Creating Family Traditions

Creating Family Traditions—A Gift Of Roots And Belonging

The most important parenting lesson I have learned really came from my own parents. I did not appreciate this lesson until I was much older and began having a family of my own. Rather, it happened almost like osmosis—because family traditions were important in my growing-up family, I wanted to make special traditions important in my home as well.

My best memories are of those family traditions that became an integral part of our lives at different times of the year. Every year in the spring and in the fall we would take an “exploring” trip to some rural part of Iowa. Each of us got to choose a friend to bring along, and we all crammed into our Ford station wagon, usually 8 children and 2 adults. There were no seat belt laws in those days! My mother would pack a huge lunch, and while she and Dad hunted for bittersweet in the fall and wild flowers in the spring, we kids would look for caves, Indian mounds, hidden treasures, and play many games of hide and seek and cowboy and Indian. Several years after I had gone to college, it occurred to me how popular the Bauerle children always became at those times of the year!

Another family tradition my mother began was “Come As You Are Parties.” These were always on a Saturday morning and usually quite spontaneous even for us. On Friday night my mother would ask one of us if we would like a “Come As You Are” party the next day. Of course, we were always delighted—even when we were in high school. She would wake the party-giver very early in the morning, and she would drive us to each of our friend’s homes. We would wake them up, and they had to come just as they were; hence, the party name. As we picked someone up, they would join in the waking process, and sometimes we would have as many as 12 people in the car at the end! It was fun to see how friends would react—some were grumpy, others were horrified if they had on scruffy pajamas or their hair was messy, and others eagerly anticipated what lay ahead—my Mom’s homemade doughnuts! We would all gather on the sundeck of our back porch, take pictures, giggle a lot, and then my Mom would serve hot, fresh, homemade doughnuts, orange juice, and lots of fresh fruit. In older years, the word would spread, and all the guys our age would “crash” the party to have a look at their girlfriends in their “natural” state. My friends still talk about those parties 35 years later!

We had many holiday traditions, but the one we all love the most dated to a very difficult time in our family. When we were all quite young, my mother was in the hospital with pneumonia at Christmas. The doctors let her come home on Christmas Eve just for a few hours while we opened presents. My brother Brian was about 7 years old at the time, and he decided that his present to my mother would be to make Christmas Eve dinner. In those days the only pizzas we had in Iowa were Chef Boyardee pizzas that came in a box. You had to mix the dough, let it rise, and then add the sauce and cheese. (Thinking back, they left a LOT to be desired!) Anyway, Brian decided to make the occasion even more festive by adding his special touch—he made the dough of one pizza green and the other red. You can imagine what those pizzas looked like cooked. It almost sent my mother back to the hospital! However, to this day we always have red and green pizza on Christmas Eve.

Because these traditions created such a sense of belonging and roots (no one else did exactly what we did) as well as precious memories, I decided to start many traditions in our home. I would like to share some of my favorite ones from my book CARE Packages for the Home—Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit Where You Live. I hope they will trigger ideas of traditions you can start in your own families.

Make a Thanksgiving Tree


It doesn’t just have to be the month of Thanksgiving that we share our gratitude and appreciation for blessings in our lives. One of the ways to keep “an attitude of gratitude” in our homes is to make a Thanksgiving treee.


Many years ago I created a Thanksgiving tree for our home. I took a large manzanita branch, sprayed it gold, and secured it in a base of plaster of Paris. Beside it I kept a basket of small plain cards with holes punched in them, another basket of pieces of colored yarn, and a pen. The tradition in our family is that the month before Thanksgiving, the tree is placed on a table in our living room, and each family member writes down things for which he or she is thankful and hangs them on the tree. We also encourage guests in our home to participate. At the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day we read the cards from the tree as an affirmation of our blessings. Then we save the cards from the year before, and we read those as well. It is a wonderful way to remind us of all the goodness in our lives and reinforces the importance of sharing our appreciation.


