I come from a family rooted in tradition. Our traditions take many forms, from gatherings to recipes to special little rituals. Each one is designed to bring our family together so we can connect, celebrate, and enjoy each other. They bond us to each other, and I believe our traditions are the reason I have so many solid relationships within my family.
Crafting our traditions has taken time and care. We have had to be intentional about finding things that bring us joy and excitement year after year. Some traditions have fallen to the wayside and some have morphed into something completely different than they were in the beginning. Part of the fun is tweaking and refining them as our family grows and changes. Looking back at old photos and videos is such a joy. I love seeing the memories we’ve made around our traditions, and the ways our family has been strengthened because of the time we put into them.
With Christmas coming up, people everywhere are carrying on their own traditions. It gave me the idea to share about my own family’s traditions, and the ones I grew up with. It feels like such a big part of who I am.
Taggart Family Christmas
Tomorrow is the Taggart family party at my mom’s house. A few traditions we’ll be carrying on there are:
Secret Partners Early in December, my siblings and our spouses each draw names for secret partners. That’s the person we will give a gift to at the party. Throughout the month, we get to think about that person a lot and choose a special gift for them that really means something and shows our love.
Christmas Chimes This is something we’ve done for years. Each chime is essentially a piece of pipe, cut to a specific length, so that when it’s struck it plays a note. The chimes are all numbered and passed out to the family. A poster displays the chime numbers in the order we strike them to play a song. You’ve got to pay attention so you don’t miss the timing to hit your chime! We tell the story of the Nativity and sing hymns while we play our chimes.
Talent Show A more recent tradition we’ve added is a little family talent show. We all have to perform a talent that we have worked on this year. It’s always really fun to share the talents we’re developing. The kids especially love their time to shine.
Nut in the Pudding We finish up the night with our “nut in the pudding” tradition. Before serving Christmas dessert, my mom always cuts and plates the individual servings, and hides a nut under one of the slices. We each take a plate, and whoever finds the nut under their dessert wins the Christmas cash. Each year, the pot goes up by $5. At my parents’ house, we’re up to over $250. It's a silly little tradition, but it is so exciting and it’s something we all look forward to each year.
Early in our marriage, Ammon and I decided that Christmas Eve was a special day we’d set aside for just us and our children. We don’t go to any other events that day, and we focus on creating special memories within our own home. We start off the night with a delicious meal - it's usually the same thing every year. Beef Wellington, a green salad, rolls, potatoes au gratin, Jell-O, sparkling apple cider and more. Afterward, we read the nativity together, talk about Jesus, and choose a gift we’d like to give Him.
Our gift to Jesus is a tradition from my own childhood. It means so much to me that I’m passing it down to my children. The way it works is that we write down one gift we want to give to Jesus in the coming year on a piece of paper. It’s usually a specific goal we want to work on throughout the year that can bring us closer to Christ. This is a really fun way to think about Jesus and bring Him back to the center of the holiday. We keep our papers in a little box in the bottom of our stockings, so we can look at all the gifts we’ve given Jesus in years past. It’s really sentimental and beautiful.
We finish off the night with our own “Nut in the Pudding.” We’re up to $75 in the pot this year.
Another favorite holiday tradition is the way we do Elf on the Shelf. We have a journal that goes with it, where we write notes back-and-forth with our elf, and it’s become one of my most treasured possessions. If our house was on fire and I had time to save one belonging, that would be the first thing that I’d grab!
Christmas traditions are some of my favorites. It’s so amazing to me that on this one night each year, we eat the same meal, go through the same routine, sing the same songs and tell the same story, yet it always feels special and new.
The Rest of the Year
Since Christmas can’t last all year, we’ve created other traditions that connect our family and bring us back together throughout the year. Here are a few that come to my mind:
The New Year At the beginning of each year, we’ve started having a family meeting where we review the prior year and set our intentions for the new one. It’s more of a party than a meeting though. It’s wonderful to recognize and celebrate our wins from the year before. Then we set family goals, individual goals, and make vision boards for the year. We get big poster boards and fun markers, sit down, and we really talk about our plans as a family. Then we go off on our own and make these vision boards. We cut images out of magazines or print them out, draw pictures, and write out our hopes and dreams. When we’re finished, we present them to each other so we know what each person is working on, and we can help each other accomplish our goals.
Valentine's Day Cupid doorbell ditches us and leaves a small gift for the kids on the porch. The kids love it.
Birthdays We try really hard to make that day special, starting with a huge breakfast of their choice. We’ve begun letting them open presents in the morning, so they can enjoy them throughout the whole day. Waiting until night time always made it harder for them to part with their toys at bedtime. We also let them choose whether they want a big birthday party with friends, or to do something really awesome with just our family, sice the two options end up costing about the same. Each year is different for each kid. I like that they know what their options are and that they get to choose how they want to celebrate.
4th of July My entire extended family gets together on July 3rd, and we have a huge sleepover where we stay up all night playing games, swapping stories and eating candy and junk food. We wake up the next morning, have a huge breakfast, go swimming, do a little flag ceremony and spend time as a family. This is one tradition that’s lasted for generations. It’s so much fun!
Back to School We always make a day of back to school shopping. It gets us excited for school to start, routines to begin again, and the fall weather to come around. Something about some new clothes and shoes makes you feel a little more energized and confident, don’t you think?
First Snowfall. When the first snow falls, the kids know that when they get home from school I will have hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls waiting for them. It’s like starting the winter off with a big warm food-hug.
Día de los Muertos We’ve recently begun celebrating this special holiday as a family. It falls on the day after Halloween. We print out pictures of our ancestors, research what they were like, and tell stories about each one of them and how we feel connected to them. It’s bonded us so much. Then we eat awesome Mexican food, play Mexican music, and it's a total fiesta! I feel it’s so important for us to learn about who we are, where we came from, and the blood running through our veins.
Thanksgiving In November, we always get a big roll of paper and tape it to the wall in our family room. We each write something we’ve thankful for everyday in November. It’s so impactful and the kids love “writing on the wall.” My mom has decided to always celebrate big holidays on the Saturday before, so that no matter what, we can all make it and it doesn't conflict with any other family parties. We spend Thanksgiving day with Ammon’s family and it’s so simple and easy and laid-back. We have a wonderful time because we don’t have to rush from one party to the next.
These traditions are truly something that binds our family and builds relationships in a fun way. Now I want to hear about your favorite traditions! What do you look forward to each year?