Whether you already have your own meaningful family traditions, or your family is new and you need some inspiration to create some, these resources can help. Plus, read about some of our favorite homestead family traditions!
Traditions are so important that I gave them their own section in the “Family Times on the Homestead” chapter of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. With over 400 pages of information, challenges and projects presented on four different levels of homesteading experience, there’s bound to be something of value to you! To learn more, click below.
The Importance of Family Traditions
All throughout my childhood, my family was adamant about our traditions.
The first fire of the season was lit on Halloween, even if that meant we turned on the air conditioner. (I’m from California so the air conditioner was on a lot come Halloween.) We read scriptures and a “fun” book every night, Mom lying in the hall between our bedrooms as she read out loud. We camped every year at the same KOA in Watsonville, California and visited the freezing cold Pacific Ocean rain or shine.
And, of course, like every other family who keeps them for special occasions, we ended up using the “good dishes” under no circumstances.
I have veritable armies of memories that sweep down my consciousness like Tevyah belting out “Traditions!” at the top of his lungs. Childhood was a a tricky thing to maneuver sometimes and knowing what came with the next month or the next season was always a source of comfort to me. Part of my personal cannon, includes an admonishment from a prophet of God to seek after the best traditions and leave less illuminating ones behind. Thereby passing on wholesome traditions to the next generation.
Which Traditions Have the Most Value?
Even as a child I knew that one day, I would want to give the gift of a steady stream of traditions to my own children. I also knew that I’d need to include traditions from my husband’s family and new ones from other cultures and peoples that were also worthy.
The question became, how do I sort through all the possibilities to find the best ones that would help me grow a family?
Sometimes this can be answered simply by doing digging through some family history; for ideas on how to involved children in that, please visit this post. You may discover, as you learn the stories of your family’s past, that your great grandparents had traditions from their childhood that can bring joy to you today.
For some families, the best traditions are the simplest ones. Angi from Schneider Peeps enjoys movie and pizza night with her family each week- love her post about it here.
Some Real Life Homesteaders’ Traditions
“My family is all spread out, but when we would get together my grandparents used to make it a huge ordeal. Hors d’oeuvres would start around 1pm- hummus, veggies, pickled cauliflower, pita bread… We’d talk, play games, grandpa would turn on Sinatra in the family room and back patio and he and people would swing dance while he cooked dinner in his brick oven out back. Always very happy memories…”
Can’t you see the brick oven and hear the Sinatra?
Don, from The Snarky Gardener, shares
Our favorite [tradition] is to purchase a Thanksgiving turkey from a local free-range farm and name said turkey. Last year’s turkey was named Malcolm.”
Ever named a turkey Malcolm?
And, finally, Off Grid Homestead Prepper says,
“My extended family comes out to the ranch Thanksgiving weekend to set off rockets (more modern ones have cameras to take aerial photos). It is one of the rare “safe” times of year when the fire hazard is low since new green grass is coming in. They can’t fire their rockets in town so since I have 100s of acres of grassland surrounding me, it is safe. Now that the nieces and nephews are older, they also do a lot of shooting at a rifle range I have set up for them.”
Sabbaths, or Days of Rest
Whether you’re religious or not, having the tradition of at least one day per week of rest can be so beneficial for a busy family or individual. For a Christian or a Jew (and others with holy rest days), the Sabbath is a sacred day, set apart from the other six days of the week. Or, at least, it’s meant to be.
What to Do
Sabbath days look different from family to family but, at its core, there is a cessation of the daily toil that usually consumes our days. In my house, that means that I prepare simple meals (dinner usually comes from a slow cooker) and we all refrain from unnecessary chores (though the animals are still milked and fed). If I can do a chore the following day, I do. We don’t really “laze around”, but we do move slower, sit more often and keep things on the down-low all day.
Sabbaths are also a good time to engage in activities that are worshipful, reverent or feel appropriate to you. We will sometimes “work” on family service projects. These activities may require a bit of clean up, but the heart of the work preserves the feeling of devotion and peace. We also read together, play board games, have family meetings and a special family night. Our religious congregation meets on our Sabbath, so we also go to church that day.
Chris, from Joybilee Farm, talks about the importance of a rest day for busy homesteading families in this post, here.
