What are your family traditions?
August 30, 2020 7:46 PM   Subscribe

We have two young kids (1.5 and 5.5) and think we should start to establish some annual family traditions. What are your family traditions for holidays, solstices, or anything else? Thanks!
posted by kdern to Home & Garden (50 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
Big breakfast, movies, and day drinking followed by delivery food on Christmas Day
posted by signsofrain at 8:03 PM on August 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Growing up, in addition to typical special meals on major holidays (and decorations for the time of year), we celebrated May Day by making little baskets of candies and flowers to leave hanging on friends' doors. On Thanksgiving, we would eat the big meal at midday instead of at dinnertime, and then spend the afternoon at a park (highly recommended over going to a movie or watching TV).
posted by pinochiette at 8:15 PM on August 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Christmas movie on Christmas Eve.

I don't know whether you are religious, but when my siblings and I were the appropriate age, we all went to midnight Mass together.

My parents would have a friendly dispute about whether to open gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

We helped our mom by breaking up toasted bread for bread crumbs for stuffing.
posted by NotLost at 8:15 PM on August 30, 2020

Growing up, every year on the day after Thanksgiving, my family would drive out to the coast and spends the day visiting the beaches and our favorite little shops and restaurants along the way. (This is in Northern California so it's more like a nature walk than a beach day.) It's my favorite family tradition.

More recently my siblings and I have begun cooking breakfast for our parents on Christmas morning and I love that too.
posted by mekily at 8:21 PM on August 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Fondue on Christmas Eve. Open one present that night -often pajamas. Christmas morning, can’t get up before 6, open stockings then open presents one at a time, youngest to oldest, round and round. Big unwrapped present for each kid from Santa. Breakfast after presents (making kids wait til after breakfast to open is pure torture).

Halloween-chili before trick or treating to get some protein before candy. Kids do candy inventory and exchange after trick or treating.

Black eyed peas for luck every New Year’s Day.
posted by purenitrous at 8:25 PM on August 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

This requires a basement (or spare room) but: early every December, a sign would appear on the basement door announcing that Santa's elves had moved in and the basement was off-limits as it had become a workshop. Cue my parents having a whole massive space to build dollhouses, assemble whatever needed assembling, and generally store gifts. And, frankly, probably have a single space in the house that was child-free for a few weeks. I at least was never tempted to go down there, and as far as I know it worked on my sister too -- it was kind of special to have this bit of magic right in our own house!

Also the one and only time my father ever hosted Thanksgiving dinner after my parents split up, he had it catered. (He is...not much of one for cooking, let's say.) It was the best Thanksgiving ever. Seriously. The restaurant he went with had a long tradition of catering T'giving dinner, and they could cook turkey so it didn't taste like paper, all the traditional fixings, pie, you name it. I'm not even sure we plated it from the foil containers, thus ensuring that clean-up took about ninety seconds. It was relaxing. It was delicious. No one was tied to the kitchen for forty-eight hours. I am a complete and total convert to catering Thanksgiving or going out to a restaurant. (I mean, unless you really love cooking, I guess. But seriously, after thirty-plus years of Mom being the Martyr In The Kitchen, it was just bliss.) I still think fondly of that meal every year. It was more relaxing than the year I had Thanksgiving with Quakers.
posted by kalimac at 8:56 PM on August 30, 2020 [10 favorites]

We read Polar Express aloud on Christmas Eve. My family has a favorite Winter Holiday album that is critical. My son remembers making gingerbread houses as if they were Martha Stewart-level; they were cockeyed and sometimes singed with drippy icing. Cranberry Ice on Thanksgiving and Christmas, also apple pie. Make ornaments, maybe buy one every year.

I make my Mom's potato salad (lots of green olives; we are the only people I've ever met who make it this way) for Memorial Day and Labor Day. Start birthday and holiday meals by giving everyone a sparkling beverage, and make toasts and clink.

We made fairy houses on walks in the woods; my son remembers them as magical. Just bark, moss, twigs, bits of whatever; children don't need kits and supplies for everything. My former daughter-in-law loved dancing to Motown on the back deck; share what you love.

