The Power of Tradition

I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions this past week and the power of tradition.

Part of it is the time of year.  For most people a lot of tradition comes with the holiday season.  For our family there are many traditions including our fondue dinner Christmas Eve and acting out the nativity story in full costume.  Even though my children are now all young adults the tradition of Santa’s elves delivering pajamas to our door Christmas Eve must happen.

For years we took our children downtown to have breakfast with Santa and when they got too old for that we started the tradition of having our own breakfast with Santa at our house for the neighbor kids.

The traditional cookie baking day.  The traditional Christmas morning breakfast of hot chocolate, breakfast pizza and cinnamon rolls.  Tradition is strong and important this time of year.

I have also learned this last week that when you try and break with tradition people get upset.  I’ve seen it in my own family and this last week I saw it in the city of Portland when Macy’s Department store announced they would no longer be using a naturally bearded Santa.   Macy’s, formally, Meier & Frank had used a naturally bearded Santa for years – at least for 27 years which is how many years our family has been visiting their naturally bearded Santa.

People don’t like it when you mess with their family traditions.  In fact you end up on the front page of the paper and the local news when you get upset that someone has messed with your family’s tradition!

Yes, we have had our family’s picture taken with Santa since 1985 when Logan refused to sit on Santa’s lap by himself.  I can’t actually believe I am posting this picture – please just remember it was the 80′s!

We have visited every year since and our entire family still continues to climb up on Santa’s lap for that traditional photo!

Some people may just think of me as that crazy mother who makes their grown kids sit on Santa’s lap but I bet if we didn’t make that yearly trip down to see Santa there would be some protesting at my house.  My kids love tradition as much as I do!

So why is tradition so important to us? Although the activity has value I think the real value in family traditions is what it provides long term.  Traditions give stability to a family.  A sense of trust, continuity and consistency.  A tradition gives us something to rely on, something we know that despite the changes and chaos of life, it will always be there.  My children know that when they come home for the holidays and to recover from the stress of finals they know what they will find and they know what to expect.  They look forward to it. I can’t even imagine what kind of an uproar I would have if I tried to change any of our traditions!!

Traditions also provide a sense of identity.   They help identify who we are as a family.  What makes us unique as a group.  Being able to say, “Our family does this….”  gives a person a sense of identity and security.

Traditions build memories and help draw us closer together.   “Remember the time we visited Santa and we ran out of gas on the way home?”  We laugh every time we talk about it.

Sometimes traditions are planned and created and sometimes they just happen.  Years ago, when we just had two little boys we went out and cut down our Christmas tree ( a tradition we no longer have since we bought an artificial tree!) Once we got it home Jim got to work trying to get it into the tree stand.  He needed to remove some of the lower branches to get it to fit.  The problem was that once he removed those branches there was a large gap along the trunk where there were no branches so our tree ended up with no branches on the bottom half.  He put it into the tree stand and I burst into tears – “That is the ugliest tree I have ever seen!”  My husband, a little stressed out from wrestling with the tree and trying to get it to fit into the stand, very calmly told us all to get in the car.  We drove to the corner tree lot and bought another tree.  He cut off the bottom of the first tree, put it in a stand and placed it in the boy’s room.  Each of the children have had a tree in their room ever since.  A tradition was born!

Traditions can be handed down.  Many of our family traditions are ones we have created ourselves others have come from our childhood.  I grew up having fondue on Christmas Eve and we have continued that tradition. When my husband was a little boy he was what you would call “Low Maintenance.”  He actually still is.   As a child he never demanded much of anything, just went along with his four siblings.    This bothered his mother so she created a family tradition where each child would get their special day.  Where they were the “star” of the day.  She called it your “Happy Day.”  Your Happy Day happened each month on the day of your birthday so my husband’s Happy Day was the 19th of each month.

On his Happy Day he got to eat on the special “You are Special” plate and he got to choose what was for dinner.  I think he also got out of helping with the dishes!  This tradition has continued to this day and many of Jim’s siblings celebrate Happy Days with their children and grandchildren.  Every 19th of every month since I have known Jim he has gotten a phone call from his mother to wish him a Happy Day.

There is power in tradition!  Tradition has roots, it becomes part of who we are as individuals and who we are as a family.  It becomes part of our family history.

For me tradition is a place to come home to.  Despite whatever else is happening in your life and in the world, having a place to return to,  a place you know will be there and will not change is important.  Traditions can provide that.

What is one of your favorite family traditions?