This could be used year round in a family to focus on the good things happening each day. We found that guests in our home for the month of Thanksgiving would almost always take time to read at least some of the cards on the tree. Many from the children brought smiles to their faces and added a special sunshine to their day. We still laugh about one card from my daughter Erin when they were studying the pilgrims in first grade. She printed, “I’m glad I don’t have to kill the turkey before I eat it!” If the tree is kept up all year long, it will be important to remove the cards on a regular basis to make room for others and to encourage continual appreciation.

Write Thank You Notes


One of the ways to show appreciation and respect is to teach everyone in the family the importance of writing thank you notes. Even if you have told the person “thank you” verbally, a note affirms the time and effort that person spent in doing something special for you–and it only takes a few minutes of your time.


When our children were growing up, one of the “non-negotiables” in our home was the practice of writing thank you notes. The children could open their gifts, but they did not become “theirs” until they had written a thank you note to the giver. When they were very small, they would tell me what to write or write a “pretend” scribbled message or draw a picture. As they got older, I always made sure they had special stationery they liked, so that they could be proud of the notes they wrote. Sometimes, they would write poems or send photographs; but most importantly, they learned the value early on of what those notes meant to people. And, to this day, my children all write thank you notes–even without my nagging!


Over and over again I read letters in Dear Abby and Ann Landers about the thoughtlessness of people who don’t even respond to wedding gifts. The art of graciousness is slowly being lost in our society because of time pressures and technology which doesn’t encourage letter writing. If we want our children to grow up to be grateful people, I believe we must teach them this, make it a family tradition–and then model it ourselves. One of the best ways is to write short thank you notes whenever anyone goes out of their way to remember us.

Every Family Needs a “Red Plate”


For many years the “Red Plate” has been our favorite family tradition. It is just that–a bright red plate with white hand painted lettering along the edge that reads, “YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY.” It came with the following explanation:

The Red Plate is the perfect way to acknowledge a family member’s special triumphs, to celebrate a birthday or praise a job well done, reward a goal achieved, or simply to say, “YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY.” When the Red Plate is used, any meal becomes a celebration honoring a special person, event, or deed. It is a visible reminder of love and esteem. The Red Plate — make it a tradition in your family, symbolizing the good and happy times. It will speak volumes of love when words just aren’t enough.”


The “Red Plate” is one of the best ways we have found to bring joy, affirmation, and encouragement to different members of our family and friends. Whenever we have a guest for dinner, he or she gets the “Red Plate.” Whenever there is a special occasion–from birthdays, the first night home after being at camp or college, finishing a hard project or getting a good grade on a test, that person gets the “Red Plate.” (I have even heard of families who bring it with them to a restaurant when they are having a surprise party for someone!)

However, the most important use for our Red Plate, I think, has been for the hard times, those times when someone has worked and worked to get a part in a play or make a team or win an election, and they have been disappointed. Someone in the family always makes sure they get the “Red Plate” that day as a symbol that they are still special, no matter what has happened.

One of my favorite stories about the Red Plate was at a time when our daughter Erin had just gotten home from the hospital and could not return to school for a few more days. She called me at work one of those mornings to tell me she had folded some clothes for me. I said, “Oh, Honey, thank you. That was really nice. Why don’t you have the Red Plate for lunch?” She responded, “Oh, Mom, can I?” The Red Plate is always there in the cupboard, but you can see the special significance it has for our family. I now always give it as a shower or wedding gift to special young couples who are starting their own family traditions.

Several years ago I gave the Red Plate to the Robert Freeman family of Lansing, Michigan, and they have found a very special use for it. Since their children are all grown and live all around the country, they sometimes are only all together at Christmas. They started a tradition that each year at Christmas the family votes on who has accomplished or grown the most during the past year, and that person is rewarded by getting to take the Red Plate to their home to use for the next year. Robert related the decision process to me for 1998. He said each of his children had a wonderful year–Jamille is going to teach in Japan for the coming year, Cynthia moved from Iowa to Texas, and Chevelle also moved and got a huge promotion. (Robert says he doesn’t say much but just runs the meeting.) The final decision was that all those things were wonderful but sort of “run of the mill” for the girls. The person who really deserved the Red Plate was Dion because he finished his Bachelor’s Degree, the greatest accomplishment of all!