I recently went through some backups including pictures from my family that I scanned and burned to cd @25 years ago for everyone. My parents were big on family photos, a few of them really well-done, and they are wonderful to have.
posted by theora55 at 9:10 PM on August 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not annual, but friends of mine make pizza every Friday. Their toddlers love Pizza Friday!

My brother makes his kids pancakes every weekend.
posted by nathaole at 9:10 PM on August 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

We made up a holiday called “Housemas” which celebrates the day we moved in to our home. It’s a house-specific Thanksgiving and Christmas, where we make a point to appreciate where we live and also get it a present (a piece of furniture we’ve been wanting or artwork or we do some kind of home improvement like touching up paint etc).
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:17 PM on August 30, 2020 [37 favorites]

My spouse's family has celebrated an eclectic set of solstice traditions involving figurines, smoke, making artwork out of stones, eating round foods, etc. When she was young, they did Punch-and-Judy like story-telling with toy animals telling various myths. Two years ago, realizing that among adults some of those traditions were not entirely satisfying, they invented a five day series of themed meals, poetry, and (sometimes pointed and uncomfortable) conversational prompts based on the story of Osiris and Set. It was the most fun holiday event I've attended since childhood.

As a kid, hiding jellybeans throughout the house as an easter-egg hunt was delightful. My mentor's family's Greek Easter bread (Tsoureki) baking was also a really enjoyable family event, with everyone hanging out in the kitchen and drinking coffee while the kids made a mess of the dough.
posted by eotvos at 9:36 PM on August 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

On preview, I also grew up with Pizza Friday. It was nice. (I assumed my mom had made it up. Now I'm curious if that's true.)
posted by eotvos at 9:39 PM on August 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Some families I know do new pyjamas on Christmas Eve (makes for better photos next morning!)

We have a particular old chair from my Nana's house, and if you're the Birthday Person you must sit on that one chair to receive your gifts. (When I was a kid everyone piled in to sit on the Big Bed for presents)
posted by slightlybewildered at 9:48 PM on August 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Mountain Day. Its based off Smith College's but in ours, instead of the college president choosing the day, my son does. He gets to choose 1 day where he just can't go to school so we stay home and get super cozy, watch cartoons and make cookies.
Just elementary school mental health day.
posted by beccaj at 12:37 AM on August 31, 2020 [16 favorites]

My mother always lit a bayberry candle on New Year's Eve, which would be let to burn itself out however long it took (usually into new year's day).
It was A BIG DEAL.
It had to be lit when the first star appeared in the sky (so I guess it kept us kids busy outside until twilight looking for stars).
I always thought this was an Irish tradition, but googling just now, who knows?
posted by mdrew at 1:49 AM on August 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

My birthday is right near the start of winter, and the house I grew up in had a gigantic poinsettia (the size of a tree) which flowered right around then. My mother took a picture of me and my father in front of the tree around the time I turned 1, and then it became a yearly tradition for the next decade or so. (My two younger sisters didn't get any similar tradition, sorry sisters.)
posted by Cheese Monster at 4:39 AM on August 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These are great. Keep them coming please! How about July 4, Labor Day, first or last day of school, mothers or Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, summer and winter solstice?
posted by kdern at 6:15 AM on August 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

My brother and his wife took each one of their kids on an "Eight Trip" when they turned eight years old. Camping or a weekend in Chicago or something similar --- but it was a one-on-one experience. That uninterrupted time with mom or dad, in a family with four kids, was PRECIOUS.

I wish we had done the same.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:36 AM on August 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Celebrating "half birthdays" at 6 month mark.
Additional Bday cake/celebration combined with older generation --my bday was in same month as my grandmother, a sister had a bday in same month as an aunt, it was a nice way to feel connected to them.

A back to school celebration/party in late August.
Going out to lunch the day after the last day of school.
Special lunch treats for school field trip days.
Thanks you notes to teachers at the end of the year.

