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Traditions: we’ve all got ‘em. They might be family dinners on special occasions, or having a particular kind of cake on your birthday, or popcorn at the movies, or meeting your friend for a 5k run in the park, rain or shine, every Sunday morning. What are your favorite traditions, large and small? What is it about your traditions that keep them going strong for you?

Our most significant family tradition when the kids were growing was having dinner together every night. Everyone knew they were expected at dinner, and the seating arrangement never changed. Our shared meals were generally pleasant, but also an important chance to sit down with everyone every day and “check in” with how they were doing. To leave the dinner table a “May I be excused” was expected.

I wouldn’t have classified this as a tradition many years ago; I just thought it was what people did. Then, no doubt at dinner, my kids shared how many of their friends were amazed that we had dinner together every night. Some of them were wolfing down a burger in the car while going to some practice, or throwing a pizza in the microwave to eat. Even then, family dinners were becoming less common.

Many of my home-making practices come from my grandparents who were very traditional, and meals together was a given. The two of them even sat down together to have lunch every day, and I with them when I visited often. In this day when each of the members of a family are so busy and see less of each other than they did a generation or two ago, being together a mere half hour a day is even more important, no matter what the dinner is.

Another tradition I carried over from my grandmother was having dessert for dinner every night. She was an exceptional pie baker. I am not, but we still have always had a dessert, even if it’s just a neat ice cream. I’m better at cakes, and bake them all from scratch; it’s actually easier than using mixes once you’ve put together the basic ingredients that you need for baking. Homemade brownies are as easy to make as they are from a box.

Every year we go to Britain where my husband was born and raised. A tradition that died with the kids’ grandparents, was having dinners at their house in North Wales, with all the children and grandchildren having a “sing-a-long” after the dishes were washed up and put away and the wine and beer came out. My husband is one of five children, and growing up they all learned to play instruments — most of them guitar, though one plays the banjo equally well, and the only daughter, the flute and piano. Never mind, that the same songs were always sung  — everyone joined in, and little stories might have popped up now and then to punctuate the significance of a song. In the summertime, when the days were long, there was often also be a cricket game on their generous back lawn, with all playing, no matter how young or old. Even Americans.

The second part of the British family tradition when the cousins on both sides of the Atlantic were still in school/high school, was going up to St. Andrews in Scotland, staying in a house we have there, and having all sorts of fun at the beach, visiting castles and cathedrals (real or ruined), driving up to Inverness via Loch Ness, riding ski lifts in the summer, playing board games and using their imaginations to create their own fun. The tradition is on hold as all the kids have grown and gone their separate ways with kids and careers, but we’ve decided it would be cool to have a reunion there in the summer of 2015 — a second generation may come to love St. Andrews, too.

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