The “Red Plate” can be purchased at many Hallmark and gift stores or ordered from Barbara Glanz Communications, Inc. You can also simply make or buy your own version of a “red plate.” It is a fun and visible way to create a new family tradition and to show support, encouragement, and love. Legends grow up around who got the “Red Plate” and why, and you can even write on the back of the plate with a permanent marker the different times you have used it. Over the years the “Red Plate” has been the bearer of many deposits in family members’ emotional bank accounts!

Have Fun Family Dinners


When researchers have studied why some people are more successful in life than others, the only variable they could find consistently that differentiated the successful group from the not-so-successful group was that those who were successful had eaten dinner together as a family growing up. And that was not with the TV on! I am reading more and more about the importance of traditional family dinners at least several times a week. In fact, the superintendent of our high school shared that the best predictor of a child’s high school performance depends upon whether the family eats dinner together.

At the American Psychological Association meeting in Chicago in August of 1997, Bowden and Zeisz presented a paper about the behavior of 527 adolescents as it related to family meals. They found well-adjusted teens (12 to 18 years) ate meals with an adult member of the family 5.389 days per week, on average. The “non-adjusted” teens–evaluated for substance abuse, depression, academic motivation, and peer relationships–shared similar meals only 3.344 days per week. In 1994 a Reader’s Digest survey revealed that students who ate at least four meals a week with their families scored higher on academic tests than kids with three family meals or less per week. The same project showed more frequent family meals strongly correlated with self-esteem among girls. A 1996 study by Bruskin-Goldring Research found 42% of 1000 Americans surveyed eat dinner with their families every night and 59% make it a habit at least five days a week. That leaves 40% who do not eat together.


One or my best memories growing up was the many hours we spent around the dining room table, laughing, discussing, and sometimes even arguing! When I had my first child, I decided that eating dinner together would be an important tradition in our family. Almost every night we had dinner as a family until the children were in later years of high school and had jobs and activities that interfered with mealtime. Then we insisted that at least 3 or 4 nights a week we were all together. We still begin each meal by holding hands and someone (we take turns) saying a blessing.

When the children were younger, we often played our own special family games during the meal. One of our favorites was “Name Three Things.” Each person got a turn to ask each other person to “Name Three Things.” Then the turn rotated to the next person. Mom and Dad would ask things appropriate to the children’s ages that involved some thinking or sometimes even learning: “Name three states that begin with ‘A’. Name three kinds of dogs. Name three pitchers in the American League. Name three composers you like. Name three vegetables. Name three words that are onomatopoeias. Name three islands. Name three birds that can’t fly.”

The kids would often ask each other silly things like: “Name three girls that Garrett likes. Name three foods that are gross. Name three of our friend’s dogs. Name three puppets on Sesame Street. Name three things that make Mom mad.”

Another favorite when they were smaller was “Take a Bite.” Each person got a turn to tell everyone else what they should take a bite of. Then if you didn’t take a bite of that thing, you lost your turn the next time around. Of course, the parents always said the vegetables, and the kids chose dessert, bread, and milk!

You might also have “theme” dinners where you try different kinds of food and perhaps even dress in costumes. One of our favorites was to have a “grown-up” dinner several times a year where we ate in the formal dining room, used the good dishes and cloth napkins, and had special grown-up food like artichokes and stroganoff. We have decided recently, however, that perhaps we have given our children too good taste. When they choose an Italian restaurant over McDonald’s too often, it can be hard on the budget!

The Jeff Blackman family plays some fun games at the dinner table. One of them is “I’m thinking of . . . ” Each person takes a turn and adds a new clue until someone finally guesses the right answer:

  • I’m thinking of somebody with orange hair.
  • I’m thinking of somebody who wears big shoes.
  • I’m thinking of somebody who plays the Grand Prize Game.
    (You’re right–it’s BOZO!)

