Cheryl St.John: Family Traditions

The story I’m working on right now has a thirteen year old girl named Jane, who grew up in a foundling home and foster homes. In one scene, my main character, Ruby is reading Jane Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates. She explains about how she’d read that the author had never been to the Netherlands, but had learned all about customs and traditions of the country from a neighbor.

Jane has no concept of cultural or family traditions, which got me to thinking how many things we take for granted. Families are one thing we accept as part of our everyday normal lives, until we see someone without one–or someone living far from their family. We have a friend who is in America to go to school and work and his entire family is in Africa. Because he’s working toward a better future, he hasn’t seen his children or is wife for a long time.

Most of us have traditions, like decorating the Christmas tree together, movie and pizza on Friday night, a specific birthday cake, fishing on the Fourth of July. Families who have rituals have the strongest ties, because of the sense of continuity and memory building.

In 2000 the University of Wyoming shared 5 reasons to celebrate family life. By understanding these reasons, we can increase our efforts and realize the importance of daily life within our family.

1) Time to relate or communicate with one another. Caring, problem solving, balancing individual and together time are also part of this time to understand one another’s needs, goals and challenges in life. Help in adapting to new stages of development, crisis or the flow of events.

2) Things like learning a new hobby, caring for a family member, planning a weekly schedule together, learning a new skill like meal preparation or grocery shopping, or establishing a signal to ease transitions like a hand sign to say, “You have 5 more minutes.”

3) A time to heal and forgive from a loss or disappointment in life. Using this time to talk about the good times and tell stories. Time to spend together as a sign of cooperation and reconciliation.

4) Time to affirm family values, faith and life experiences. The materials we read to reinforce our faith. The crafts, decorations or special things we do related to holidays or special family events. The time we spend sharing with others outside our family for those in need.

5) A time to celebrate together. The special events in our lives including holidays and special accomplishments by family members.

One tradition that has developed over the past several years is our Thanksgiving photo of the females. Sometimes one or two aren’t there; sometimes it’s the whole gang together, but we always do our group photo. The outtakes can often be more fun than the actual finished portrait. This year was so cold and windy we couldn’t go outside and the indoor lighting was poor, so we traveled all over my daughter’s house looking for a good spot. We never found one, but we laughed a lot.


How have your family traditions evolved over the years?





an ebook release


Charlie McGraw never should have bought the angel book for his precocious daughter. Because then Meredith wouldn’t be convinced that getting a new mommy was as simple as having an “angel” sprinkle him with her “miracle dust.” And she never would have believed the beautiful blond-haired woman who drove a truck called the “Silver Angel” was some treetop angel come to life.

Starla Richards was no angel. But try telling that to a five-year-old who was so starved for a mother’s love that she’d stowed away on Starla’s rig. Or convincing herself that miracles just didn’t happen to ordinary people when Starla found herself snowbound with a handsome, caring widower and his adorable daughter….

Revised for the Heartwarming line from a previous SIM edition, Charlie’s Angels

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10 thoughts on “Cheryl St.John: Family Traditions”

  1. Cheryl, I love the sound of the new Christmas book!
    Family traditions.
    We have pie and coffee every Thanksgiving morning at around 10 am. We’ve decided we’re tired of being too full to enjoy the pie so we EAT IT FIRST!
    I think so many traditions are so much a part of everyday life we don’t realize they are traditions. And we’re not a family that has hard and fast traditions. No one ever says, “But we’re ALWAYS done it this way!”
    And yet the meal, the children’s table, the standard food with usually someone trying something new.
    Aunt Mardell’s Perfect Corn Casserole (it really is the best)
    Baked sweet potatoes instead of candied yams, these are amazingly delicious.
    My mom’s Christmas tree made of dinner rolls, frosted and covered with sugar sprinkles on her home made rolls.
    That’s the lovely part of all the family gatherings, the non-stop chatter as we try and catch up.

  2. Our family traditions have changed a few times over the years. There was a time when Christmas Eve was a time for family and friends to gather at our house. Then as we my brother’s and I, got older things changed again. But one thing was always the same Christma morning would be at our parents home. Mom and Dad so looked forward to their chicks home for Christmas. But then dad was gone and mom was in hospital at Christmas, and we afraid that we might loose her. That Christmas Eve, three of my brothers and my oldest niece and I gathered at my oldest brothers, we had chicken wings and pizza and played cards and listen to our fav tunes. No one felt like celbrating. So this started a tradition of spending Christmas Eve together, and going our seperate ways on Christmas Day…

  3. Mary, your family traditions sound awesome. Love the roll tree idea – I’d never heard of that. Will you share the corn casserole recipe or is it a family secret?

