Family traditions are important, and we had an abundance of them during my childhood. Whether it was stories and songs before bedtime, family dinner together around the table, pizza and movie night on Fridays, handmade strawberry shortcake for birthdays, or homemade cinnamon rolls for Christmas.
The traditions in our family provided comfort and consistency and instilled the importance of family provided an opportunity to spend uninterrupted quality time with each other.
As a kid, I always looked forward to bedtime, because I knew it meant stories and songs from my dad. When my brothers and I were younger, we lived in a tiny apartment in southern California. My most distinct memories are from when I was four years old and my brothers were five and three.
Instead of buying us beds, my dad made us a bed out of two-by-fours. Not just any bed — it was a triple bunk bed! We slept in age order, with my older brother on the top bunk and my younger brother on the bottom bunk.
Each night when we went to bed, my dad would come in to tell us stories and sing us songs. He would tell us the story of Jack and the Beanstalk or reminisce about his childhood growing up overseas in Indonesia.
When we were older, he would read us The Arabian Nights or a Western novel by Louis L’Amour. When he sang us songs, it was something by Peter, Paul, and Mary.
There was comfort going to bed each night the same way — with my dad telling stories and singing songs and praying with us. And although I was just a kid, I had the awareness of going to bed always feeling safe and happy.
Movie night on Fridays was my favorite. We’d order pizza (lots of it!) and then huddle around our small tv to watch a movie together. We would alternate who chose the movie each week — when dad and the boys picked, it was Star Wars, Back to the Future, Top Gun, or Indiana Jones. When mom and the girls picked, it was something like Anne of Green Gables or The Sound of Music.
In this ever-changing world we live in, there’s something comforting in the simple things like family pizza and movie night. Through all the difficulties, relocations, and changing times, family movie night was a constant of my childhood that still makes me smile thinking back on it.
Family dinner wasn’t optional when I was growing up. I can’t remember a night we didn’t eat dinner together as a family. Even with school sports, extracurricular activities, and homework, we always made time to eat together around the same table.
With all 10 of us together, it was more of a gathering every time we sat down at the table. We’d say grace before eating, and then my dad would go around the table asking us about our day. We didn’t have cell phones or tablets or other digital distractions back in those days, so family dinner was an opportunity to get in precious, uninterrupted quality time with one another. It was a time to share stories and laughs. It was also a time for my mom to tell my dad if we’d done anything wrong!
It’s still one of my favorite parts about going home during vacations. All of us sitting together and eating as a group — reminiscing, sharing laughs, and strengthening those bonds that can only happen when you’re sharing a meal around the family table.
Family traditions are a great way to bring people together. Family traditions offer comfort and consistency, instill the importance of family, and provide an opportunity to spend uninterrupted quality time with each other.
What are your favorite traditions from growing up? What are the new traditions you can create?
This post was previously published on Medium.com.
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