Paper Shamrocks pinned on our shirts for St. Patrick's day.
Lighting advent candles the weeks before Christmas.
Watching "It's a wonderful life" in Christmas season.
Going to Midnight mass.
Making our own costumes and collection bags for Halloween- the anticipation and planning was as much fun as the day itself.
Writing out Thanksgiving menu --made it look faux authentic by staining paper and burning edges (very exciting!)

Visiting grave sites of relatives, placing flowers and saying a prayer-- usually done on significant day such as grand fathers/mothers bday.

Planting garlic on the winter solstice seems to be a thing.
posted by rhonzo at 6:37 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

I take my son for ice cream on the first day of school after I pick him up, so he can tell me all his new stories, and on the last day of school, to celebrate summer.

My family has a big party the weekend before Thanksgiving to press cider, but if I didn't own a cider press, I'd probably have an official apple picking day every fall.

My family also does a bonfire on New Year's Eve, which kids are allowed to stay up for. It is often uncomfortably cold, but it's tradition. Now as an adult, my son goes to my parents' for the bonfire and my husband and I get to do something grown up--have a party, go to one, see a show, etc.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:51 AM on August 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

As an Aussie living in the US. Australia Day is a Lamb Roast, I'd go lamb on the BBQ but it's it's usually ass deep in snow around here then.

Thanksgiving. Due to weirdness with my inlaws I refuse to cook anything for Thanksgiving but my pumpkin pie so hubby & I get Cracker Barrel heat at home Thanksgiving dinners & watch Mystery Science Theatre.

Christmas Eve We do Cheese & Meat board for dinner & watch Elf.

Christmas Day. Off to the in Laws for my MILs great breakfast, open presents & hang out then a laid back late lunch.

Winter Solstice I light a spell candle at sunset, I will switch over to an electric one when it burns out & leave it on until sunrise. I like to try to get up & greet the dawn on the first day the days start getting longer it's kind of my spiritual New Years Eve.

July 4th is sit on the floor & hug the poor cowering dogs day.

My Mothers birthday I light a Floating lantern & release it.
posted by wwax at 6:56 AM on August 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

We all made one kind of homemade Christmas tree ornaments every year, and after a few years the tree was all homemade ornaments (except for the lights).

As soon as us kids were old enough to do Christmas shopping, every member of the family, including Mom and Dad, hung up a stocking and we all filled each other’s. This may not work for your family if you do the Santa Claus thing.

This was also pretty specific to our family, but we always put up the tree on Dad’s mid-December birthday.

Mom and Grandma passed a gift box back and forth each Christmas - Mom wrapped Grandma’s present in it one year, Grandma wrapped Mom’s present in it the next, and so on. It was a fancy 1950’s department store box with a “Pleasure-Knit Undies” logo on it.

Continuing with that theme, We always exchanged a number of practical gifts, among them socks and underwear. The rule was, when you unwrapped a pair of underpants you put it on your head like a party hat for the rest of the gift-opening period. The first pair of socks you unwrapped went over your ears like long, floppy dog ears.

The inevitable Christmas argument would be ended by someone shouting, “Well, MERRY CHRISTMAS !” and then we’d all laugh. When we got to be teenagers, there could be an expletive inserted in there.

Somebody would read “Merry Christmas in Ten Pieces

Full English Breakfast on Christmas Day.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:57 AM on August 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Our schools would hand out flimsy little pine tree babies in plastic bags for Arbor day. My dad worked at a school and would bring home the extras, if there were any. We'd plant them in the backyard or put them in the fridge to take up to my grandparents farm later and plant them there.

Fondue on New Years Eve.

We'd put out a shoe for St. Nicholas day and wake up to find (wrapped) candy in it.

Family tradition I WISH we'd had:

First nice day of spring after the long winter: no work, no school, everyone goes outside and squints at that big glowing ball in the sky. Everyone gets to do their outdoor activity of their choice.
posted by Gray Duck at 7:07 AM on August 31, 2020

Best answer: For birthdays we decorate the kitchen in the night and have a candle in a breakfast treat, as well as the rest of the festivities.

