Most families have family traditions. After every first day of a new school year, my daughter and I headed out for high tea and talking. Some traditions last for decades, like our new pajamas on Christmas Eve. Others fade as children grow, like the elementary school last day of school Bruster’s ice cream run.
God built traditions into Old Testament Judaism. The various holidays brought family and friends together several times a year to celebrate something God wanted them to remember. These holidays also served to point them to the coming Messiah.
Jesus and the Apostles didn’t create the liturgical calendar. In fact, the Lord’s Supper during the worship services on the first day of the week was really the only holiday type tradition they established and practiced. (Easter and Christmas weren’t celebrated until long after the death of the Apostles.)
There is nothing in the Bible that says you can’t create family traditions that involve worshipping God in some way – we just can’t bind them on others. (Romans 14) So what are some family traditions you could begin that would also point your kids to God?
- First day of school year. This is a day that should be bathed in prayer. A day where you reflect on what God may want for and from each of you during the coming school year. Perhaps you walk to school early and pray together in a quiet spot near the school. Maybe you have a special breakfast, praying a blessing over each child and helping them pick a personal theme verse for the year.
- Fall harvest. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot moves because of the lunar calendar, but this year it will be October 2 – 9. This was also known as the festival of booths. Families took brush and built a shelter or booth outside. They ate and sleep in the booth each night, with parents telling the stories of Moses and the Israelites. They are celebrating the Fall harvest, but also God’s provision over the years. The original festival also pointed to the coming Messiah. You can do your own version. As you look up at the stars, tell Bible stories that help your kids understand the over arching story of the Bible. Talk about how God has impacted your life and how you see Him working in the world today. Talk about what God wants for and from His people.
- Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was originally meant to focus everyone on thanking God for the many blessings He has given us – even in difficult times. Over the years though, it has become more about parades, food, football and shopping. Find fun ways to bring back the focus to God. You don’t have to give up your favorite secular traditions, just make God the top priority again.
- Snow days. If you live in the southern half of the United States, snow days are rare and special. Why not start a special tradition on the first snow fall of the year – no matter where you live? Build a snowman or go sledding. As you drink your hot cocoa or eat your snow cream, talk about how difficult it can be to survive harsh weather conditions without the proper attire. Plan ways your family can serve others and share your faith. Take the extra time indoors to do some fun things to help discover your kids’ gifts from God or develop them more fully. Find ways for them to use their gifts on a project that serves others. Encourage them to find ways to point others to God as they serve them.
- Valentine’s Day. Why not make this a day when your family finds unique ways to shower everyone around you with love?! Maybe you want to plan all sorts of surprises for others. Or perhaps you want to bake and decorate cookies together and take them to people. Make it a family goal to show active, godly love to as many people as possible every year.
- Purim. Purim is the Jewish holiday celebrating the story of Esther and how God used her to save His people. Traditionally, this is a time when the story of Esther is retold. Hamantaschen cookies are eaten and little gifts of food are taken to neighbors or the poor. It’s fine to celebrate it traditionally, but add sharing your faith or encouraging the faith of those whom you serve as part of the celebration. (In 2021, Purim will be on February 25 and 26.)
- First day of Spring. Spring is a great time to remind your kids about the rebirth Christians experience. It’s also a great time to plant a small garden – even a container garden to grow food to share with others. Or use the food you grow to cook food to share with people who may be lonely or food deprived. Since Easter is usually soon after the beginning of Spring, why not invite the people you serve to services? Many who may be intimidated by a regular church service feel more comfortable attending on holidays like Easter.
- Last day of school. For many kids, the best day of school is the last day of the school year! Regardless, it’s a great time to talk about how God has blessed your family over the previous months. You can also talk about the ways you have each grown spiritually or how God has used each of you to serve others and tell them about Him. It’s also a great time to set summer faith goals. You may want to take an idea from our neighborhood and do it over an ice cream cone!
Starting family traditions can be a bit tricky. It’s important that you are committed to doing the same things year after year for each tradition. Some kids will let you change things, but many want traditions to be safe, comfortable and exactly the same! (Take notes if you are forgetful. Trust me. They will remember even the smallest details!)
If a tradition doesn’t work, it’s okay. Try something different. Include things your family enjoys doing together. Find times when everyone can set aside a day or an evening for the tradition. Remember, traditions are as much about your family spending quality time together as they are about whatever you are celebrating. It’s a great way to create strong, positive memories of your family and your relationship with God.