When most of us think of traditions, it’s usually Christmastime that comes to mind first. For many families this exciting time of year is filled with events that make the season what it is: decorating the Christmas tree, making goodies, visiting Santa, and reading the Christmas story—what would Christmas be without these things!
Children need predictability and strong family traditions provide that—that’s why we anticipate Christmas so much! And although Christmas is one holiday brimming with tradition, it shouldn’t be the only time these unique family customs come into play. The calendar is filled with fun holidays that have terrific tradition potential.
Fun For All Seasons
Holidays are important because they’re a break from the everyday and they give us a reason to come together and celebrate!
- Write down a family resolution and seal it in a letter to be saved for one year. On New Year’s Day, open your letter from the previous year and discuss how successful your were in accomplishing your family goal.
- Remove the Christmas ornaments from the tree and decorate it with New Year’s decorations like balloons, noisemakers, party hats, and streamers.
- Make up silly “Roses are Red…” poems and place them in spots your family will find later on in the day like in lunch boxes or book bags.
2. If you’re a father, give your daughters a rose; if you’re a mother, give your sons a heart cookie.
St. Patrick’s Day
- Make a dinner out of only green food (e.g., spinach, green-colored mashed potatoes, grapes, Jell-o).
2. Place one four-leaf clover cutout under someone’s dinner plate. The person who discovers the clover at the end of dinner is exempt from cleaning up.
- Every Easter, write your testimony in a letter and place it in your children’s Easter baskets.
2. Include a new gospel-related item in your Children’s Easter baskets such as a picture of the Savior or a bookmark with a scripture written on it.
Fourth of July
1. Make a birthday cake for the country. You could even place sparklers on top for the birthday candles.
2. Help your children put on a Fourth of July pageant in which they can recite a portion of an important document such as the Declaration of Independence or the Gettysburg Address.
- Create Halloween gingerbread (or graham cracker) houses as an alternative to the Christmas version. Use bright orange, purple, and black candies and frosting, along with plastic spider rings and cotton “spider webs.”
2. Hold an annual extended family or friend trick-or-treat party. Use a hollow pumpkin as a serving bowl for soup, make “brain” jello, and serve spooky punch (using dry ice). Have the family members or friends trick-or-treat to different rooms of the house.
- Play alphabetical gratitude around your Thanksgiving table and have everyone name something for which he or she is grateful with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet.
2. Place a strip of white butcher paper on top of your thanksgiving tablecloth. Have markers or crayons also placed along the length of the table. Have the guests write down some of the things for which they are grateful throughout the dinner with their name written next to those items. Then gather after dinner to read the gratitude notes.
- Make an addition to your family’s advent calendar by including service activities that accompany each day such as: clean a sibling’s room, help mom set the table, shovel the neighbor’s walk, take around Christmas treats to the neighbors, etc.
2. Have a Christmas talent show in which everyone can sing or play a Christmas song, or recite a Christmas poem.
3. Each day at breakfast during the week before Christmas have everyone draw slips of paper from a container. One of these slips will be marked with a star. The person who draws the starred paper is that day’s “Christmas Angel.” For that day, it is this person’s responsibility to do random acts of service and then mark the location of the act with a piece of a paper with a star on it.
Traditions for the GrandkidsBy Sharlene T. Barber
Traditions are like the thread that binds together patches of fabric that make up a quilt. They are strong and can hold a family together forever, especially extended family. As a way to strengthen the bond with your grandkids, here are some traditions just for them.
In February, we have a Valentine’s Day dinner for the older grandchildren. The dining room table is set with the very best china and silverware, decorated with a Valentine theme. One year we used their Great Grandmother Thorpe’s china and told stories about that grandparent (who died before they were born) as they ate their dinner. For a stronger connection to the holiday, you may want to collect the stories of how grandparents and great grandparents met and fell in love.
Our eight-year-old grandson Carter says his favorite thing about Easter is the annual Easter egg hunt in our backyard. I hide two hundred plastic eggs in the backyard. Inside is a little bit of candy and a little bit of money. A few special eggs have a dollar bill inside, and one egg even has a five-dollar bill inside. During the past couple of years the older grandchildren have been exchanging their candy for money the younger grandchildren find. The younger kids don’t appreciate what the money can do and the candy looks good, so they’ll give away two quarters for a tootsie roll.