More festive observances:
- first day of school breakfast is cinnamon buns (and eggs so they don't drop from the sugar rush immediately)
- the first PA Day of the school year is apple picking day, followed (in non-Covid times) by HotPot dinner
- Sometimes we have a Rosh Hashanah dinner*
- Halloween we have a creepy menu
- Traditional Reading Aloud of The Hobbit Or A Narnia Book over Xmas break
- Tourtiere on Christmas Eve*
- Boxing Day we only eat food that comes in boxes: cereal, appetizers and shrimp rings mostly, whatever frozen thing my kids think they want.
- New Year's Eve we clean the house top to bottom (we are not a partying family) and then watch a movie
- Valentine's Day we have heart-shaped pancakes. However we are not actually huge fans of all the Hallmark Holidays, including Mother's and Father's Day, so we let the kids lead on what they want to do, and also have shared but not elaborate meals with our own parents.
- Shrove Tuesday* we also have pancakes
- over Lent* we eat fish on Fridays but we don't talk about Jesus
- on my daughter's birthday we celebrate her birthday and on her death day we visit her grave and if it's not snow covered clear it out, leave crumbs from her cake, and then go have a meal.
- before/over Passover* we clean our cupboards out and eat matzo meal soup BUT we also eat chametz so it is entirely incorrect
- *As you may have ascertained we are a very religiously mixed up family with a Hidden Jewish Past which comes out the most at Easter, where we do have a visit from the Easter Bunny who brings spring sports gifts, and creepy skull things because some people consider it Zombie Day, & we have a seder-like meal around Passover
- the last day of school I take the afternoon off and pick my kids up at school (they are usually burdened with items and we get some kind of takeout treat and we go to the beach
- also the last two days of school they get Lunchables for lunch (our schools don't have hot lunches) which prevents me from getting asked for them the rest of the year.
- on the first day of summer we write summer goals on pieces of paper and tie them to sticks and place the sticks in a tray in our living room. On Labour Day we add a wish for the school year and burn the sticks. This is a perversion of a camp tradition. :)

And we have a few not festive but still significant activities:
- we have Saturday pizza night, ha ha no Friday for us. :) Lately we added a movie in as well.
- that is because all the days the weather permits, Friday night is picnic night either on our deck (when the kids were little) or at the beach/park
- Earth Day we go clean up our local park or secret beach
- Victoria Day is garden clean up day
- the Saturday of Labour Day is total bedroom clearout day (we have another tradition that makes this a little easier). Labour Day itself we almost always do something nature-related, usually the beach but this year it's kind of crowded on days off
- the last Sunday of every month is "toss the number of objects of your age" day from your room. These can be tiny bits of garbage or entire toy sets you don't use any more. We used to do this weekly but there were protests. :)

I have a word of warning. Taco Tuesday has somehow become a big deal here along with Sausage Sunday, I think this is Covid-related but kids are very fast to set traditions in stone. Give yourself room to add to your list as your kids develop without making your life stressed out ('oh no, we're out of tortillas and I have no time to make some!')
posted by warriorqueen at 7:14 AM on August 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

Record the kid’s height, somewhere inconspicuous (such as a closet door frame), the night before school starts, each year. Works best if you have the discipline not to check , at any other point in the year
posted by walkinginsunshine at 7:52 AM on August 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

Halloween: we make our house the "Home Base" for about five families with similar aged kids. We order lots of pizza so kids eat something before candy.

I work at a theatre so I go to costume stock and pull a couple hampers of adult costume pieces - mostly hats and masks or capes, things easy to throw on over normal clothes. We then put the hampers in the living room, and all grown ups are issued a costume before going out. Grown ups are encouraged to bring an insulated travel mug with special grown up drinks to carry around while we walk around supervising trick or treating.

Having a large group to handle kid supervision and activities for the adults makes it less like a chore. A large mass of 20 or so people with flashlights feels much safer on the dark streets - really hard to miss due to all the light and noise.

