Family Traditions Around The Table

Some of the most important traditions our family has occur around our table. Food draws people together and creates an environment of nurturing and comfort. We use our time around the table to socialize our kids (one of our favorite things is to explain our emphasis on table manners by having them imagine visiting a future girlfriend/boyfriend’s family…and they get that!), find out about them, discuss our values and what’s going on in the world, and just to enjoy them and laugh together.

There are three things we do regularly around the table, but the most important is the first one:

1. Eat dinner together every night.
There have been recent studies and news articles on the importance of eating together as a family, but it is sad to me how many people we know do not. Why should we make meeting around the table each night a priority?

  • we will communicate better with our children
  • our kids will make better choices (specifically, choices about drugs, relationships and school)
  • our kids will eat healthier
  • they will have a better academic performance

Yes, there are many things that can interfere with nightly dinners, but we are under no obligation to say “yes” to everything. Making dinner a priority has guided our family’s choices and involvement in things. We view it as a special time and our kids see how important they are to us when we choose not to answer the phone or watch TV during the dinner hour.

The second thing we do as a family is to:

2. Celebrate birthdays with special meals.
Every year the birthday person gets the “you are special” red plate and gets to choose the whole menu, no matter how weird or far-fetched. Captain Crunch cereal? No problem. Dessert first? OK. Actually, though, neither of our kids ever asked for crazy things- and they usually always include a vegetable of some kind!

One other thing became a tradition without planning. Since we have a big family party for our kids that doesn’t usually fall on their actual birthday, but does include a big cake, we didn’t want more cake just a day or two later. I started making a giant chocolate chip cookie which I write on with melted chocolate and add candles. It’s a great change from cake and now we all look forward to it.

The last thing we do regularly around the table is:

3. Have a weekly tea.
This tradition started about 10 years ago for a couple of reasons.

First, I never knew what to do about Sunday evenings. We’d come home from church and eat a “Sunday Dinner” around 1:00 or 2:00 and then everyone would be hungry about 6:00, but I wouldn’t want to cook again and no one really wanted a lot of food. We’d usually snack or make popcorn.

Then I started thinking about the teapots I had been given that I hardly got to use and as well as a collection of tea cups that rarely saw the light of day. Since it wasn’t feasible to have tea everyday as a family, I decided to make Sunday evenings a family tea time.

And it’s really become a cherished tradition in our family, even if some of our kid’s friends think it’s, um…odd.

Sometimes I feel like making traditional tea sandwiches and scones, but most of the time it’s pretty simple fare- a cheese and cracker plate, some meat roll-ups, fruit, muffins and a cookie. I’ve even served popcorn for tea before.

There are no “tea police.”

And my kids have been drinking tea (black only- no fancy flavors for us) with milk and sugar since they were 4 and 7 years old. Admittedly it was more milk in the beginning, but after a few years, they were having just what the adults did. We’ve invited guests to our teas and we’ve taken our teas out-of-doors.

And talk about socialization- they know how to hold little vintage tea cups. I’m sure they can go about anywhere after that.

What traditions does your family do around the table?






  1. says

    Jami- This idea is fantastic! I think I will be poaching it off of you immediately …ahem…..I mean I think I’d like to try that myself :)
    My husband and I are quite involved with our church (worship team, children’s class teachers and small group leaders) and we spend every other Sunday afternoon coming home from church in time to welcome 4-5 families (our small group) for lunch. By the time dinner time rolls around we are not very hungry…more snackish… and this would be a WONDERFUL end to a very full day.
    Thanks so much for sharing. I will be thinking of you and your lovely family this Sunday as we both enjoy tea with our loved ones.

  2. says

    Jami, I think your tea time is wonderful! I love hearing about how people create special memories for their families.

    We do the birthday dinner too… I should start recording them to see how tastes change over time. Enjoy this wonderful sun!

  3. Team Barber-Hallquist says

    I love your blog. Thanks for the Sunday tea idea. My 11 yr old has recently become enamored with hot tea. And I’m always looking for ideas to bring us around the table. What a great vehicle! We’re big Beatles fans, so this will give us one more “English” thing to talk about. Woo-hoo!

  4. The Tidy Brown Wren says

    When our children were young, we started holding hands when saying the blessing. This helped keep little hands out of the food. What we discovered, in the mean time, was that holding hands united us as a family before our Heavenly Father as we thanked Him for our food. Secondly, we always lit a candle centerpiece during dinner. The warm glow of the candles helped make dinner feel special and also seemed to make the children calmer. Of course, after dinner, there was arguing over who got to use the candle snuffer to put the candle out!

  5. says

    Holy cow, I love your Sunday tea idea so much I’m practically bouncing in my seat with excitement! My husband and I love going out for tea whenever we happen to be somewhere that serves a real afternoon tea. It all started back when we were dating and went away together to Ottowa and stayed at the Chateau Laurier. On our honeymoon in Disney World we had tea at the Grand Floridian, and brought my whole family there for tea during our trip last November. When I was pregnant with my daughter (and didn’t know she was a girl until she was born) I daydreamed about having a daughter to have tea parties with. Anyway, we are tea people and I’m so excited to borrow this tradition and make it our own. Thanks so much! I just found your blog yesterday through a friend and have spent most of yesterday and today reading it and I find you so inspiring that I’m making all kinds of plans. Thanks again :)

  6. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

    Melody and Dominica- I’m so glad this is something you guys will be doing! We have loved it and our extended families all have been to our teas at one time or another, so it’s fun to share.

    Thanks, Dominica, too, for sharing your tea story- what great memories! I’m so glad you are enjoying the blog- I love to hear that people are inspired ’cause that’s what I’m aiming for. :-)

  7. Mamabear says

    For many years a family tradition designed to subdue my childrens longing to have pop and chips was to designate Fridays as Friday night Pizza Night. I would make homemade pizza with whole wheat flour and we’d all get chips and pop to drink. The kids always looked forward to this and sometimes helped make the pizza as they got older.

    When my oldest two were in their teens and my husband & I were out with some friends, the boys called me wanting permission to order pizza. I told them they should make it themselves and reminded them how to make the dough. From that point on they made pizza most fridays and became proud of that skill.

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