Traditions. They are a part of what makes your family unique. They are the things kids want to do over and over. They give stability to the family. They are the glue that holds the family together. They are the way your children pass on your legacy from generation to generation.
When we first got married, I had a deep desire to start traditions for my family. I grew up experiencing some Christmas traditions with my family of origin, but I wanted to expand that. I wanted lots of traditions, and sought to include activities that would mark special events throughout the year. Ways of celebrating that would be unique to the Andersen family. Traditions that could be repeated from year to year.
So here I was after I had my first child, racking my brain for some ways to make our son’s first Christmas one to remember.
But what I realized later on is that even with all the intentional planning I did, the BEST traditions that are part of the Andersen family were accidental. In fact some of them were even established by the kids, not us.
And those unique ways of celebrating have helped to tie our family together.
A few of our more unique traditions include:
- Garage Parties. Rain, rain, go away; Come again another day! On rainy days, everyone seems to be a little gloomy. It takes a little more motivation to keep them all happy and having fun. So I developed a special way for us to handle the rain: I would sweep out the garage and set up a play area. Roller blading, biking, Playdough (I don’t have to worry about the mess on the floor), ball games, bean bags, hola hoops, balance beam, special snacks, and a lunchtime picnic all made it a day to look forward to rather than one to dread.
Summer Days in Winter. In Wisconsin, the winter was beautiful, but also long. When we were yearning for warmer days, we would simulate a summer day atmosphere. Turn up the heat, wear swimsuits, have a picnic on the family room floor (complete with hot dogs and lemonade). So fun!!
Welcome Home Sign.When daddy would go out of town, we wanted to make his return home a big deal. Along with cards and gifts, we crafted a huge welcome home banner. This was always a unique piece of art complete with funny phrases, pictures, signatures, etc. As the kids grew up and went off to camp or to visit a grandparent, they received the same big “surprise” when they came home.
Ice Cream at Midnight. I will admit, I like to have fun amidst keeping schedules and rules in place. One of the crazy ideas I instituted was every once in a blue moon, we would wake the kids up at midnight and serve them ice cream! Now this didn’t start till they were all elementary school age and would fall back to sleep easily, but it was an event that they would proudly relay to their friends.
First Day of School. As homeschoolers, we wanted to make the first day of school an eventful one. We began that first day each year with donuts and juice in the schoolroom. And thanks to my husband, each child got to unwrap gift after gift. It didn’t matter that those packages were pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, folders, and supply boxes—it was still thrilling for them!
“1, 2, 3, Thank You!” We wrote an earlier blog about thankfulness which included mention of our Andersen tradition of initiating a chant of “1, 2, 3, Thank you, (person’s name) !” The fun was doing it not only to Mom and Dad, but to others who deserved a hearty thank you as well.
J and R Days. When our kids were young, we established specific days for each one. The origin of the term “J and R Days” was that our children’s names all began with either a J or an R. On “their” day, they got special privileges (e.g., answer the landline phone, ride in front seat—back when this was legal, pray at meals) as well as had a few extra duties (helping mom make dinner and assigning dinner cleanup responsibilities). Having a day of the week that each one was shown preference did much for their self-esteem and place within the family.
Sunrise and Donuts. This was an event that my husband started and did randomly with each of the kids. He would wake one of them before sunrise, stop and get treats, and go to a spot on a hill where they could view the sunrise and get a great view of the city. Sunrise and donuts were just the backdrop—the real win was the special time and ensuing conversation which resulted. Absolute gold!
None of these traditions are ones that are special in themselves—it is more the fact that they are unique to our family and are part of what makes us the Andersens. Why not brainstorm and establish a set of traditions that you can call your own?
Question: What is a special tradition unique to your family? Share your answer in the comments below.