    We used to spend Christmas Eve as a family too, Kathleen, until our family had their own family. Sometimes we still get together, but it’s not hard and fast. We do whatever works for everyone and we’re good with it.

  4. Love the pictures and seeing the females of your family! It made me smile. Our tradition is playing games on Christmas Eve and then having piping hot sausage balls on Christmas morning. Being with family is so important to the psyche. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be all alone. Family is love and sharing and laughter. And of course, eating. We always eat.

    Congrats on the new e-release! That’s wonderful. I’m going to have to get it. Christmas stories are the best, especially if they involve children.

  5. Our traditions have evolved …Parents have passed on, we’ve downsized homes and we all live far apart and now there are great grands to consider.. As adults, we’ve decided to not exchange gifts and donate to our local food banks/ministries.. [we’ve all got enough ‘stuff’!!]send gift cards to nieces & nephews. and money for far-away parents to buy gifts & wrap them from us … they know sizes, wants/needs… kinda a cop out, but easier on all of us. Christmas Eve services are always attended.

  6. As many others have stated, our traditions have changed over the years but one thing that has stayed the same is the soups that are a part of our Chistmas Eve celebrations. My husband’s family always had oyster stew. My father could not abide it so we added chili. Then the little ones didn’t care for either one so we added chicken noodle. The most important thing is that family is together.

  7. Gorgeous pix, Cher. For more than 20 years, I have had a very sad and fractured extended family which is why I treasure my happy marriage, my kids and grandkids and my hubby’s sister and fam so much. For years I’d just bawl whenever I heard Amy Grant’s Grown up Christmas List…. but about five years ago, I passed over that obstacle and DIDN”T cry my eyes out while hearing that song…now finally have peace. Of course the arrival of my first grandson about then might have had something to do with it 🙂 I am so lucky.

    Congrats on the new release…Christmas stories are just about my favorite. xo

  8. The one tradition that I’ve started has been going on for quite a few years. My husband’s only close relative is an uncle and he had no one after breaking up with a long time girl friend and we had two very small children and we had him over to help trim our tree. It has now evolved to friends and family. This year the oldest will be my 90 yr. old mother and a 3 month old of my nephew (they are in their 40’s and had 3 miscarriages before this). The uncle got a new girlfriend and after 27 years they just got married this summer! So plenty to be thankful for. There always lots of food, drink and fun!!

  9. Love the pictures. Doing a portrait like that every year is a great idea. Wish we had started it. Will be doing it from now on.
    We had many traditions in our family when we were children. Looking back, I realize how important and comforting they were. Moving as we did as a military family when I got married, those traditions didn’t carry over. Coming from a large extended family (I am oldest of 6, my mother had 8 siblings and my dad 6), things didn’t translate well to a family of 5 since so much of what I did as a child was with that extended family. We no longer live close to our families, and our children have in-laws that are sometimes unwilling to share on the holidays. We have started having our Christmas celebration on Epiphany. It seems right for us plus it is the last day of the Christmas season. We don’t often have conflicts with anything else going on. We still have the baking, big family get-together and dinner, and we decorate as much as we can. I have several nativity sets and always look forward to setting them up around the house.
    Thanks for sharing your traditions. It has been enjoyable reading all the others.

    Congratulations on STOWAWAY ANGEL. Sounds like a good Christmas story. I look forward to reading it.

  10. Hi Cheryl,
    My daughter and I are it. We have been it for the last 5 years. After a disastrous family collapse, (after 35 years), Sara and I are quite happy in our new capacity, thank you very much. She and I have our own traditions started now. Nothing special, but we are together and it has been fun to try new things. One has been to have Thanksgiving Dinner with her summer employer and his family. They live just south of us on a hay ranch and it is fun. They also invite random people to dinner, too.
    Christmas has been a little more subdued for us. We decorate but don’t go all out like when we had a big house to do up.
    Things change and stay the same. We’re just glad we have each other. (and a lot of good friends).

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