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by Alynda Kusch
In the fall of 1979, while standing in line at the grocery store, I noticed a small cookbook on a shelf at the check stand. There was an appealing picture on the cover and the title read "Appetizers." I thumbed through it, decided it was worth its price, purchased it, and brought it home. I had no idea at the time that this little book would begin a tradition that would last 30 years and would be incorporated into the lives of my children as they married and had families of their own. That year for Christmas Eve I took recipes from my new little cookbook and created a meal of finger foods. The next year I did the same, and the year after that, and the year after that. As time passed, our children expected that Christmas Eve festivities would begin in the kitchen as the menus became more interesting and elaborate. As our children grew older they could choose the dish they wanted added to the menu and each person was responsible for cooking their selection. Thus a wonderful family tradition was born. The time we spent in the kitchen, cooking together while singing carols, talking, and laughing, became sacred time and is a treasured memory.
By definition, traditions are simply beliefs, practices, or customs that are taught by one generation to the next (wikipedia.org/wiki/tradition). They can be as varied as are families. Traditions such as opening new pajamas on Christmas Eve, eating dinner-in-a- pumpkin before trick-or-treating, the Easter Bunny's visit on Saturday before the Sabbath, or watching fireworks together at the Junior high's soccer fields, create memories that are sweet. Simple things qualify as well, such as reading a book at bedtime or having a special song that is sung before tucking a child in at night. These kinds of experiences bind us together.
I think back to my own childhood recalling the sights and smells of freshly baked sugar cookies in the shapes of Santa Claus, stars, and angels, awaiting globs of gooey icing and sprinkled candies. We had contests to see who could be the most creative in our designs, sometimes verging on the grotesque, but always with squeals of laughter. It simply was not Christmas until Mom made her famous fudge from a recipe passed down to her by a sister. My grandpa dressed in a Santa suit and passed out presents, not only to our family but to neighborhood children as well. Much to the delight of my children, this was a tradition continued by my own father, as he donned the suit and played Santa. And the circle goes on and on as the memories transport me back in time.
There are other traditions that we can have in our families that have a lasting effect, even an eternal benefit. As we kneel together in family prayer, where our children hear their parents and siblings praying for them individually by name, as we receive a blessing from a father before the beginning of each school year, as we attend church together, read the scriptures, or share family home evening, we have opportunity to build a bridge between heaven and earth. These activities of faith, repeated regularly, give our children an anchor to hold onto; something they can count on and remember back to when they are faced with challenges. As our family life is sprinkled with spiritual traditions, we build not only lasting memories, but faith and testimony.
What are the traditions that have become part of your family? What memories will your children take with them when they leave your home? The holidays are fast approaching providing opportunities to examine current traditions and make modifications if desired. If you have not settled on your own family traditions, begin now, whether they be as simple as bagels for breakfast on Saturday morning, or ones that have deeper meaning such as shopping together at Christmas for a family in need. If you come from a family where spiritual traditions were not found, you can be the first link in a chain that will bless generations to come as you gather your children around you and participate in consistent activities that fill your lamps with spiritual oil. That old saying "there is strength in numbers" is true when it comes to spiritual traditions, for if we work at spiritual preparation, together as a family, we will strengthen each other and make it easier to live Christ-centered lives.