We divide into teams. I take Madeleine, age 13, while Tim heads off with Delaney, 16, and Dean, 10. Maddie and I will deliver cookies to the families north and east and the other three will cover those south and west. The goal: make all 40 deliveries in one hour and reconvene at 7pm for pizza and a Christmas movie. We have this down to a science.
Our annual Christmas cookie baking starts around 9am on a Saturday in December. The sugar cookies are first since the process to chill, roll out, cut, cook, cool, and decorate takes time. Next up are Peanut Butter Blossoms (also inappropriately referred to as “Nipple Cookies” due to the Hershey kiss on top). Blissfully simple Andes Candies cookies are third in line and the famous Wilson family wreath cookies (Rice Krispy recipe with corn flakes molded into a donut shape with red hot candies on top) finish the day. By 5pm the kitchen counters are lined with plates, each filled with an assortment of our day’s work, stuffed into gallon-size plastic bags and marked with a “Merry Christmas! Love, The Lortz Family” tag on top.
If this seems like a lot of work, it is. The preparation and teamwork are a commitment but it’s a day the whole family looks forward to. So why don’t we just order a pizza and watch a movie without all the work?
Traditions give us and our children a sense of stability, predictability, and belonging, marking time as our families and children grow. Their structure and rhythm provide comfort and predictability when our lives and the world feel chaotic.
When we pass down traditions from parents and grandparents, we link our children to family who’ve gone before. Continuing positive practices from previous generations develops a sense of self and provides an anchor to a younger generation as they navigate social pressures and changing ideals. Children like consistency and predictability and are more grounded when they know what to expect. Traditions strengthen connectedness and foster an environment where everyone involved is accepted, loved, and part of something bigger than themselves.
As our family decorates our Christmas tree each year, we pull out ornaments representing stages of our lives. The kids see my spray-painted macaroni frame ornament containing a horrific picture of me with a bowl cut from preschool in 1984. They see their dad’s “Baby’s 1st Christmas” ornament from 1978. I tell them about the year the Wheeling Symphony recorded an album and each musician received an ornament keepsake. Then each child finds their own macaroni-frame ornament and we laugh and joke as they tease each other, “You still look like that,” as only siblings can. There’s the glass globe from Frankenmuth, Michigan, and the wooden moose from Bar Harbor, Maine, to remind us of our adventures together.
Together. We’ve had a lot of great times as a family. We’ve also been through a lot. I won’t ever write about what we’ve been through because it can’t be shared easily. What I will say is even the memories which are painful to think about are moments which have brought us closer. We made it through together. At those times, our traditions provided the pulse and rhythm necessary to keep moving forward. At times of instability, traditions were an anchor.
Traditions give us an identity. What if your family didn’t cultivate rituals around holidays, birthdays, and special events? You, my friend, have a beautiful blank canvas on which to create your own, unique family culture. Traditions mustn’t be long-held to be meaningful. New traditions provide the same connectedness, security, and stability as those established years ago.
Our rituals— big and small— remind us who we are. Our family goes apple picking every fall. We make homemade pizza every Sunday. We have family movie night every Friday. We sing karaoke on birthdays. And we do these things because they bring us closer together. These traditions are OURS.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of traditions is they can center around anything. While most traditions revolve around events— a neighbourhood cookie exchange in December or sugary (otherwise banned) cereals at Easter, this pins our greatest memories on days that only come once a year and require a great deal of effort, mostly on mom’s part. Who has time for that?
One of our funniest rituals is a jingle I wrote. If someone sees the clock read 12:34, they start to sing “It’s 1-2-3-4, it’s 1-2-3-4. It’s a 1-minute party in the middle of the day. It’s 1-2-3-4, it’s 1-2-3-4, so come on everybody and dance.” This silly ritual takes exactly one minute but invokes laughter year-round. Sometimes the smallest things bring the greatest joy.
About a year ago I was looking for other ways to not just connect us as a family but to make ordinary days more fun and exciting. I wanted to teach my children to enjoy each day, not simply seek for the exciting, Instagram-worthy moments. As my children grow, I want to cultivate an appreciation for daily happiness. That’s when I happened across nationaltoday.com. I live in the U.S., and did you know that there’s something to celebrate every day? I began to look each summer morning for what we could celebrate that day. While we lean toward celebrating food (National Chocolate Eclair Day, National Pizza Day, National Blueberry Pie Day, etc.), we’ve found reasons to visit friends, surprise neighbours, volunteer, and just be goofy. Even checking the daily holidays has become a tradition! If you’re looking for small ways to bring your family closer together this next month, I’ve selected a few gems:
December 18: Answer the Telephone Like Buddy the Elf Day
December 21: Winter Solstice (We’ve adopted my friend’s tradition of having soup and homemade bread by candlelight on this evening.)
January: International Creativity Month
National Soup Month (Another family tradition: I make soup and bread every Wednesday from about mid-October until it warms up in spring.)
January 6: National Cuddle Up Day
Take a Poet to Lunch Day (I’m not joking.)
January 8: National Bubble Bath Day
National Snuggle a Chicken Day
January 10: National Bittersweet Chocolate Day
January 11: National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day
January 13: National Blame Someone Else Day
January 15: National Bagel Day
January 16: No Name-Calling Week (tell the kids)
January 21: International Sweatpants Day
Playdate Day (preferably in your sweatpants!)
January 27: World Breast Pumping Day (yes, this exists)
January 30: National Croissant Day
Yodel for Your Neighbours Day
These seemingly insignificant occasions give us reasons to find joy in every day and provide our families with belonging, stability, and identity. As we create small rituals around ordinary moments, we create moments we’ll never forget and that is the very best gift we can give our children.
Kiersten Lortz is a published Author, Mindset Coach and Public Speaker. Here is a little more about Kiersten’s journey to finding herself helping others:
At the age of 16, I was diagnosed with depression and began seeing a therapist and taking medication. Three years later, I overdosed. It was later learned that the medication I was on actually increased suicidal tendencies for some youth. A change in medication helped but didn’t solve my problems.
I married my husband at the age of 21 and had two little girls within four years. Each pregnancy brought on more depression and I spent the following 10 years trying to piece myself together. It was divine intervention at the age of 30 that prompted my book and subsequent speaking engagements and I’ve spent the past 10+
years studying personal improvement and mindset. I am now the mother of four and living my best life, and I want to help you create a life you love as well.
By implementing these principles in my own life, I was able to turn my life around and find the piece of myself I thought I’d never recover. I have developed these principles into the POSSIBILITIES coaching program and now help other women find what has been missing in their lives It’s time to let go of what’s holding you back and begin taking the steps toward the life you’ve dreamed of living. This is your time.
If you would like to learn more about Kiersten and her Mindset Coaching head here: https://www.kierstenlortz.com/