What’s your most cherished family tradition? We have one that has never seemed out-of-the-ordinary to me, but every time one of us mentions it to someone outside of our family, we are met with a mixture of shocked disbelief and a kind of wistfulness.
We have “family night” once a week at my sister’s house. There are about 15 of us – grandparents, cousins, aunts, siblings – who show up once a week for dinner. I’m in charge of dessert, my cousin is in charge of drinks (which includes a gallon of Chick-fil-A tea), and my mom and sister typically prepare the main dish, though sometimes we do pot-luck.
We’ve been doing this for over 23 years – since Brian and I got married. We turn down nearly all other invitations and commitments for our weekly family dinner. Occasionally someone may miss a night because they have to work or there is an event going on at someone’s school. Sometimes, we have had to cancel due to sickness or icy roads, but other than that we’re typically there for dinner every week.
The tradition started shortly after Brian and I got married. I taught a class of Kindergarten kids at church on Wednesday nights and I would swing by my parents’ house on the way to pick up my sister for youth group. Brian was working 2nd shift at the time, so after a few weeks, my mom suggested that I come early and have dinner with them.
Once Brian got on 1st shift, he started coming with me. Then, Brianna was born, so we added one more. Then, my aunt moved in with my parents for awhile, so we added another spot at the table. Since my aunt was there, her boys started coming for dinner, too. People got married and more babies were born, and we kept adding more places at the family table.
When my step-dad came home from the hospital in early January 2001, we knew his battle with cancer was nearing its end. He wanted to have family night every night until he passed. So, we did. We had to add a few more spots at the table for his kids who came from out of town to stay and spend those last two weeks with my step-dad.
I cherish our weekly family nights. My kids are close to cousins that they might otherwise see only at holidays. I consider my cousin’s (one of two who is like a brother to me) wife another sister. I know I wouldn’t be as close to her if I only saw her only holidays.
We have inside family jokes that were born at family night dinners. We’ll save stories from our weeks to share at family night dinner. We have all been known to say some version of, “Oh, that’s going to be a family night story.”
In a society that has become increasingly disconnected, I treasure our family night dinners. I understand why other people respond the way they do.
“You have dinner with your family every week?”
“There are 15 people at your house for dinner?”
Those statements are often followed by, “I wish our family did that.”
I’m so thankful that ours does.
What’s your most cherished family tradition?