I have not done this but I want to do All Sides Thanksgiving - just like Thanksgiving but no turkey! Lets you make and eat lots of really rich side dishes and easier for people who do not eat meat.
posted by sol at 8:27 AM on August 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Spring and Easter are defined by the first flower observed blooming. These are usually crocuses in someone's yard and during March or April walks are taken by certain front yards to ensure that we get a chance to see them. When located we stop and observe the moment. It is a solemn moment because Easter is a dying time when those (animal, plant and human) who have hung on through the winter pass away. As a result the solemn tune "The Foggy Dew" is murmured or hummed with the line "..for those that died that Eastertide..." being vocalized as a recognition that we survived another winter. (Not that there was any doubt we would.) Nickles and other small offerings may be dropped on the sidewalk in front of the flowers.

There are two types of flowers. Flowers by the grace of God (we're atheists but seek to understand other cultural traditions) and other people's flowers. The difference is that other people's flowers were planted by someone and UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE TO BE PICKED but can only be enjoyed visually or sniffed if they hang over onto the sidewalk.

The First Flower of the Season is the first flower by the grace of God seen by the child, picked and brought to mother.

When a road kill is spotted during a walk the party stops and solemnly intones "What I am now you once were. What you are now I will someday be."

When out walking any child of an age to be expected to hold hands while crossing streets is permitted to walk on any railing or fence or concrete divider suitable for walking on while the parent holds their hand. Children who are avoiding walking on the lines can get adult assistance doing so, including being carried over brick paving.

A distinction is made between lawns of apartment buildings or public buildings and lawns of private residences including duplexes. If it is the lawn of an apartment or public building people are allowed to walk on the grass but if it is a private dwelling they are not.

When passing people no running is allowed within six meters, regardless of the age as anyone could have fragile bones and it not show and if they turn around suddenly they could break a hip and fall down.

The youngest member of the party capable of it gets to push the elevator buttons.

Whenever we first go to the seashore the water is tasted for the salt, except when the location is near a known sewer outlet.

Whenever we go to certain locations historically significant to the family the story about that location is told, such as if we go to Taylor's Island and the Dog Rocks are visible. At that time the story of how great grandfather and his fishing partner drowned there must be told.

When ever anyone in the family is in London and is in sight of Westminster Bridge, "Upon Westminster Bridge must be recited." Whenever anyone is in the family and walks past Buckingham Palace "Buckingham Palace" must be recited.

The first time outs of toddlers and walking babies are timed by the silent recitation of "To Sit in Solemn Silence" by the adult. It has to be recited silently so the child doesn't come to have negative connotations for the song.

Punch buggies are observed with the standard ritual.

Jinx is played but if you are under jinx in English you are allowed to speak in French. A triple win is if you can get someone under jinx in French, English and ASL at the same time.

The easiest bit of any adult jigsaw puzzle is put aside for any child interested during sorted. A child is always given the last piece to put in.

In the fall Halloween apples may be purchased from the children on November first. Kids can be taken apple picking to obtain them, or simply get them at a Halloween party or from the kitchen. These apples are the ones used for creating the mincemeat which will be stored in jars and prepared into tarts at Christmas. When the mincemeat is made each person gets a brief turn, turning the handle of the mincemeat grinder. (It's a cast iron and has to be bolted to a chair making it convenient for the very small people.)

When the pudding is made we have to use pasteurized liquid whole eggs so that the stirring ceremony can take place. The Christmas pudding is made up one day, the next day the ceremony takes place before the pudding is turned into the pudding basin to be boiled. Eldest to youngest stirs and has a taste. It's rather heady because there is brandy in it.

First fall of snow, if it is an actual decent fall with accumulation rather than a sugar dusting requires the removal of shoes and socks and a few steps running to create barefoot footprints.

Three days before Thanksgiving all poultry figures from the toy farm sets are removed and hidden to keep safe until after Hogmanay.

The creche is set up at the beginning of December, but is a toy stable. Various flocks of sheep and shepherds move through it depending on the weather. Dried grass may be collected outside and brought in to strew so that the animals have bedding. Joseph, Mary and a donkey may set out to get to the stable by way of the book cases and the mantelpiece about mid December but don't get there until Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve everyone gets new pajamas or a nightie. If the child has a special doll or stuffed animal that animal may also get brand new pajamas. Pajamas are preferably home sewn and in the case of a stuffed penguin they pretty much have to be.

