night so that the next morning when we woke up for breakfast and celebration we could all take pictures in our Christmas pajamas.” Khloe Dunn, student at LeTourneau University
“The extended Lindsay family—descendants of my grandparents, now more than a 100 of us—have an annual reunion at a Snyder’s Mill, Utah lodge. Every year, we bring pies and cobblers for Friday night. We make a big breakfast Saturday morning; another family does lunch; and another does a major meal Saturday evening. Several families bring ice cream freezers and make homemade ice cream for dessert; others bring their favorite homemade cookies. I started to make the steamed carrot pudding my grandmother used to make, with a warm, spiced cream topping and chilled cream atop. Saturday afternoon there’s an auction of donations using printed money, with extra for those who donated. There’s a children’s auction, a silent auction, and at the end a regular auction of the best items. There’s a craft table for the children (or grown-ups), where you can make decorations, pictures, masks with glitter and feathers, etc. It’s always a lot of fun with plenty of good food, chasing around for the kids, catching up, hiking, and just general happy times with people we’ve come to love more dearly each year. On Sunday mid-morning, we share memories from experiences with our grandparents before the reunions started, slide shows from reunions over the 30 years we’ve been doing this, and hymns we enjoy singing together. Another family group is in charge of lunch, after which we chip in and clean the lodge, using a posted checklist, so it will be ready for inspection on Monday morning, and clean for the next family. A couple of people stay Sunday night to be there for the inspection, returning the keys, etc., and our family always leaves the lodge cleaner than we found it. — Terry Lindsay, Retired Technical Writer and university professor
“The girls and I, most Saturday nights, have a sleepover upstairs and watch a movie. We try to have family game night before the sleepover. Last Saturday, Lee, Layla, and I played a Disney matching game-Livie couldn’t play after she started turning over the pieces. Christmas Eve tradition: watch a movie (it’s either The Polar Express, Home Alone, or Christmas Vacation), drink hot chocolate (or chocolate milk), and eat popcorn. Before bed the girls set out cookies, carrots, milk, and water. (for the reindeer)” Amy Winningham, Assistant Dean of Humanities
“When the kids were little we’d walk to the base shoppette for a donut after church. Sometimes we would do party night and eat Trader Joe’s appetizers from the freezer for dinner. When the kids had sleepovers, we always made Pillsbury orange rolls for breakfast. And for the holidays we always make Grandpa Blazek’s stuffing and eggs; whenever there’s leftover stuffing.” Lisa Cashman, Homemaker
“My daddy was a fantastic cook. One of his favorite things to do was on Sunday morning he would cook breakfast. It was a huge breakfast; bacon or sausage, eggs, grits, toast and sometimes even pork chops. I loved it. During this time, he would play his Dave Gardner records while cooking. Dave Gardner was a standup comedian in the 50’s and 60’s. This was a fun time for my mom and me. My daddy was lots of fun and always enjoyed doing this. This was always special for me. The McCarty family had a tradition on Christmas Eve. Everyone (and I mean everyone) was expected at my Aunt Vic’s house in Marshall for a Christmas Eve Get-Together. Once there, we had supper and visited, everyone (and I mean everyone) had a stocking filled with goodies and a gift. We were a large bunch, with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a fun time and I always looked forward to it. It always made for a special time. I have always tried to make birthdays and holidays a special occasion. They were made special for me and I want my children to enjoy some of these things also.” Jamie Winningham, Librarian
“We do always have a Friendsgiving which is not on Thanksgiving but is the same big feast meal to which friends are invited around the Thanksgiving holiday. It is our biggest gathering of year. We have a get together at Christmas and exchange gifts and eat a big Thanksgiving type meal. Stockings are hung by the chimney with care….” Carla Murphy, Emergency Physician
“Our Christmas tradition is my family’s gift exchange and Christmas Eve dinner.” Nancy Bravo, Procurement Specialist
“Dana and the kids bake Santa some cookies Christmas Eve. They decorate them and each kid opens one present from us.” Chris Merritt, Parts Manager
“My favorite holiday tradition is going to cut down our Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving with my whole family. Cousins, brothers-in-law. It’s the most fun day. We usually head there in the morning, tailgate and come home in the afternoon and everyone puts up their trees.” Liz Joy, Pure Joy Home http://www.purejoyhome.com
“On Thanksgiving I have a little tree and there are little folder over cards on it. We all write what we are thankful for and it goes on the tree, it’s the centerpiece and everyone can read them. Having the cards on the tree and everyone being able to read them starts a conversation around the table while everyone is eating. Then I get an actual newspaper and sift through the sales. For Christmas, we all get new jammies on Christmas Eve. We have our family over that evening and have a family dinner. Afterwards we all make gingerbread houses together. When everyone leaves we make a special popcorn recipe and it is always different. We all have our jammies, our special popcorn and we watch a Christmas movie that the kids pick. Then we track where Santa is, we tell the kids where he his and that they need to get to bed. We all put out milk and cookies, the kids gets to bed and then my husband and me wrap presents. Christmas Day morning we always have brioche French toast with bacon or sausage and then we stay at home all day.” Lisa M Hauck, Heath and Fitness Coach http://www.btyafitnessjourney.com
I ask you to think about the traditions among your family and friends. Do you have any? What are your favorites?