Young family watching television.
Essays,  General Thoughts

The importance of traditions

Childhood memories

What do you remember most from your childhood? It’s likely you remember big events and any trauma you might have experienced. Those types of things tend to leave an impression. Another way memories stick with us is through repetition, often in the form of family traditions if we’re fortunate.

Holiday traditions

Traditions I remember most from being a kid were centered around holidays. Getting to open one present on Christmas Eve. Waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, only to be told to go back to bed for an hour while the house warmed up. Raking leaves the day after Thanksgiving (weather permitting). Waking up to a Valentine’s Day or Easter surprise at my spot on the dining room table. Never-ending Easter egg hunts that were sometimes held inside due to rain.

My stepsister and I got into the habit of making a turkey centerpieces for Thanksgiving several years in a row. Sadly, I don’t think any photos exist of the birds. We took small cardboard boxes and cut off the 4 flaps. One flap would be cut into the shape of a head, two were wings, and the last was the base for the tail feathers. Then we’d trace our hands on about 10 sheets of paper. The hands would be colored in a combination of brown, orange, yellow, red and black and then fashioned into feathers for the wings and tail of the turkey, which we taped or glued on. The last step was drawing the turkey face and cutting it out to place on the front of the box. It was really silly, but we had a blast doing it.

Along with Thanksgiving came the time when my stepdad would ask us all to share at least one thing we were thankful for each year. This tradition is one Jonathan and I do with our kids each year. It’s important to me for my kids have a basis for being thankful. Plus, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I have much to be thankful for, especially after several trying events last year.

I remember making cookies with my Grandma Easterling and Grandma Campbell, and candy with my Grandma Russell. The ladies sharing their recipes with me meant a lot, and I still use those recipes today with my kids.

Family movie nights

Of course, there were also fun things that had nothing to do with holidays. Mom bringing home Little Caesars pizza about twice a month during the summer along with some movie rentals from Hastings (RIP!). Once we got a satellite when I was a teenager, we had regular Saturday “new movie nights” thanks to HBO. Before that, we could only get channels that could be picked up with an antenna, which in my area were AETN, NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX. There was also a religious channel and the WB network (later renamed CW) that came in extremely fuzzy. I was so obsessed with being able to watch Dawson’s Creek that I watched it fuzzy until I went to college and had access to clear cable.

Current family traditions

It’s no surprise that many of the traditions I’ve started in my own family are also centered around holidays. I get my kids little gifts for Valentine’s Day and Easter just like my mom did. They get to choose their homemade cake flavor and icing color for their birthdays each year along with their choice for the meal we’ll serve. We carve a pumpkin every year for Halloween and watch It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

For Thanksgiving, we talk about what we’re thankful for and watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (anyone who knows me knows I’m a HUGE Snoopy fan!). We don’t do Black Friday shopping in stores because the day after Thanksgiving is when we decorate for Christmas, putting up the tree and indoor decor, and the lights on the house if the weather cooperates.

A few days before Christmas, we get drinks from Sonic or bring drinks from home and drive around our town to look at lights. Christmas Eve, I let my kids open one present, and then Christmas morning we get up and let them open the others. I leave the decorations up until New Year’s Day and start the packing up process to reset the year with resolutions or goals. Of course, we fit in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The Sunday before school starts back, we get donuts for breakfast from a local donut shop and celebrate good report cards throughout the year the same way. And now, every Saturday night, we hold our own family movie nights letting each person take a turn at choosing the movie. We’ve watching the Indiana Jones movies, the Jurassic Park ones, animated family films, and several classic 1980s comedies so far. I loved getting to share The ‘Burbs with my kids since I remember watching it with my parents.

These may not be the biggest traditions in the world, but they mattered to me as a kid. And I hope my kids have fond memories of their childhoods when they’re grown and have families of their own.

Making traditions of your own

Traditions don’t have to be passed down from generation to generation. Why not start now? It can be as simple as a monthly family game night or a special trip to the park. Just pick something and repeat it. It’s often the little things that are the most special when we look back.

What are your favorite traditions? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading,
-Brandi Easterling Collins

Featured Image by Freepik

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