They also play a version of “I spy,” again adding a new clue until someone guesses right:

  • I see a light.
  • I see a light with numbers.
  • I see a light with numbers in a circle.
    (I SPY! It’s the clock on the stove.)

Another mother tells of a game her family plays after dinner called “What’s Missing?” To play, pick three to eight food items you have in your kitchen. Line them up on the kitchen table. Have one person study the foods carefully and name all the foods. Then, have that person turn around and close his or her eyes. Take one food away and rearrange the remaining ones. The player opens his or her eyes, turns around, and scans the food. Then they try to tell what’s missing. Play until all have had a turn. Afterwards, have some ice cream!

Barbara Swift says her children loved family times of remembering and storytelling about things they had done, especially when they were young. Over dinner many times she asked them for memories of special times. Sometimes she told a story about a memory of her own to get the conversation started.

In his book The Intentional Family (Addison-Wesley 1997), William J. Doherty suggests three ingredients for success–to promote togetherness and identity as a unit:

Transition phase: There needs to be a distinct movement from everyday matters into “ritual space.” It might be dimming lights, lighting candles, playing soft music, setting the table away from a messy kitchen counter, or saying a blessing.

Enactment phase: Eating and talking can be pleasurable if parents aren’t using the meal as a disciplinary session. He cautions against going too far with stern talk about nutrition. One suggestion: Each family member tries everything on his or her plate but doesn’t have to finish any item (no impolite remarks to the cook). Set an exact time for dinner even if it changes on a daily basis.

Exit phase: Some families don’t allow any children to leave until everyone is finished. Others allow family members to drift off at will. There is usually a happy medium. What you want to avoid is ending the meal on a sour note. As for the food, Doherty said even takeout meals on paper plates can provide the makings of a healthful ritual. “You can still set the table, acknowledge you are happy to be together, and participate in good conversation.”


It is of the utmost importance that you make mealtimes together pleasant. Make a pact that there will be no arguments, criticism, or put-downs allowed. One family even put a sign above their table that said, “Neutral Zone.” Some of our happiest and most fun family times have been sitting around the dinner table!

Plan Theme Birthday Parties


One of the wonderful, creative traditions you can give your children is to plan birthday parties with a theme. My mother taught me the value of this tradition by planning parties that I will never forget. I do not remember any of the gifts I received, but I remember each of those special parties and the feeling of excitement as my birthday approached, wondering what the theme would be this year. The more creative you are, the better. Your children (and their friends) will never forget your efforts.


When our children were young, our budget was tight; however, I decided that one of the things I could do that was special for them was to create unique, theme birthday parties, different from the ones everyone else had. I didn’t spend much money, but I used lots of imagination and their interests at the time. Here are some of the favorite birthday parties we had:

  • A “Barbie” party. When Gretchen was really into Barbies, we planned this party. Each little girl was asked to bring her favorite Barbie doll in her best outfit. Then we had a Barbie fashion show with each little girl telling about her doll’s outfit. The cake was a rounded cake I baked in a metal mixing bowl, and when it was placed upside down and a Barbie doll stuck up to her waist in it, it looked like a Barbie in a large hoop skirt. I decorated it and the top of the doll with pink frosting for the dress and then added flowers for trim. We played several Barbie games, and each little girl received a handmade Barbie outfit for her doll as a favor.
  • A Mother Goose Party. This party was for Erin’s fifth birthday when she was in kindergarten. Each child was asked to come dressed as his or her favorite nursery rhyme. Then we had a parade and everyone guessed what rhyme each child represented. Shortly into the party, the doorbell rang, and we had the arrival of a special guest–Mother Goose herself! (This was a high school baby-sitter who was in theatre and volunteered for the part.) The children were delighted. Mother Goose then played several theme games with them and read them nursery rhymes. The cake was “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.” Using several different loaf pans, I created a large shoe, decorated it with frosting and red licorice for shoe laces and then populated it with wooden Fisher-Price people. Favors were tapes of Mother Goose rhymes.
  • A Monster Party. Each child was asked to come dressed as a monster of some kind. Garrett was Count Dracula. We decorated the basement with all kinds of spider webs, bats hanging from the ceiling, and various masks stuffed and put on poles. The cake was a sheet cake with spider webs made from red and black string licorice covered with black plastic bugs and spiders. We played monster games, danced the “Monster Mash”, watched the movie “Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy,” and the favors were various monster things such as fake blood, a rubber finger, ghoulish masks, and other body parts.
  • A Pirate Party. The boys were asked to dress in pirate gear while Garrett was Captain Hook. The cake was a treasure chest filled with gold coin candy and gumdrops strung as necklaces. Favors were gifts from Disney World’s “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and all the paper goods had skulls and crossbones on them. We watched the movie “Treasure Island.”
  • A Shopping Mall Party. This was Erin’s party when she was twelve and really into shopping. We gathered all the girls into three vans and drove to an indoor mall where we played three games. One was a hunt for the five adults who had come along. Each adult stationed themselves in a part of one of the stores (it is a large mall!) while the girls stayed in one spot in the center. They then had 30 minutes in teams to try to find all the adults and get each of their signatures. Next we gave them each $2.00. They had 30 minutes to see how much they could buy with it and then come back and show the group. The “winner” was the one who got the most for their money. Last we had a scavenger hunt in teams. We gave the girls a list, and they had to ask in the stores for certain items. Then we came back to our house and had cake and ice cream. The cake was in the shape of a shopping bag, and their favor was the book Secrets of the Shopping Mall and a bag of chocolate gold coin money “wrapped” in — a shopping bag!
  • A Magic Party. Garrett practiced his magic tricks for this party! The cake was a top hat with a white chocolate rabbit coming out of the top of the hat. (I had a little trouble with this one and had to have several soup cans to hold the brim of the hat up!) Each of the guests got his or her own magic trick, and then they had to perform it for the whole group.
  • A Japanese Party. When Gretchen was ten, she was really interested in anything Japanese. We had a Japanese girl who was staying with us for a short time, and she helped plan the party and taught them several Japanese games and how to say a few words in Japanese. We had tea, rice rolls wrapped in nori, Japanese cookies and candy, and ate sitting on the floor with chopsticks. We decorated with Japanese lanterns, Gretchen wore a kimono, and the children received Japanese fans for favors.
  • A “Boring” Party. When our son Garrett was going to be 16, he and his friends always found everything “boring,” so I decided to have an unusual surprise birthday party for him. The invitations to his friends read, “IF YOU WANT TO BE BORED, COME TO GARRETT’S SURPRISE PARTY. PLEASE DRESS IN YOUR MOST BORING CLOTHES. WE GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL HAVE AN EXTREMELY BORING NIGHT!” As the 50+ guests from his school and youth group arrived, I gave them each a box of crayons and paper and asked them to draw a picture for Garrett while we waited for him to come home from work. After the “surprise,” I served them their “boring” dinner–American cheese sandwiches on white bread with no mustard or mayonnaise, unsalted potato chips, and milk. The “boring” dessert was plain white cake with plain white frosting and plain vanilla ice cream.They then went to the family room for their “boring” entertainment. I rented two silly, boring movies–“The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” and a documentary called “Those Hairy Apes.” Afterwards in each room I had set up children’s games such as Twister, Monopoly, Chinese Checkers, Clue, Candyland, and Chutes and Ladders. As a final “boring” activity, I got out all Garrett’s childhood photo albums, scrapbooks, and baby book for them to look at, and we showed home movies of “Garrett Growing Up.” Many of the kids stayed until 2:00 am, and they talked about the “Boring” Party for years!

