Every group of people has patterns of behavior…ways they interact with one another. Families have sooooo many! Some are positive….some may be negative. Maybe there are things you do with your family that you didn’t even realize are patterns. Stop and think for a moment. What does your family do? Do you have special holiday traditions? Celebrations for family milestones? Individual milestones? Just things you always do on Sunday? Monday night football? Weekend getaways? Even weekend chores! All of those things can be seen as traditions.
For our purposes today, I want to discuss healthy family traditions, things you do or can do in your family that creates a sense of belonging…..a meaning attached to ‘Being a [fill in your last name]’. As you read through some of my thoughts, think about what you might want to intentionally institute in your family to help create the feelings you want to enhance with your loved ones.
Most families have holiday traditions. In the United States, where I live, we even have shared community traditions….you probably do in your country, as well. Here are a couple of things we do in the Lund house.
We are a pretty casual family. Our food preparations are simple (usually) but we all really like food and it needs to have flavor and taste good. (We are very spoiled.) Sometimes for our meals, we don’t even sit at the table. But for certain holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter) we set a formal table with extra silverware (two forks, dessert utensil, sometimes a soup spoon), and usually a salad plate. We use china dishes, crystal glassware, cloth napkins, and sometimes we even have place cards. Before we eat we talk with our family and remind them of proper table manners: polite dinner conversation, asking to be excused, not reaching across the table, passing to the left (or however we are doing it that day), using the outside utensils first, etc…. We are not trying to be exclusive or better than we are. Here is how we started doing that. My mother had all of these amazing china dishes that she bought with green stamps (I don’t even think they do stuff like that anymore!) Anyway, her dishes were always in the boxes and never saw the light of day. She didn’t want any of them to be broken, so we never used them. I do not even know what they look like! I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted my children to feel special and important (like they were worth using the china on). And I recognized that as they got older, they may be asked to attend an event that was more formal in nature. I wanted them to have some experience and know what to do. So Drew and I decided that if we had a formal dinner a couple of times a year, that would satisfy those thoughts and feelings. As the children have gotten older and I was pretty tired from cooking all of the food (because those are feast days) sometimes I didn’t have the energy to set a fancy table. At those times, the children jumped in and did it for me. It was important to them. So they helped me with the work so the tradition continued.
Like most American families, we carve pumpkins for Halloween. It is a big deal at our house. Sometimes we fight over which pumpkin we get or if we have to share it with someone else. We cannot carve our pumpkins too early because we live in a very soggy area. If we do it too early, our pumpkins mold and it is no fun to try to remove squishy, moldy squash from the porch! Here is what we did last year.
In our faith, we have General Conference twice a year….the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October. It is a time where we would all gather together to listen to the prophets and apostles speak to us and tell us what God wants us to know and do for the next six months. As parents, we knew this could be difficult for little people to do as it is four hours on Saturday (sometimes six) and four hours on Sunday. We have two hours of meetings and then two hours of break and then two hours of meeting. We wanted the children to look forward to this time even though it is long for little people. (Sometimes it is long for big people too.) When the children were little, we bought them new coloring/activity books and new crayons or colored pencils. A couple of times we tried other activities (like eating a particular piece of candy every time we heard certain words….but that just made us all sick and the candy was gone after the first meeting….sometimes our traditions come about after a little trial and error). But we decided to couple conference weekend with really fun and special food. So on Saturday of General Conference, I would make cinnamon rolls or blueberry muffins or apple crisp for breakfast (yes, dessert for breakfast….) and we would buy pizza in between sessions of conference. Then on Sunday, we kept it simple and just had sandwiches and chips. It is time just for our family to be together and to talk about the doctrines and principles of our faith and how we are doing to apply those things in our lives.
Now, even though we are all spread out, I know that is what most of my kids are doing on that weekend! We still call each other, or text and talk about the things we heard and felt and what we are going to do about it. Here are some photos of all of us doing that this weekend!
Just because traditions
One of the things we also do as a family is March Madness!! Every year, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has their tournament to determine the National Champion. It always, obviously, happens in March. Selection Sunday tells us who is in the tournament, what seed they are, and which section of the bracket they fall into. Between Sunday and Wednesday night, every person in my family fills out a bracket. Darren has even been writing and testing an algorithm to try to determine the winner…good luck D! But the rest of us just have to use our raw skills and best guesses. Then Thursday through Saturday we all stay home from work and school and watch college basketball from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday we go to church and update our brackets as the scores roll into our cell notification systems! We razz each other about our choices and who is winning and who is loosing…we call and brag….we eat more food (that is a part of all of our traditions…have you noticed?)….then the next weekend we finish a few more rounds. By this time, the basement dwellers have been established (this is usually where I am…..) and only a few of us are left to vie for the glass slipper award (that’s what we call it). We do it every year!! It is us! And the bigger we get, the more people we add to the competition!
Kyle is a soccer man. He is trying to get us to participate the same way in the World Cup Match ….every four years, I think? (I am obviously not as big of a soccer fan….)⚽
Regardless of the traditions you establish in your family, the idea is to create a sense of belonging, of unity, of love and harmony something that all can enjoy and participate in. These experiences help to bring us closer together as a family and give us a sense of identity. The best part of family traditions is that it can really be whatever you want it to be.
The tricky part comes when you are starting a new family where both people come from a family with established traditions. Drew and I have not had to navigate that too much, but where we have, we just talked about it and brought what we wanted from each family into our new family. You just have to communicate what your expectations are and what is important to you and then be willing to compromise. I will just use Thanksgiving as an example. Drew and I hate pumpkin pie…so we don’t have it, even though both of our families did. My family always had a fruit salad with marshmallows and whipping cream. Drew’s family had Great Grandma’s special green salad. Well, all of my children and Drew and I are allergic to milk and two of the kids are allergic to corn…so that made the decision easy….fruit salad out, green salad in. Of course, even though we have corn allergies, my mother made the best stuffing I have ever eaten! It is cornbread stuffing, not that gross soggy crouton stuff. I was unwilling to compromise on that…so we just make sure we also have mashed potatoes. And much to Drew’s dismay, I really only like dutch apple-pie. I am not a pie girl. I think most pie is just disgusting. So since I am the cook, I only make apple pie. Once in a while, we will buy another kind of pie, for Drew.
Another thing that makes us Lunds? We LOVE the beach and the redwood trees. THAT is home. THAT is the place to be. We may be landlocked while we are in college or establishing our careers. But the beach and the forest feed our souls. My kids love those things, and so do Drew and I. Whenever we can take the chance, we go. Luckily for us, we don’t usually have to go too far 😎