Traditions & Mail Order Brides


When people talk about opposites attracting—I am living proof.

Kathryn's Wedding Day
Me and my DH Married on my grandparent’s farm

Although I wasn’t a mail-order bride ~
I was a big city girl from the Pacific coast marrying a small-town boy from the Midwest. I locked every door and checked them twice. He never locked a thing. I would do anything to avoid long lines and crowds, but he used them as a chance to be friendly with the people standing in line with him.

One of the real eye-openers about his different set of traditions was our first Thanksgiving as newlyweds. We traveled “Over the river and through the woods…” to spend the holiday with his family. May I just say that that entire Thanksgiving Day simply felt “wrong.”

His family didn’t watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. His family didn’t start a Christmas puzzle. And they didn’t sit down at a beautifully set table together while “father” carved the turkey, the children got to sneak a sip of wine, and conversation flowed as the meal and my mother’s cooking was appreciated. (I’m beginning to sound like a Hallmark card, but it was really a great up-bringing.)

Instead his family filled their plates full buffet-style and then sat down in the family room and watched the Thanksgiving football game while they ate. Talk was about the game. Then later that evening, after pumpkin pie, they played cards.

The food was the same—traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, and pie. Really, the differences were minor, but for my first holiday away from home, they seemed huge—and of course I was homesick.Sarah Plain and Tall

It made me think that holidays must have been hard for those mail-order brides back in the old west. Even if the new ways were better than what they’d left, they’d still be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. One of my favorite mail-order bride stories is the Newbery Medal winner ~ Sarah, Plain and Tall  by Patricia MacLachlan.

Traditions – rituals that are done intentionally on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annually schedule–have the ability to strengthen family ties, provide comfort and security and a sense of identity. Traditions are a constant in a world that is continually changing, and a world that is going too fast. Like the comfort of knowing the leaves change color in autumn and snow flies in winter, traditions gird and strengthen roots in a family.

When my own children came along, my family traditions and those of my husband’s melded and became one.  It has been a pleasure to realize that along the way we created a few family traditions that “stuck.”

  1. Family game night
  2. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
  3. Christmas puzzle
  4. Birthday measuring against the doorpost
  5. A special holiday table setting and meal and conversation—and THEN football.

I’ve never written a mail-order bride story, but I can see how the situation would ripen the plot for misunderstandings and emotions. Even today, I have several friends who have met their spouses over the internet. They are the mail-order brides of today and I can only imagine some of their first holidays together bumping heads regarding traditions.

As this holiday season approaches I am thankful for many things. One of them is you–my readers. It is my hope that you have a few traditions that enrich your life and bring you happy memories. If you don’t—please consider starting one.

The Gunslinger and the HeiressI would love to hear of any family traditions you’d like to share…

Comment for a chance to win my book,
The Gunslinger and the Heiress
packaged with Bronwyn Scott’s ~ Playing the Rakes Game.

(Neither one of which are Mail Order Bride Stories!)

Petticoats and Pistols Sweepstake rules apply.

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32 thoughts on “Traditions & Mail Order Brides”

  1. It was a rude awakening for me when my husband and I started our life together. I was an only child, he was the youngest of six. Mealtime was quiet and mannerly at my house, his chaotic and crazy. As the years passed, our own family began and we started our own traditions. Everyone comes to our house for Thanksgiving and as long as we have dressing and sweet potato casserole, all is well. Of course, we have all the wonderful Thanksgiving dishes but the two mentioned are a must! Family is wonderful and we are truly blessed.

    • Oh Melanie! Such different backgrounds! An only child marrying into a large family of six! Much like my grandmother who was one of nine and married an only child in my grandfather. It showed in the that she was always sharing whatever she had and looking out for everybody and he was pretty set in his ways and how things were going to be. I loved them both, but can imagine he was hard to live with at times and they probably often didn’t see eye to eye.Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Kathryn, your post made me laugh. My husband and I are both on the same page as far as Thanksgiving goes but when it comes to Christmas, oh, me, oh, my. I like my trees short and bushy. He likes his tall and skinny. I like to put the tree up at least a week before Christmas. In his family, Santa decorated the tree on Christmas Eve while everyone was in bed (which meant parents got little or no sleep). He likes to decorate traditionally; I like to try out different themes. I want the tree down before New Year’s; he likes to keep it up for a week or two after. And then there’s the little matter of when to open the presents…

    • Boy! Howdy! You really are opposites Margaret! (But not in the things that really count!) I’ve always had the urge to try out different themes for our tree– basically all one color instead of a smattering of everything old and new–but my boys and grandson like the smattering of everything because of all the memories and usually nix my idea. That’s okay–I’m just glad when they can come for Christmas!