Comments

  1. says

    I love your traditions and I know your family does! I too have young adults, and you they can’t wait to get here for Christmas! They love all the traditions we have created over the years. I know these things are what make home, home! You inspire me to continue to do these things! Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!

  2. says

    Leigh Anne, this post was so special to read – thank you for sharing. My family did not grow up with a lot of traditions, but my husband and I have tried to start some with our family of two and this post inspired me to start a few more :)

    Thank you again!

  3. MelanieL says

    I love this post so much, how special! We have young kids and it got me thinking of the traditions we’ve already started with them and ones my husband and I have carried down from our childhood…we all love this time of year and I hope my kids will always remember the special times we’ve had as a family.

  4. says

    Christmas has become so much about tradition. If I didn’t make my sausage rolls for my son each year, “It wouldn’t be Christmas”. Santa’s elves also brought pjs for my kids each year, “Twas The Night Before Christmas” was read after their baths on Christmas Eve and mimosas are served every Christmas morning. Sometimes there’s a bunch of us, sometimes there just my husband and I, but it’s always traditions that bind it together at the holidays.

  5. says

    I so agree with how important traditions are. Most of our Christmas traditions could no longer be a part of our lives when we moved to the Philippines. We so miss them but have tried to come up with new traditions to go with our missionary life here.

    When I was growing up my family had a fondue dinner New Year’s Eve.

    I enjoy reading about other family’s traditions. Thanks for sharing.

  6. says

    This is a great post! I needed it tonight. Christmas has become hard for me since Elizabeth was born early in January. The last 6 years I’ve just had a really hard time embracing the “routine” of Christmas even though I know it’s important to the rest of my kids.

    Traditions while I was growing up: violin caroling (which may sound awesome, but really, packing 12 kids with musical instruments into a van and heading out in to the bitter cold, which promptly untunes the instruments, and skating over icy sidewalks to get to front doors, which resulted in a number of broken instruments over the years…yeah. Bless my parents for sticking with it, and we have some funny memories); Pixies, which involved each of us drawing a name and doing three surprise things for that person in the days leading up to Christmas; opening presents one. at. a. time. Which means a very long Christmas morning with a family our size.; Eggs Thelma for Christmas Breakfast morning.

    For my own family, we have a tradition of adding an angel ornament (or two) to the flock at the top of the tree for Elizabeth, along with choosing a special ornament each year for each person in the family that commemorates something important about the year. We do a charity drive in the neighborhood in lieu of handing out neighbor gifts. We donate gifts to needy families instead of swapping gifts with cousins. We have homemade overnight cinnamon rolls Christmas morning. I play The Messiah multiple times in the month of December and drive my kids slightly crazy with my not-quite-awesome singalongs. I feel like our Christmases are a work in progress and I need to add something, just a little thing or two, each year.

  7. Dawn says

    We have a tradition that begins December 1st every year. I replace the everyday dishes with our Spode Christmas Tree dishes. We use them every day until after Christmas. Years ago I decided that we should not save these beautiful dishes for one day. Usually my family groans and says “mom and her christmas dishes” but it is definitely a tradition.

  8. says

    When I grew up and had kids of my own my mom asked what we were doing for Christmas, etc. I told her that we were having the tradition of eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for Christmas Eve dinner (this was a huge treat for us because we NEVER got it for dinner!) Our big “fancy” meal was always on Christmas. My mom laughed and laughed. She said “That wasn’t a tradition! I was just too tired by Christmas Eve to make anything else!” lol All those years growing up I never knew it wasn’t a “planned” tradition!! :)

  9. Lisa says

    Thanks for sharing! You always share such inspiring stories. My husband and I are starting more traditions with our 3 young children so it was great to read about yours. Merry Christmas to your beautiful family!

  10. Michelle Perrine says

    I stumbled across your blog by accident, and I’m really enjoying it! I’m so glad you talked about traditions, especially with young adult children. My children’s father and I were divorced10 years ago after 20 years of marriage, and it took a little time to blend some of our old traditions and create new ones when I married Steve, a man with two teenage sons. (I have 3 girls). Steve’s family never had traditions, so this was actually a fun process. Our biannual vacation to South Carolina is now such a tradition that the week after we come home, I get texts and calls from all of them wanting to know the dates for the next trip! Thank you for your blog-it’s a pleasure getting to know you.

    • says

      Michelle, So glad you found the blog and are enjoying it. I hope you will visit often. Family Traditions are so important and powerful. Really are the ties that bind!

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