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The Importance of Family Traditions

In these modern times, life passes by at the speed of sound. Regardless of the myriad ways we have to communicate, people seem to be less connected than ever before. Traditions can play a vital role in bonding families, friends and faith communities together.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, my mom was all about traditions when it came to holidays, particularly Christmas. We played Christmas records on the stereo from November until the middle of January, holiday crafting started each October, a week before Christmas we made and decorated cutout cookies, and watching A Charlie Brown Christmas the one night of the entire year when it was aired on TV was something that Mom, my two older brothers and I never missed. My dad had traditions as well such as driving us three kids to the big city a few weeks before Christmas every year for our annual supper at McDonald’s. It was followed by a shopping trip to Prange’s where we got to ride the escalator to the top floor to see their display of magical mechanical Christmas scenes.

When my husband and I started our family, we combined holiday traditions from his family with traditions from my family and started a few of our own. It’s fun now watching our children establishing traditions with their spouses and our grandchildren.

Year round we had a tradition of reading to our children every night at bedtime. It started when they were in utero and lasted until they were in middle school and reading on their own every night. Not only did our kids see us make the time to read to them, but they also witnessed Mom and Dad reading for pleasure every day as well.

Consequently, all four of our children are avid readers to this day. We’d always told them, “Readers are leaders,” and that adage has proven to me be true. They’ve turned out to be four outstanding young adults who are now raising the next generation of readers.

Traditions are not only for holidays; they can pertain to our faith as well.

Attending Mass every Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation has been something I’ve done my entire life. While that may not be a tradition per se, there are some faith traditions that I’ve added to the mix through the years. I go to Mass every Wednesday morning where I not only am the lector, but take up the gifts and lead the rosary afterwards. Reciting the rosary has now become a daily routine—or tradition—for me as well. My husband and I have traditions that we practice during Advent and Lent, such as going to Confession or attending extra Masses or services during that time. These traditions have helped deepen our faith and our appreciation for what a gift our Catholic faith is.

What traditions does your family practice that center around your Catholic faith?

If you don’t have any yet, now’s the time to start some. How about going to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament when it’s available? Maybe attending the monthly First Friday or First Saturday Mass? Why not volunteer to help out at various events your parish hosts through the year? Novels and short stories from Catholic Teen Books enumerate traditions for just about every holiday of the year including liturgical holidays.

  • In my Heaven Intended Civil War series, the main characters are Catholic and make it a practice of going to Confession every week. They wanted to be in good standing with the Church when they received Communion at Sunday Mass.

  • In Carolyn Astfalk's Rightfully Ours, Paul and Rachel share their family traditions as they spend the holidays together. Paul tells Rachel about his dad wrapping tiny presents in big boxes so he could watch his boys unwrap them, Chinese food on Christmas Day since Mom wasn’t there to cook, reading from the family Bible, and reminiscing about past Christmases. Rachel’s family traditions include a lasagna dinner on Christmas Eve, Midnight Mass, and a birthday cake for baby Jesus.

  • In Corinna Turner's A Very Jurassic Christmas, Darryl's family have a different meal for each of the Christmas saints days, for example, Eastern European on Saint Steven's Day and British on the Feast of the Holy Family. Even when she's tired after the unexpected events of Christmas, Darryl still makes the effort to cook the meal for the Feast of the Holy Family.

  • In Cynthia Toney's short story "Signs of Christmas," part of the GIFTS: Visible & Invisible anthology, Antonina helps her mother bake their traditional Sicilian Italian cookies for Christmas gift-giving to family and friends. Because Antonina's best friend is not around anymore to receive his, she asks if she can give his share to a family in need.

  • In T.M. Gaouette's The Destiny of Sunshine Ranch, the family builds gingerbread houses together. It's a sad occasion because Micah is not around to be a part of the tradition, but Martha and David decided to do it anyway to try and cheer up the other children.

  • In Theresa Linden's futuristic short story "Operation Gift Drop," Bolcon does not understand this Christmas tradition he's taking part in for the first time: delivering gifts to the tightly controlled government-run city of Aldonia by stealth and at risk of capture.

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