Back to School
Every August we have an annual back-to-school slumber party. Only the grandchildren who are in regular school (not preschool) come to this special evening. It begins with dinner, then games, then popcorn while watching a favorite movie. Following a pancake breakfast in the morning, we give each grandchild a bag filled with school supplies. One year my daughter Lisa called to ask what was going to be in the goody bag that year. She was going shopping for her kids’ back to school supplies and wanted to know what she wouldn’t need to look for.
Thanksgiving comes with many traditions: going around the table with each person telling what he or she is thankful for, a talent program following dinner, the touch football game in the back yard, etc. But the tradition that stands out most in everyone’s mind in our family is our annual free-throw contest. As soon as we clean up from the feast, everyone heads outside to the basketball hoop. Uncle Howard would give a dollar to the person who made the most free-throw shots out of ten. As we continued on with this tradition, my husband gives the one-dollar bill to the winner. Now that our grandchildren are involved, he’s upped it to $5.00.
My all-time favorite tradition comes early in December. When we put up our Christmas tree, all the grandchildren are invited to our home to help us decorate it. This evening’s activities have varied through the years, but we always decorate the tree. Last year we counted six ornaments on the end of one little branch, but it was still beautiful because the grandchildren did it. Another year after decorating the tree the grandchildren were all gathered around the kitchen table eating cookies by candlelight when spontaneously they started singing “Silent Night;” the moment was magical. When they finished, we decided this little choir had to be shared. We gathered them all up and carted them next door to our eighty-year-old neighbor’s porch and they sang again that beautiful Christmas carol.
Traditions don’t have to fall during the holiday seasons, but the grandchildren will thank you if they do. It makes you a part of their lives during all the important times of the year.
Holidays and the traditions that accompany then are easy to remember because they are clearly marked on the calendar. However, don’t forget the special milestones in between that will mold your children into the wonderful adults they will become. From birth to marriage, with many special moments in between, the memories you create within your family are the ones you’ll treasure the most.
The spirit that comes into a home with the arrival of a new baby is unlike any other. This joy is something each member of the family should be able to remember with fondness. It’s also a good idea to provide your baby with mementos he e can have throughout life as a token of the happiness that came with his birth. Here are some ways you can mark this special event in your family.
Give your baby a personalized gift with his name and birth noted. This could be done in a variety of ways and brothers and sisters and grandparents could also be involved. For example, create a baby quilt with the child’s tiny handprints or footprints stamped on a square (or several squares) along with his name and date of birth embroidered in the corner.
Plant a tree for your new baby. Involve any younger siblings in the process and enjoy the tree for years as you watch both it and your child mature.
Have each family member write the new baby a letter. Share your feelings about becoming a mother, father, grandparent, older brother or sister (again, perhaps), and what you hope you can share with the new child. Place these letters in the child’s baby book or a scrapbook for later reflection.
Have your baby’s blessing written down. This way, perhaps at another special milestone like your child’s twelfth birthday, you can present it to her in some special way (have it printed on nice paper, accompanied with your memories of that day as a parent). Also, be sure to write down your feelings about that day in your journal so you can share these reflections with your child when she’s older.
Eight is Great
Eight-year-olds have so much enthusiasm and energy. It’s exciting for family members to see a child begin to really become her own person, with her own talents, hobbies, and personality traits. The prospect of being baptized and becoming a member of the Church will likely be something your child is very excited about, and you should do what you can to make the event one she will always remember with happiness.
Give your child a special family birthday party. If you want to throw a party with friends, that’s fine too, but be sure you have some quality family time for this special birthday. Make an “8” cake by placing two circle cakes on the same surface, connecting at one point (to make the number eight). Then, after you sing happy birthday, have family members tell a story from their baptism day.
Give your child her first set of scriptures. This is a relatively common tradition for many families—sometimes the parents give the gift or sometimes it comes from grandparents—but don’t end the tradition at just giving scriptures. Write your testimony in the front of the book along with your feelings about the child’s baptism.