  3. I enjoyed your post, Kathryn. We’ve always had a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixings. AFterwards, the guys would watch football while the women cleaned up. Later, we often gravitated to a game of Shanghai rummy–my dad’s favorite card game. Later came pie. The weekend after Thanksgiving, we put up our Christmas tree so we can enjoy it for a the whole month. Things have changed a bit as one of our sons is now married, but we still have a nice holiday with family.

  4. Hi Vickie,
    Your Thanksgiving sounds very similar to mine! In the end, just having family around is what counts. I wonder what your new daughter-in-law will bring to your son’s vision of the “perfect” Thanksgiving? Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Traditions… we always have my grandmother’s pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas… make M&M cookies together…hang up ornaments and stocking for our larger pets… decorate the tree together… 🙂

    • Thanks for joining in Colleen! I like the idea of stockings for pets–we did that too while we had our dog and cats. I don’t back cookies now, but I used to. Seems I always get in a baking cookie mood when it is rainy and gray outside.

  6. I started a tradition over 30 years ago of having a tree trimming party. It started because of an uncle who didn’t have anyone at the time. It started growing and now it’s more than a houseful lol. My mom is the oldest at 93 and my nephew’s son is 3. Lots of food, drink, laughter and my tree gets trimmed.

  7. In the summer we would go to maine all the grandkids. Me and my brother would fly up were ever our mother was living. we all would pick wild berries through out our stay you could say that was a tradition in the summer day after school let out till two days before school started.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I’ve been perusing Pinterest for some new appetizer suggestions. I’d like to try the mushrooms stuffed with artichoke dip. It sounds sinfully rich. My usual standby is a dill pickle, cream cheese, wrapped in Buddig chipped beef. Everyone at my house dives for those.

  8. Traditions are always fun. My hubby’s family has always done stockings, so we started that with our own kids. We also open gifts in our pjs. Our kids love it!

  9. I loved your post. I am a California girl and my hubby is from Northern Wisconsin. We are celebrating our 47th wedding anniversary Dec 8th.The first 46 years we lived in California and I would always fix all the fixin’s and have my parents, our daughters and on occasion my brother and his son would come down from Oregon. Nice memories. I love it here in the Northwoods. My parents, brother and our oldest daughter are no longer with us. We stopped having holidays. It was too painful. No longer – I have so much to be thankful for that this year we are not only celebrating Thanksgiving but also Christmas. The most amazing thing is, I am excited about both of them. I can remember with joy the times we did have family around us. Each part of the cooking process brings to mind a different face of those we’ve lost. I so agree with your statements. Celebrate not only your families but the love you also have for good friends. I was blessed with a writing partner who pulled me from the darkness. I know what it’s like to step into the sunshine again. It took 13 years and his never-ending love and support to bring me here. He lives in Louisiana, but I may just set a plate for him out of respect for what he’s given me. 🙂 Bless you!!

    • What a tremendous journey you have been through Paisley! I am so glad you have made the trip out of darkness and you are going to celebrate good things this year. I like your idea of setting a plate for your writing friend! Your post just made my day! Hugs and prayers for a wonderful holiday season to you!

  10. Kathryn, what a delightful post. I love peeking into fellow author’s lives and seeing a tiny bit of their family life. I can certainly understand how much you’d feel like a fish out of water with your in-laws. It was totally different from the way you were raised. It was like that with me when I married the second time around. Though they were kind and genuine, they were also very proper. LOTS of silverware on the table, fancy cloth napkins and a catered meal usually. I was used to simpler things–paper napkins, home cooking and a whole table of desserts. My in-laws watched football but at my mom’s we played games and laughed up a storm.

    Sarah, Plain and Tall is one of my all time favorite movies. They made several others about her after that and I loved them all. Just very, very good. The kind of movie that really touches your heart.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Kathryn!

