In my home and family, religion and God is most important. We are Christians and strive to live by the principles set up by Jesus Christ. For this reason, families are central to our life. Family first is the motto and we live by it.
My desire to create family traditions came from my parents. I am the oldest of a large family. There was little to go around when I was younger which meant that we had smaller, more modest Christmases. My mother felt that the best way to spread out the joy (and the expense) was to create ‘Special Days’ throughout the year. We received a present on every holiday.
I enjoyed this tradition so much that I have brought it down a generation. We celebrate any and all holidays we can think of. My children love to find new reasons to celebrate -like National Dog Day or Children’s Day. We thoroughly enjoyed that the dog one!
I am not much of a decorator. I don’t have an eye for it -that’s what I tell everyone, but the truth is that I simply don’t want to spend the money on it. My husband and I have a desire to save our money, retire earlier and serve a mission. Therefore, we contribute the maximum to our retirement and save something from each paycheck. I do find that even though I may not be elaborate in my decorations, I find it important to do something for my family -especially my children and my nephews and nieces if they swing by.
So, since I don’t decorate, what do I do? First, I always involve the scriptures in each holiday. When we Valentine’s Day rolls around, I focus our family nights and scripture study on charity and love, the pure love of Christ. Below, I have some of the things I have used.
- Gospel doctrine: charity, love, pure love of Christ.
- Treats in the lunch boxes -heart shaped with love notes.
- Cards sent to my family members who no longer live at home.
- Heart shaped cake for a special dessert at night.
St. Patrick’s Day
- Family history and stories from our genealogical ancestors. We share the ridiculous -like one ancestor who hallowed out a great stone tomb and believed he would be resurrected in two days just like Christ! We also share more recent family history -like how my family was converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Green cookies in the lunch boxes.
- Of course, fun socks with shamrocks on them and green pieces of clothing.
- Green food for dinner.
- Cards sent to my family members who no longer live at home.
- Resurrection and the atonement are the spiritual focus of family night.
- Easter egg hunt. (I mistakenly thought my teenage children were told old for this tradition one year. Wow! They were furious! So, the Monday after Easter, the exhausted Easter Bunny hid eggs all over our home! As my children arrived home from high school and junior high school, they squealed in delight, running around the house and yard searching for Easter eggs. Never buy in that they are too old!)
- Dye eggs – and talk about why, where the tradition came from.
- Large Easter dinner with ham and of course deviled eggs (complete with spots of dye).
- Cards sent to my family members who no longer live at home. I ensure to include my testimony inside.
Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day
- Barbecue -of course – with all the workings.
- Memorial Day parade, complete with military vehicles. (Veteran’s Day Parade.)
- Veteran’s Day also comes with a sweet concert, performed by our youngest daughter who plays the baritone. Each year my husband attends so that she can honor him for his service.
- We also talk about why we celebrate this holiday and honor those who have served. My husband and I ensure to tell our children about their ancestors who served -like Kerry, my husband, my father, uncles, cousins, etc.
- These holidays, for my family, look almost identical. Why? Because I don’t think there could be enough opportunities to celebrate and recognize those who have provided us with the freedoms we now enjoy.
4th of July
- Family barbecue.
- We talk about the history and how our nation came to be. We also talk about how the hand of God brought about this wonderful nation.
- Since I love to cook and experiment with new recipes, we always try a new food item with the red, white and blue theme.
- My favorite holiday!
- For the entire month, we celebrate gratitude and thank all for the things we enjoy.
- In family night we talk about the importance of gratitude as gospel doctrine. The Lord repeatedly emphasizes the essential nature of being grateful and giving thanks throughout the scriptures. Why? Because when we notice the blessings, we lack the time to live judgmentally.
- We find ways to record our gratitude. One year it was a family journal. Another year, we made a digital record. Then there was one of my favorites -we cut out hundreds of leaves from construction paper. Each leaf had something on it for which we were grateful. The leaves were taped to a pillar in our great room. We covered it! When we moved, all of those beautiful leaves were added to our family gratitude journal. It was the most fun simply because we were able to have a visual representation of our blessings.
- Send a card to each family member who is not living with us and write our thoughts of gratitude for them, small tidbits of what we love.
- Of course, the traditional holiday Thanksgiving meal. We like to celebrate at home with our family and invite someone who may not have somewhere to go.
- The day after Thanksgiving, we have tons of leftovers and use that cooking-free day to put up our Christmas tree.
- (One day I’d like to have a Martha Stewart Christmas -but it screams too much effort.) Despite this confession, there are really too many traditions to name here. I will simply hit on my favorites that may not be traditional to all families.
- Gospel doctrine, our family nights talk about service and the birth of Christ. I like the idea of focusing on others instead of creating lists of what we want. We avoid commercials and advertisements to help keep the materialism out of our special day.
- My favorite Christmas holiday tradition is the Pixie. We like to make treats and anonymously drop them on neighbors’ and friends’ doorsteps without them knowing.
- Painting ornaments. Each year we choose an ornament from Hobby Lobby or Michael’s and we paint them. The creator gets to label the back with their name and year. Then, when they move out, they take their precious ornaments with them to start their new home.
- We have a hand painted Christmas village. We choose a new piece and paint it ourselves.
- Food – My husband and I started doing a large Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve. This permitted us the time to enjoy Christmas Day without being in the kitchen the whole day. On Christmas Day, we enjoy leftovers and each person has an appetizer to share -something that was chosen and prepared prior to the day. One year we opted to make our appetizers an ethnic theme. So, we did Mexican appetizers. The next year, we chose Chinese.
The biggest point of a tradition is to make it your own. I know my children will not bring all of our traditions with them. They will, hopefully, blend their traditions with their new spouse to create a family of their own, but the tradition I pray they will keep with them is knowing that the purpose of this life is to live a Christlike life and to return to our Father in Heaven one day.
By Tracy Atkinson
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners. She has published several titles, including The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.