Epiphany is Little Christmas. Little Christmas is Doll's Christmas. At this time the children are given miniature gifts suitable for their dolls, and a dolls tea party may be set up. Gifts for Epiphany may be hung on the tree. At this time the holy family leaves the creche to be escorted to Egypt and set off on their journey accompanied by every military or police toy figure that can be rounded up in order to protect them from Herod.

Any holiday possible is celebrated. Chinese New Year is celebrated with the best Chinese food feast we can afford, and Hanukkah is celebrated with potato pancakes, apple sauce, gold foil covered chocolate coins and dreidels.

If it is not possible to celebrate Christmas on Christmas due to one of the parents being away working then the substitute holiday Hogswatchnight is celebrated on the nearest suitable date, which features an enormous succulent roast of pork, lardy cake and a side dish of beans.

The cats get shrimp at Christmas.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:36 AM on August 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

The first robin of the season is serenaded with a round of "Ah Robin, Gentille Robin."
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:37 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ballet positions are practiced whenever waiting outside for a bus.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:41 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Paper fish are taped to the back of other people on April Fool's morning.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:43 AM on August 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Every couple Fridays in the summer we eat fries and every couple of Sundays we eat sundaes. My child's birthday is in the summer so we usually take that week off, more often than not we go to visit distant family and we do a tour of local ice cream shops. We always do something to celebrate the solstices but it is usually variable depending on weather. Labour day weekend & Thanksgiving weekend we go to fall fairs and we always hold a wake for summer holidays. Sometime during Oktoberfest we watch Strange Brew. Children's day celebrated on November 20 with a small gift of art supplies and kid's choice of supper menu. Christmas tree set up on December 6th and loaves of pain d'épices are made. It is also the marker when Christmas music may be played in the house. Presents opened on Christmas eve. Meat pies are eaten on Christmas day. Boxing Day is all day movie day and bubble and squeak day. January 6th the Christmas tree comes down and I make a gallette des rois. On Valentines day we eat Spanish rice in the shape of a heart and listen to this song. Easter always revolves around one egg hunt. Parent birthdays, if on a weekend, are always celebrated by wearing pyjamas all day, eating junk food and take out. Father's Day is always about sleeping in, Mother's day is big breakfast, chocolate, flowers and fancy supper.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:53 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Easter egg hunts are scaled according to the skills of the participants. This means that when people are around twenty or so they are getting a trail with complex clues that each lead to the next clue and the final one is where the Easter loot is hid. A house guest who stayed over at Easter was once astonished and charmed to discover that he was required to climb out of our bathroom window to clamber up to the neighbours roof and from there up to our roof to retrieve a clue that was attached to the chimney.

Each child receives their first pocket knife as a birthday gift on their seventh birthday. Children who were not developmentally ready for pocket knives were given pocket knives that were too stiff for their young fingers to open as in the second generation this tradition had to be adjusted out of prudence and better knives provided a couple of years later.

Chicken and turkey wishbones are saved and dried and snapped on a wish. The winner is the one with the longer half.

Garlic may be hung over every window and door before Halloween. The easiest method to hang is to have a long finishing nail in the centre of the top of the frame, sticking out and the garlic simply gets spiked on it. Children who are afraid of vampires etc get to be the vampire, jumping out of dark cupboards and sucking on other people's necks.

A bonfire and sparklers may take place on November fifth.

The top of the Christmas tree is cut off every year in order to put the tree topper on, and saved until next year when it is burned in lieu of a yule log.

On Beltane people with long hair wear it multiple braids and other people grab the braids and spin them around with it chanting "Beltane!" If the braids are long enough the people dance around the long haired individual and thereby twist the braids into a knot on the top of their head.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:59 AM on August 31, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh and on Pancake Tuesday we always eat buckwheat pancakes with chicken stew.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:59 AM on August 31, 2020

An extra half hour is required when leaving the house on rainy days to allow for the rescue of worms from the sidewalk.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:01 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

My parents were great about taking photos and making photo albums when my sister and I were growing up. When I was around five my mom made a photo album for each of us dedicated to our first year as babies. They were not fancy scrapbooks, just photos stuck in the book without labels; and the photos were the classic 80s snapshots, nothing formal. Just photos that captured a certain sense of the time (my favourite pair of photos in my own book is a shot of me sleeping naked on my aunt's stomach on a very hot day, and then a perfect baby-shaped sweat patch on her shirt when I woke up).