In her book Shelter for the Spirit Victoria Moran tells of one of their best celebrations–an impromptu birthday party for Mozart:

Rachael was eight and quite taken with the thought of someone her age composing, so on the draggy winter afternoon–January 27, to be exact–that the newspaper told us was his birthday, we played Mozart tapes and baked a sheet cake. There was some half-used cake decorating gel left over from the birthday of someone still living, so we used it to regale Wolfgang’s cake in quarter notes and sharps and flats. Then we rented the film Amadeus. A week later I overheard Rachael asking one of her friends what he had done for Mozart’s birthday. Holidays are in the home of the beholder. We now do Mozart’s birthday every year.

When Ryan LaCombe of Gainesville, Florida, was two, his aunt Rita planned “Ryan’s Rainbow Parade” to celebrate his birthday. He picked his favorite color of the rainbow which was red and dressed in it. Then each of his cousins dressed in one of the other rainbow colors. Aunt Rita made them each a flag of their rainbow color to carry as they rode their big wheels and trikes and bikes in the parade. She also created huge cardboard number “2’s” which she hung from the branches of the trees in the park to guide the parade to where the party would be held. Ryan’s cake was a drum with chopsticks for drum sticks to go with the parade theme. What a special idea for a young child’s celebration!


It is important that the theme of the party be something appropriate for your child’s age and his or her interests. I would ask my children what kind of party they wanted, and then our creative juices would start going. Several times when I was really swamped, we took the children special places for their parties–to an ice skating rink, to McDonald’s, and to Second City Theatre. But the best parties of all were the theme parties. Both my children and their friends (and their friend’s mothers) still remember some of those parties!

Start Birthday Traditions in your Family


One of the best kinds of tradition to start in your family is something that revolves around birthdays. Since most of us celebrate birthdays anyway, beginning a tradition tied to them is easier than starting a whole new tradition.


Tracey Wolski tells of a family birthday tradition started by her mother Maureen Frost of Villa Park, Illinois. Birthdays are very important in the Frost family. Whenever anyone has a birthday, at the beginning of the present opening, the birthday person gets a “Bombardment Gift” from each member of the family. Tracey told about some of the “Bombardment Gifts” that had been received:

  • Her husband loves a certain kind of hair gel, so on his last birthday everyone gave him a bottle of it. Now that he has 10 bottles, his hair will look wonderful forever!
  • On Tracey’s birthday she received all different kinds of spoons. The last time her mother had visited her home for a party she was nearly out of serving spoons.
  • Her son, in Tracey’s words, is a “super sucker fanatic”, so on his birthday everyone got him some kind of a sucker. He has enough to have a sucker every day for weeks (and Tracey has to pay the dental bills!)
  • Her 26 year old brother told them he wanted toys for his birthday, so his bombardment gift was a matchbox car from everyone.
  • They got her sister rolls of film because she always takes thousands of pictures.
  • Tracey’s Mom got all kinds of knee high nylons, which she needed, and Tracey said that several other members of the family had also gotten socks.

Usually Maureen, the Mom, decides what the bombardment gift will be; however, when it is her birthday, Tracey gets to choose the gift. She says it is one of their most treasured family traditions and makes birthdays even more fun.

Barbara Swift of Western Springs, Illinois, tells of a favorite birthday tradition in their family:

On birthdays all four children piled into our bed in the morning and opened birthday gifts that were piled in the chair in our bedroom. The pile of gifts was always covered with the same old bathrobe. I still have the bathrobe. I can’t part with it even though I never wear it. Mothers have happy memories, too!

Rosemary Meyer is the mother of five children, and it was very difficult for her to plan a birthday party with all five of them needing her, so her mother Anna Delfs began a birthday tradition that lasted throughout her children’s growing up years. Whenever one of them had a birthday, the Grandma came over very early in the morning and took all the children to her house. She brought their party clothes and then planned a special day for them while Rosemary got everything ready for the party.

First, she took the birthday person out to get a new outfit and then they did a special craft project. She gave the children all kinds of old magazines and construction paper. Each of them cut pictures out of the magazines they liked and pasted them on the bright colored paper. Then they punched holes in the construction paper and tied it with yarn to make special scrapbooks. Later Grandma would get them all ready in their party clothes, and when they came home, everything for the party would be ready. So, everyone had a good day–the children had a special day with their Grandmother, and Rosemary had all day alone to plan the party!

