Our Top Five Yearly Family Traditions

While traditions around the table and activities done weekly will be remembered as a whole, the things we do as a family, and many times extended family, only once a year are remembered in a much different light. Maybe because they are usually out of the realm of every-day life.

These yearly activities are anticipated all year long and if something happens to get in the way of it, oh, do we hear about it.

For a long time. So don’t mess with these.

1. The BIG Birthday Party.
This one actually occurs twice a year since we have two kids, but it’s yearly for each of them as it’s their birthday parties. While they get the special attention around the table on the actual day of their birthday, we also have a big party for them on the Saturday or Sunday closest to their birthday.

We invite all our family, and bless their hearts, they have traveled almost yearly to both the parties. We feed them (usually a full meal, but sometimes just finger foods), and we have cake, ice cream, and presents. That’s it. No elaborate games and just simple decorations. It’s special and sweet and we get time to visit with family we don’t always get to see while celebrating the birthday person.

Our kids have occasionally gotten a kid party, but it’s usually low-key and mostly at home, or a sleepover with a movie and snacks. I’ve just never gotten into the big parties at the places that charge a lot to go there. My kids are OK with this- I don’t know how our generation got to the point where over-blown parties are the norm, and I don’t like the message they send.

So remember: parties= simple, frugal, & fun.

2. Camp Mil-Mar.
Mil-Mar is the name of the lake house Brian’s folks own that was built by his grandfather. We spend time there every summer, but what all the kids look forward to is the camp Brian’s mom started about eight or nine years ago.

It runs for five days and she plans months in advance. There is usually a biography to read and a movie to go along with it (often a missionary or similar hero like Eric Liddell/Chariots of Fire), crafts to do, and journals to write in. They have water sports and most of them have learned to water ski now. They even had their own olympics the last year the summer olympics were held.

A few years ago at Christmas, she gave each grandchild a photo album of Camp Mil-Mar and adds to it each year.

I can’t tell you how many memories and “super-fun” cousin time has occurred at Camp Mil-Mar, but Brian and I are certainly grateful for this wonderful tradition that she started for our kids.

3. Family Snow Trip.
Each year for more than 10 years my side of the family has met in the nearby mountains, rented a cabin, and skied, snow-shoed, and sledded our way through a weekend. Some years it’s the only time we get to spend some time in the snow.

When we’re not in the snow, we play games, eat the treats people have made and hang out together with nothing else to do but enjoy each other.

4. Road Trips in our Little Trailer.
This is about the only way we’ve gotten to see some of our great state. One year we started at Crater Lake and made our way south before heading back north. Another time we visited the northeast corner of the state. We’ve taken our trailer to Ashland to see some Shakespeare plays and we’ve gone to Central Oregon and showed the kids one of my favorite lakes when I was little, Cultus Lake (you can walk out for miles-it seems!- before it gets deep).

5. School Traditions.
We’ve taken pictures of the kids at the door on their first day of school every year right before getting on the bus. Brian (teasingly) asked our son about taking a picture the first day of college classes this year.

Surprisingly he declined.

We also go out for ice cream for good report cards, and we have a rare night out to eat to celebrate the end of a good school year. I really feel like these rituals also serve to show our kids how important school is by celebrating and emphasizing their accomplishments.

So, what are some of YOUR yearly traditions? Are ours pretty similar?






  1. Kristin says

    My kids hate the first day of school picture tradition. That is until my daughter texted me from her first day of college to tell me how sad it was not to have anybody there who cared enough to take her picture or send her off with a smoothie or a yummy coffee drink. Funny how it changes!

  2. says

    I agree on the small birthday’s. Growing up we only had small birthday celebrations. One or two friends, pizza and a movie or mini-golf followed by a sleep over.

    I have yet to creat my own family traditions. That will come with child #1 :) But some that my family had that I intend on continuing are

    1. Summer family camping trip. These are where I learned the art of dutch oven and cast iron cooking.

    2. The first good cold rain in the fall we would bundle up with dad and go walking with muddy boots for deer watching. Mom would have popcorn and hot chocolate waiting for us.

    That’s all I can think of right now… :)

  3. says

    1. Oh yes, first day of school photos plus the last day of senior year–I love to see how they’ve grown and changed (and someday so will they)!

    2. We cut our Christmas tree every year. Hot cocoa and a snowball fight is part of the fun.

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