Each birthday after she'd made them, she'd pull out the baby album dedicated to the birthday child and sit with us as we looked through it, and she'd retell us the story of our first year. Babies were fascinating to us as little kids and to look at photos of US, OURSELVES, as babies was a big deal. It was also really interesting to see our relatives in the photos, and to know that they were all involved in our lives even before we could remember them.

I'm coming up on forty now, and if I'm back home around my birthday we still pull out the album and look through it. It's even more precious now because I have all those years of memories of sitting with my mom and hearing her tell us about the photos, too. And I've reached the point where a lot of people in the photos have passed away , so it means a lot to have a yearly-ish reminder of them.
posted by DSime at 9:02 AM on August 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

Fortunately - Unfortunately is the game played when waiting in waiting rooms, where a story is told with each person in turn saying the next line beginning alternately with the word fortunately or unfortunately.


Parent: "Once upon a time where was a man who took a walk in the forest."

First child: "Unfortunately he encountered a bear."

Second child: "Fortunately it was a friendly bear!"

Third child: "Unfortunately the bear was very hungry"

First child: "Fortunately the man had brought his lunch with him"

Second child: "Unfortunately he had left it on the counter in the kitchen."

Third child: "Fortunately he had some gum to give to the bear!"

First child, "Unfortunately the gum stuck the bears teeth together which made it very mad!"

Second child: "Fortunately its teeth were stuck together so it couldn't bite!"

"Third child: "Unfortunately bears also have paws with very sharp claws..."

posted by Jane the Brown at 9:08 AM on August 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

Valentine's Day dinner for us was getting out the china, crystal, fancy flatware and candlesticks. The kids got to have some sort of red juice in a champagne flute or wine glass. We would have some sort of red food, mostly pasta with red sauce. After dinner there were cupcakes, a minibox of chocolates, conversation hearts and a small gift. The kids found this fancy dinner fun and grownup.
posted by maxg94 at 9:10 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ballet positions are practiced whenever waiting outside for a bus.

I mean, *I* do that, but it was never a family thing. And when I was taking a Baroque dance class, minuet steps.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:00 AM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Gray Duck: We'd put out a shoe for St. Nicholas day and wake up to find (wrapped) candy in it.

We also did this: I, too, grew up in Minnesota!

In fact we did it at home and at school (Visitation Convent) when I was in grades 1-3.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:06 PM on August 31, 2020

We cut out the silhouette of a turkey's head & body from a manilla folder, and cut out feathers from construction paper. We hang up the turkey in mid-November, and we use feathers and write on them things we are thankful for -- so by the time the holiday arrives, our turkey has a full tail and we are mindful of our blessings.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:09 PM on August 31, 2020

For every First Day Of School and Last Day, my wife took a picture of each kid. She even prints out a sheet of paper to use as a "caption," so we know the exact date. :7)

At high school graduation time, she hangs up a couple of poster boards with all of the pictures in order, and the progressions is amaaaaaazing.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:16 PM on August 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

Friday night is homemade pizza night. In the oven or on the grill, on a pan or a stone, homemade dough or store-bought, plain cheese or fancy toppings, individual or large, it's Pizza Night.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:19 PM on August 31, 2020

On your birthday, you choose the dinner and decide what kind of cake you want. You can have a piece of leftover cake for breakfast the next day.

I have introduced the airing of the grievances. My children don't get the Seinfeld reference so sitting at dinner and hearing my son son say "AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES!" and start into a litany of offences his sister had done to him. Takes the edge off the fight.

Sunday breakfast. Big breakfast. Every Sunday.

Surreptitious walks called a "Whim" at odd hours. "Hey dad, wanna go on a whim?"

