In the first article I wrote for ReadyAimLife.com, Daughters, I mentioned a new tradition our family began in 2008 – the awarding of the “Best Campfire Story” trophy on our family camping trips.  We’d long told stories around the campfire, but the addition of this five dollar trophy made something that was already great just that much better. It solidified the campfire story as an official Kissinger Family Tradition. For the most part, traditions in our family are things that have just evolved. Something that begun with little thought to its permanency, but for whatever reason took hold and was repeated time and time again. Ours are fairly simple: ice cream eating contests when the girls have sleepovers, Christmas brunch featuring Sara’s breakfast casserole, summer trips to Silver Dollar City with Gran, father/daughter camping trips, lunch at Monte Ne Chicken with Nanny and Mamaw, baseball games in Kansas City.

Webster’s dictionary defines a tradition as “the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.” I define it as “the really good things you do time and time again that make life special and you never forget.” Traditions, big or small, deliberate or incidental, add to the fabric of a family. They provide one more source of stability, an added measure of “the expected,” for us and for our children.  They give us something to look forward to. They create memories. They make life richer. Better.

Traditions, formal or informal, are practiced by all … cultures, nations, races, religions, families, individuals. On a grand scale they can mark events, history, or the rights of passage of a people. On a smaller scale they might provide nothing more than entertainment for a family. Some carry on for centuries while others don’t span a generation. As I give thought to my family, I’ve come to see value in all, regardless of the “significance” attached.  Here is where I believe the value lies:

Traditions build heritage.  They give us a history, a sense of belonging. They become part of what defines a family. Part of who a family is. A testament to what a family values.  In short, traditions become family lore.

Traditions strengthen the family. They bring us together and keep us connected.  We put aside schedules and make time for one another. For relationships. They become a part of the foundation that provides a firm footing through the years. Traditions breed security.

Traditions offer teaching opportunities. The lessons that are passed to our children through the permanent, enduring nature of rituals are some of life’s most valuable lessons:  the importance of family and relationships, consistency through the years, knowing there will always be a gathering to “come home” to.

Traditions leave a legacy.  They create memories. Give glimpses into what we value. Provide something solid, practices, for our children to hold on to and share with their children. They foster a legacy.

Donald Miller shared a story in a recent blog about a tradition created by a friend of his. I like the story because it captures the essence of tradition as I see it …. an idea, an action, that takes root and grows into something lasting. Something good, be it big or small. A quirky idea that sprouts wings and in a small way shapes a family in the process. Here’s that story:

One of my favorite stories was told to me by my friend Bob Goff. It’s a true story and it’s about a parade.

Bob lives in San Diego, and when his three children were young they were sitting around on New Years Day, bored. And Bob thought it was a crime anybody should be bored on New Years Day. (Let’s face it, unless you are a football fan, there’s not a whole lot to do.)

Bob asked the kids what they could do to honor the fact God gave them a day. And eventually Bob and his wife Maria, and their children, came up with the idea of a parade. So they set out to have a parade on their street. They went house to house telling their neighbors they were going to have a parade. And the neighbors must have indulged the children by saying they would watch. But the Goff’s had a better idea than just a parade people would watch. They decided nobody could watch the parade. They could only be in the parade.

And so a few neighbors joined in. The small parade marched from the end of the street to the Goff house, where they had a small cookout, if I remember correctly.

Now, more than ten years later, the New Years Day Parade is a tradition. Hundreds of people join in (nobody watches, everybody marches) and the day has not been boring since. Not only has it not been boring for the Goff family, it hasn’t been boring for hundreds of neighbors as well.

Each year the parade selects a Grand Marshal. The year Bob told me about the parade, the Grand Marshal was the mailman, who marched in front of the crowd throwing letters into the air. And each year a New-Years Day Queen is selected, sometimes from the local retirement center (the women in the picture below look way too young.) And the Queen gives a speech, and there is an annual Queen’s brunch at the San Diego Yacht Club.

People on Bob’s street know each other better because of the parade. The women in the Queen’s court feel honored, too. And the children grow up thinking New Years Day is a special celebration honoring a day, the miracle of a day.

There you have in one simple story the beauty of tradition. In 2009 I’m going to take a thoughtful, deliberate approach toward tradition, maintaining those I’ve established within my family and adding at least one more along the way … one that involves the friends I’ve been blessed with. Whatever it may be, I’m looking forward to the stories that it will spawn. Stories that will undoubtedly be recounted through the years.

Reposted by permission of ReadyAimLife.com.

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