Karen Sivert shared how her mother always baked a personalized, beautifully decorated birthday cake for each of her six children each year with “Happy Birthday” and their name on it. Karen says, “We felt so special. I don’t remember what the gifts were–but I sure remember the cakes!”


Have your children think of something special and fun that you might do in your family for birthdays. Perhaps the birthday person wears a special crown that is passed around, or maybe they get to stay up as late as they want on their special day, or perhaps they get to choose all the meals for their whole birthday week.

Let your Values Show


It is important to have roots and clear values as a family. Does your home show what is important to you?


I wanted our children to know what we stand for as a family and to experience that every day in their surroundings. It is also important to me that guests in our home know what our values are. On the molding next to our front door, I have nailed a mezuzah which reads “Peace to all who enter here.” On the back door is a plaque that says, ” As for me and my house, we will honor the Lord.”

Hanging in our entryway are three beautifully framed pieces. One is a handmade cross stitch given to me by a dear friend, “A house is made of brick and stone. A home is made of love alone.” Another has an etching of John 3:16. The third is a beautiful painting that reads, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”

In the kitchen is a framed copy of “Children Learn What They Live” as well as a little boy’s blessing: “Thank you, God, for a hundred things: The flower that blooms; the bird that sings; the sun that shines; the rain that drops; ice cream and gum and lollipops!” And in the hallway to the family room is the children’s favorite, “The Mean Mother”! Throughout our home are family pictures, and the upstairs hall has framed copies of the front page of the Chicago Tribune, my husband’s place of employment for 30 years, on the birth day of each of our children.

Even my office sends special messages. I have a framed picture of Mother Teresa above my computer and a poster above my desk from a special artist friend that says, “Kindness is Contagious. Catch it!” The rest of the walls are covered with huge collages that my daughter made as a gift for me which contain dozens of cards, notes, letters, and pictures of people who have been in my sessions.


What have you learned about our family as I’ve taken you on a mental tour of our home? What does your home say about your family? Do your surroundings reinforce the values that you hold dear as a family? I especially treasure handmade gifts because the giver is giving you a bit of his or her spirit. A home filled with spirit makes every guest feel welcome. For Christmas this year my daughter gave me a handmade ceramic plaque that reads, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2.”

All of these family traditions not only bring your family closer for the moment, but they also differentiate your family from other families, and they create a deep sense of belonging and roots. In the business world today we are hearing a lot about “the brand called you”, and I think this “branding” is vitally important for families, too. Children need to know that they belong to a very special group, and the familiarity of traditions gives security and stability in an otherwise rapidly changing world. Don’t be discouraged if your family members gripe about some of the traditions. Just stand firm in your conviction. I will never forget a phone call from our youngest daughter her freshman year of college. She and her floormates had been having discussions about growing up. She called me to thank me for all the traditions and memories I had created for them. She said, “You know, Mom, I always thought EVERY family did all these things. My friends here can’t believe how lucky we were—they just keep wanting me to tell them more.” Have fun creating your own family traditions. They will live on for generations to come!

© Barbara Glanz Communications. All Rights Reserved.

Barbara Glanz Biography

A member of the prestigious Speaker Hall of Fame and one of fewer than 700 Certified Speaking Professionals worldwide, Barbara Glanz, CSP, CPAE, works with organizations to improve morale, retention and service and with people who want to rediscover the joy in their work and in their lives. She is the first speaker on record to have spoken on all 7 continents and in all 50 states. Known as "the business speaker who speaks to your heart as well as to your head," Barbara is the author of twelve books including The Simple Truths of Service Inspired by Johnny the Bagger®, CARE Packages for the Workplace, and 180 Ways to Spread Contagious Enthusiasm™. Voted "best keynote presenter you have heard or used" by Meetings & Conventions Magazine, Barbara uses her Master’s degree in Adult Learning to design programs that cause behavior change. She lives and breathes her personal motto: “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™” and can be reached at and

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