Seconding the doorway measurements. We use a closet door frame for this.
posted by zerobyproxy at 12:56 PM on August 31, 2020 [2 favorites]

On your birthday, you choose the dinner and decide what kind of cake you want.

That’s how we did it, too. Birthdays were a low-key family affair. There was the special dinner with cake, as above,. The birthday kid got a present after the cake, with the non-birthday kid getting some little token gift so as to not feel left out.

The big celebration was at Halloween, halfway between my birthday in September and my sister’s in November. We’d have a big party with both our friends and the cousins Saturday night before Halloween. There was a theme every year, with scavenger hunts and the whole downstairs decorated like a dungeon, castle, cave, or something. A lot of the adults would get in on it. One year my dad and his sister put on ski masks and stood looking in the basement windows. We had no idea who they were and were scared silly. We’d make a graveyard in the front yard with funny plywood tombstones and to do up the front room really scary for the little kids who came trick-or-treating. Costumes were always homemade. Some years we’d have three costumes: one for the school party, one for the home party, and one for trick-or-treating.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:54 PM on August 31, 2020

Response by poster: These are all great, and many are waaay more ambitious than we could do, at least with our kids in their current form. I love all the ideas though. Thank you.
posted by kdern at 3:20 PM on August 31, 2020

Some more around Christmas....

We don't have Christmas dinner on Christmas Day. We have it on boxing day. Christmas Day is little more than a hot/cold buffet. We throw it in the oven noon-ish, it goes on the table, and it's help yourself all day. The BIG dinner, trimmings, etc, that takes time? That's for the 26th.
(My wife and I stumbled up on this when it was just us two. One Christmas was 'can you be bothered today? Neither can I. And that was that.

Seconding one present of PJ on Christmas Eve.

When the kids were younger, we managed to get on 'Santa does your stocking, we do your big presents'. No idea how we got there, but 'the value of money/presents' was much clearer to them, but still had the magic.

We have a 'family' version of Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas. A dodgy MP3 export many many years ago resulted in a version that goes...
"I don't want a lot for Christma-Christmas, there's just one thing..."
...when we hear the skip, we know it's Christmas.
posted by ewan at 4:17 PM on August 31, 2020

Advent we always had an advent wreath.

Christmas Eve we got new PJs followed by Dad reading Twas the Night Before Christmas and a child reading (once old enough) Luke 2:1-20.

New Years Eve, we made a feast out of a bunch of finger foods along with champagne or sparkling cider.

New Years Day we always ate a pork roast with sauerkraut.

We had a special plate that the birthday person got to use at the family party.

St. Patricks Day was always corned beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes and carrots.
posted by kathrynm at 4:47 PM on August 31, 2020

Here's a tradition from my family. We're Dutch.

On your birthday, you get the very special Birthday Boterham (that word means a slice of bread). It's cut into as many pieces as you are turning years old, and each piece has something different on it. This makes it very festive.
When you are turning six, this is easy: you'll get jam, chocolate sprinkles, cheese, apple syrup, liverwurst and peanut butter.
When you are turning twelve, weird things like sugar, a slice of pickle, or a smear of mayonnaise will start showing up and it's probably about time you're declared too old for this tradition.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:42 PM on August 31, 2020 [7 favorites]

Oh, my sister and I usually go to the movies after Thanksgiving dinner. Probably not an option this year, but in recent years we’ve noticed more and more families with children joining us.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:15 AM on September 1, 2020

For winter solstice (we’re in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s a long way from Christmas) we write down our fears on pieces of paper and burn them. Our son has been alive for two winter solstices now so we write one down for him and it’s whatever we think made him cry most recently - last year it was farts. We also eat fancy bread and light candles. Fancy bread in context is a big circular loaf with a filling, pesto or cheese or tapenade.
(Summer solstice is supposed to also have fancy bread but sometimes summer solstice is too close to Christmas/extended family things or just too hot to be bothered making bread.)
posted by applesauce at 4:06 AM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Jane the Brown, can I join your family?
posted by lostburner at 3:08 PM on September 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

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