If birthdays have never been your thing, that makes them a great place to start when it comes to developing new traditions in your family. I’m not big on blowout birthday parties, lots of gifts and too much sugar, to be honest. I prefer much simpler affairs that focus on the person. You may be different and love a big bash (and that’s super, have so much fun!), but here are some simple ideas for making birthdays special. Without going overboard.
Homestead Honey is a homeschooling, homesteading mom who shares with us her experience with a Waldorf-inspired birthday for her child – click here. (Here’s another delightful one where she talks about her daughter losing her tooth and the tradition they have for that – click here.)
Creative With Kids has some birthday boy or girl relevant traditions to think about – click here.
I would never presume to intrude on the special family traditions you already have in place for your holy day, or holiday, celebrations. Even families with few traditions will usually have special food traditions for the holidays, if nothing else. However, it can be fun to learn what other homestead and farm families are doing.
We have a tradition in our family for Christmas that is actually held in June. It’s called Leon Day and it’s the day we do our family name drawing for Christmas gifts and gather ideas for homemade gifts. You can read about that here.
Here’s a fun recycled gift wrap tradition from Attainable Sustainable.
We celebrate each of the Sundays of Advent, too. You can read Homestead Honey’s traditions with Advent here.
Every year we put out a crèche, or two – or three. I really love them for some reason. You can read about how to make your own nativity sets here.
From the beginning of fall through Christmas, we also do several service projects. Making scarves and hats to donate, and gifts for children like dolls. We also made baby quilts one year – that was so fun, even though I’m really not much of a seamstress. These projects help us stay focused on gratitude and joy at these times of year when it’s easy to get distracted.
Easter has its own celebrations, too, including:
Kulich – a must have food
Observing, really observing, Maundy Thursday
And so many others. I hope these ideas give you your own to run with. Really, you are the best person to decide what will work in your family. I encourage you to try a variety of different traditions from around the world and, over time, decide which ones are the most meaningful for you.
Resources for Family Traditions
And, of course, you’ll need a great book.
When I got married, my step mother gave me these first two books and I have always cherished them. The others have come into our family over time and are now great friends:
Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions is a simply lovely book comprised of Victorian based traditions, adapted for the modern family. The book does NOT have a modern feel to it, though, which I love. The information is organized by month, taking you through the year. The book includes beautiful pictures, interesting history regarding holidays and a warm, cozy feel throughout. She also has themed party suggestions and crafts, as well as recipes.
Festivals, Family and Food is another great one, especially for you Waldorf enthusiasts. It’s companion book, The Children’s Year, is a worthy sister. Both are full of crafts and activities that follow the seasons and holidays. The authors are British, which make them an even more charming read for this Anglophile. The Children’s Year has a greater focus on crafts, especially knitting and yarn crafts. The Festivals book includes snippets from literature and recipes. I like both but if I had to pick one, it would be Festivals, Family and Food.
We’ve also enjoyed learning more about Jewish holidays with this book, The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays – lots of stories, recipes and crafts! As Christians, we’ve really improved our Easter celebrations by celebrating Passover. We’ve made several of our holidays more meaningful by observing the yearly Jewish festivals in our own way.
Can you tell I have small children? Kids are like sponges full of Greek fire. They soak up everything and the more you throw on, the bigger their fire gets. They are so willing to be thrilled by all they learn. I’m always so grateful that my best friends are all under ten years old because nothing is ever dull!
Two More Books for Seasonal Fun
Speaking of never dull, there’s a book we enjoy so much we keep it out on an easel and turn the pages from month to month to follow the year. This book is penned and illustrated by one of my all time favorite authors/illustrators/gardeners, Tasha Tudor. Just the title alone is inspiring, A Time to Keep. It follows a grandmother through each month as she tells her granddaughter all the delightful things they did in “the good old days”.
For another specifically seasonal book, geared toward adults but absolutely applicable to children, is this one:
With journal prompts, crafts, recipes and more this book will gently take you through the year.
For a lot more suggested resources, be sure to check out the “Family Times on the Homestead” Section of The Do It Yourself Homestead.
I am also grateful for the family I have and the traditions that root me to them. I am yet more grateful to be surrounded by great books and great mentors so that each day I can improve and strengthen the ties that will bind us no matter what is happening in the world around us. So here’s to the heart of any homestead – the home.
May you make friends with many new and wholesome traditions this year!