A journal is another perfect gift for an eighth birthday. Explain to your child why keeping a journal is both fun and important, and tell her that her baptism day can be the first entry. Tell her to write of her feelings about that day, what it means to her to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and what the Savior means to her. Take plenty of pictures during the day and give them to her to include with that first entry.
Growing Up and Turning Twelve
Turning twelve can be both an exciting and scary time for kids. As they move from Primary to the Young Men or Women’s programs, their bodies may be changing, their social situations begin to change, and often their priorities can shift in certain areas as they approach their teenage years. Help your child start out the road to adulthood on the right foot by marking this time with special memories to strengthen her foundation.
One of the first things your daughter will be introduced to in the Young Women’s program is Personal Progress. Once she receives her handbook, sit down with her to go through it and brainstorm some of the things she’d like to do. Decide on one or two projects you can do together—perhaps a craft, improving a skill like gospel study, or learning an entirely new skill.
Plan a special father-and-son outing. Think of something the two of you really enjoy doing and call it your “Turning-Twelve Outing,” but be sure to choose an activity that will allow you time to talk. Some activities could include fishing, golfing, working on a car together, camping or hiking, or taking a mini road trip. Talk to your son about what the priesthood has meant to you in your life, and tell him that you are proud of the choices he has made that make him worthy to be ordained a deacon.
Plan a trip with your son or daughter to a temple. Visit the temple’s visitor center and grounds, and take pictures of your child in front of the temple. It would be particularly special for your child to get a temple recommend for baptisms for the dead so you can do this together as a family. Before you go home, let your child choose a restaurant for dinner, and discuss your thoughts on the day at that time.
A New Beginning: Graduation and Moving Out
When your son walks across the stage and accepts his diploma, chances are you’ll be feeling more butterflies in your stomach than he is. For him, it’s a time of relief, hope, and anticipation. For you, it might be a time of doubt and worry. Don’t let your nervousness cloud what will be one of the biggest days of his life. Let him know you have confidence in him, and help him make the transition to greater independence.
Put together a scrapbook of your child’s most important milestones: his birth, his baptism, and his most important activities. Give it to him as a graduation present and leave the last page blank. At the top of the page write something like “My Goals” or “What’s Next” and invite your child to write about what he sees in his future and what he’d like to accomplish in the next five years.
Give a graduation gift that will demonstrate you support her independence. You could give her jumper cables for if she’s ever stranded, a long-distance calling card for calling home, a credit card with a modest limit in case of emergencies, a cookbook with simple recipes for cooking for just one or two, an inspirational book to encourage her to set goals, or a day planner, PDA, or calendar for organization.
Share your journals from college and your mission with him. Take some time to tell him about your experiences in college and on your mission. Show him pictures and talk about your experiences and friends. Ask him what he’s interested in studying and what he wants to be “when he grows up.” Ask him how he feels about serving a mission and tell him why you feel it’s important. If you didn’t go on a mission or to college, tell him what you were doing at that time and how your experiences helped shape your life.
When addressing the topic of milestones, nothing will be quite as monumental in your child’s life as the day he makes sacred covenants in the temple to be sealed to his wife for time and eternity. He’ll always remember this day, as it is the first step that will lead him to begin marking milestones in his own family. Remember to keep in mind the sacredness of this event when marking it in your family.
As soon as the engagement is announced, begin reading a book together about the temple for family home evening such as The Holy Temple by Boyd K. Packer. Give this book to your child as an engagement present with your testimony of the temple written in the front.
Buy or make your temple clothes together. If your child does not already have a temple dress, go to the fabric store to pick out a pattern and fabric together. Work together to make the dress while you express your testimony of the temple to your daughter. Or, plan a trip to a retailer or distribution center to buy the dress and clothing together.
Passing it Along
Ask any new grandparent “where the time went” and they probably won’t have a very clear answer for you. The process of watching your child from birth to marriage is one that most parents will say flew by in the blink of an eye. That’s why it is so important to make lasting memories of the most important occasions.
Not only that, marking these special events provides a foundation for children. They’ll remember how much love and attention they were given at each milestone, and they’ll want to give their own children a similar experience. Consequently, by marking these moments in a special manner now, you’ll really be marking them also for future generations for years and years to come.