Friday Five: Traditions that Weave a Family


Traditions are hard at our house. Not because we don’t have any—we have lots. It’s because we also have three grown daughters, and they are no longer portable at our whim to go cut down a Christmas tree or put flowers on graves on Memorial Day. They have jobs. Fiances. Apartments and dorm rooms. Schedules. They have lives. And annoying as that independence gets for calendar planning, I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing. I think that’s the way God planned for this parenting gig to work.

I learned at my own peril one year, however, that forgoing the traditions we’ve created because it’s just too hard is a bad idea.

The first Christmas tradition is to go together the day after Thanksgiving and cut down a tree, at the same tree farm every year. The one that has the big fir trees. There is only one. But We were in a hurry. We needed to get a Christmas tree. I couldn’t find a day that worked for everyone, and it was getting late. Also it was foggy, and we were running out of gas. So two-thirds of the offspring  and I hurried to the farm, picked one we thought would work OK, and sped home.

Oops. Let’s just say feelings were hurt and people were ticked off. We did the annual tree cutting without them. We might as well have buried the family pet without letting them know.

And I learned then that, when it gets the most difficult to keep family traditions, that’s the time we need to work at it the hardest.

Family members who are growing up, scattering abroad, and testing their new wings need the sense of grounding that comes with family traditions. Drills that will always happen, every year, no matter what. Patterns they know will always be there for them no matter how far or fast they’ve flown. Rituals that will anchor them in who they are and where they came from when they feel the most untethered. Maybe the tradition won’t happen on the same day at the same time in exactly the same way, but for my family, it’s important that it still happens.

So here are a few fall traditions that we will work in, somehow, to the family schedule, such as it is.

Apple Picking.

IMG_1909We love our orchard. It does not matter at all that the girls have long outgrown the corn bin or the petting zoo. We still pick apples, wander the gift shop, dink apple cider, and navigate the corn maze together. It does matter somewhat that three of us can no longer eat the gluten-filled apple donuts. That is colossally unfair.

Caramel Apple Pie.

Kind of a no-brainer extension of the first tradition. See delicious, decadent, I-want-to-eat-this-all recipe here.

Pumpkin Patch.

IMG_2099We pick our own pumpkins. On a real pumpkin farm. Then we carve/paint/glitterize them in any way we see fit. Or, to be honest, some years we never get around to decorating them at all and they just sit out there looking fall-ish. Still,we go.

You may note a pattern here. We pick our own apples and pumpkins and cut our own Christmas trees. We are a regular Swiss Family Robinson.

And with that . . .

Halloween Costumes.


IMG_3199You guessed it. We have never store bought these things. It’s perfectly OK if you do, and your children will not end up on a talk show one day lamenting that you bought all their princess duds at Party City. We just don’t.
It’s part of being a theater family I think. (Kind of glad the fall tradition of putting on a play is over, at least for now. That was IMG_4084awesome but exhausting.) And now, the girls still wear them, and they still make them. Anyone have a bomber jacket? Middle child is going to be Amelia Earhart at her library job this month.

Cleaning Up.

This is not a tradition everyone joins in willingly. But fall is the time to cut down the garden, harvest the last tomatoes and beans, wash the windows, and switch out the tank tops for the suede boots. It’s work. But it’s good work that gives us the sense of closure, putting things to rest, and gathering together the good things we’ve received and settling in together. It’s the comfort food of chore time.

I guess there will be six, because I forgot an important one:


We pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. This seems like a Christmas tradition, right? But sine they have to be delivered the week before Thanksgiving, it’ firmly in the fall category. Since the girls were little, we shopped for and packed boxes for kids who would otherwise have no Christmas at all. Fall is about thanksgiving–being grateful for the abundance the least of us has compared to much of the rest of the world. Now, they do it on their own. It’s a treasured tradition I don’t think they would ever give up.

They hold us together, these traditions. They will morph a bit as everyone grows, and that’s all right. The basic threads remain the same, and they weave a family.

See the other Friday Five fall tradition linkups here!

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