    • Thanks for stopping by the junction Linda! Really the differences I wrote about are so minor when up against people who marry from totally different cultures or different religions! I cannot imagine those adjustments.

      I’m with you on Sarah Plain and Tall- the movie. It is a favorite of mine! Another one I really enjoy for a look into two different cultures marrying is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That’s really a fun one!

  11. Kathryn, so sorry I’m late getting here! What a lovely blog. SO full of memories and heart. Thanksgivings around here is usually Friday. We had to move holidays around so much during Hubs’ firefighting career that just getting together is wonderful, and with the kids and all their in-laws and outlaws…we’d rather let them all do their Thursday Thanksgivings, and then we get everybody Friday and the rest of the weekend.

    • Hi Tanya! I understand about moving holidays around! In my former life as a labor and deliver nurse I often had to sleep part of Thanksgiving day or Christmas day. I am so glad those times are over. I hated being away from the family. Thank goodness there were older nurses that often held down the fort for the younger ones with families on the holidays. I remembered to pay back the favor as my family grew. Still hated to be away from them though. I totally understand about it with a firefighter husband!

  12. The only traditions that we have is I go to my sister’s house on Christmas Eve which was my mother’s house before she passed, so its going home to me. Christmas day we go to my mother in laws home for dinner.

  13. Hi Quilt Lady,
    That is a lovely tradition and I’m sure you probably take something to your mother’s/sister’s house to help with the celebration. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving day.

    For only the second time in my married life, I am spending Thanksgiving with my parents and sister. I left my husband and sons 2000 miles away to fend for themselves. I just learned that one of my sons is bringing his girlfriend for the day who is from Wales. So I told them I hope they do the day up right to impress on her a traditional Thanksgiving (without me however) since she has never experienced it before. I told them I want PICTURES…

  14. We almost always eat at my in-laws which makes perfect sense since my family is in another state. My mother in law loves to do all the cooking but she will let us help out with some of the sides. For many years the kids (with help at first) made fresh cranberry sauce. They also helped with whatever else we brought. More recently, my daughter has baked a pie in addition to our other sides.

    • Thanks for stopping by Wildflower Junction, Glenda! It sure sounds like you have brought your children into the mix as they start bringing what they can. I’ve never made fresh cranberry sauce and should probably give it a try. Like you, for years I spent my holidays with my in-laws and so adjusted to their traditions. I feel blessed to have had them so near and so supportive throughout my married life. My sister-in-laws are the best!

  15. I grew up with very strict New England traditions. While my grandmother was alive Everybody in the family and their spouses and children sat down to a very formal table with the best china and silver. The children were at their own table so the good linens were
    not damaged. Their was no alcohol and my grandfather carved the turkey with great ceremony AND dished out all the sides with portions he chose. The children were expected to be quiet and just eat. The adult table had conversation in low voices. Whatever we were served we had to finish.
    When we left their we went to my other grandfather’s and had to eat again. I am grateful it was so different. I never knew this grand-mother. My grandfather carved at the oven and we helped ourselves to the sides. This time the family was loud and fun. It was like night and day. We ate what we what we wanted and we had dessert much later. Family members who came late got to eat and talk and laugh with everyone. My mother was the oldest of eleven surviving children. It really was a wild time!

    • Oh my, Whitney! How true are your words about it being different as night and day! What an interesting holiday upbringing! Loved your descriptions! thank you for stopping by and commenting! Have a wonderful holiday of your own this year!

  16. Congratulations to Kim A! After she commented on this blog I drew her name from my Stetson (actually I used an online name generator-Wink) and she won the free copy of my book – The Gunslinger and the Heiress which is packaged as a “two for one” with Bronwyn Scott’s Playing the Rake’s Game.

    I’ll send you an email so that you can let me know your snail-mail address!

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

  17. Our Thanksgiving Day consisted of watching the parades while we finished cooking. We were a family of 8 so we filled our table. Sometimes relatives would stop by. Watching football was the order for the afternoon. Christmas involved everyone. We attended midnight mass with my mom’s family. We would all go back to my grandparents’ house and have brunch. It was quite a group, my mom had 8 siblings and we had over 50 cousins. We would get home about 2:30AM and open our gifts and go to bed. We spent the day with my dad’s family. It is really too bad we are so scattered. It makes it impossible to carry on those traditions.

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