October 23, 2017

Family Traditions – What’s in your jumping pile?


As we enter the holiday season, many of us will embrace traditions that have been part of our heritage for years. Others will begin seeking out that magical memory that will become a part of your family’s story for the first time.

Creating timeless traditions is one of the most important things you can do to strengthen family ties, and solidify the “We all” of family.

We always go to the mountains in Boone for Thanksgiving.
We always make cookies, and deliver them to neighbors during our annual Christmas caroling caravan.
We always snuggle together in the family room and sleep under the glow of the Christmas tree lights on December 23rd.
There are so many “we alls” woven into our family tapestry.

What is the “We all” of your family?

If you don’t have any yet, or would love to pursue some purposeful traditions, I invite you to join me as we brainstorm ideas on how to include once a month memory moments into our every day lives.

Start here with the importance of building God centered traditions that impact a generation of legacy leaving moments.ย 

The Power of timeless traditions aren’t just for the holidays, but they sure are a wonderful and easy place to begin.

Richard Eyre, the co-author of The Happy Family, describes one of the many traditions that are an important part of the successful family life.

“On my birthday in October, we had always raked huge piles of leaves with the kids and then jumped in them, stuffed them in our shirts, threw them in the air, and just generally had a wild time. We though, as the kids got older, their interest in such a frivolous activity would fade. On the contrary, when they were teens, the leaf piles just got bigger. Finally, one year, four of our children were away at school or living abroad. On my birthday, four birthday cards arrived. As I opened the first, a leaf fell out and a note, ‘Dad, I honored your birthday tradition. Here’s a leaf from my jumping pile. I love you.’ Through my tears I opened the other three – and a leaf fell from each.”

One of the most powerful parts of that story is that this was before the days of cell phones and texting. The children did this on their own, which is incredibly special.
Many times in our hectic, fast paced lives, we forget to slow down and cherish the little things that truly matter. Quite often, they are right in front of us, just like this simple jumping pile, but we miss the opportunity to embrace it and change it from ordinary to extraordinary.
Throughout November and December, I want to share a few leaves from our jumping pile.
Won’t you join me? .

I can’t wait to hear yours

This is a repost of one of the very first blog posts I wrote on November 2, 2008.ย  Since then, I have shared many of our family tradition ideas over the years, but I can’t wait to continue building and sharing more with you.
Browse my ever growing “traditions library” for inspiration.


  1. As a kid growing up, we did sub for santas each year. My favorite memory was shopping for gifts and then wrapping them. Or delivering a Thanksgiving feast to a struggling family. We try to do something each year and let our kids help out so they can learn the importance of giving.

    We do other things like ginger bread house, decorate the tree together while listening to Christmas music…according to my son this really brings in the Christmas spirit. I look forward to getting some new ideas from all of you.


  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. I am looking for traditions to start with my family. My oldest is now old enough to start doing them and I am clueless… thanks for wanting to share these and I am excited to get ideas!!!! *beaming with joy*


  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I am guilty of not being more purposeful about this.

    I am looking forward to your next post!


  4. Thanks for doing this. I need to do better.


  5. Imperfect says:

    I’m so excited to read about your and others’ traditions. Hubby and I are starting our very first holiday season together and while we have traditions we want to continue from out respective families, we also want to make our own. I’m looking forward to getting ideas!


  6. Sandy Toes says:

    I love this post…it is just wonderful!!!Jumping in the leaves is wonderful!
    -sandy toes


  7. So great to have family traditions, I agree…and thank you for sharing that family story from the author- so sweet.

    The girls always help their daddy rake the front yard and then he puts them in the leaf bin at the end! Although he probably can’t do that part with them when their teens- LOL



  8. One of our traditions was always singing Silent Night before opening gifts on Christmas Eve with my Grandmother. When she passed away in December it was sung at her funeral in German. Since marrying and having my own family we have had to adjust things a little, but even with my inlaws I always go off by myself and sing before opening anything to remember Grandma.


    RaeAnn Reply:

    @Jenny S,
    What a sweet tradition to carry on, a beautiful way to remember your grandmother. I love it!


  9. Jen, I just love your passion for family traditions – something I am passionate about too. I am really thinking these days about traditions as we near the holidays…


  10. Growing up my dad would rake the leaves to a big pile under our tree swing. Then he would push us really high so we could jump off the swing into the pile. I will never forget those days. They were so fun!


  11. Musings of a Homeschooling Mom says:

    I love the leaf pile idea! One of our traditions is spending the night on December 23rd at my father in law’s house. We get up Christmas Eve morning and open presents there then the kids usually spend the day with their grandparents then that evening we go to their great grandmother’s and have a big feast. I love that they have that time with family.


  12. nikkicrumpet says:

    I love the jumping pile story. So sweet. Family traditions just add so much to any holiday.


  13. Ruby Red Slippers says:

    It is so neat to have family traditions. My kids sleep in a different room for the whole month of December…in tents!


  14. new every morning says:

    We always spend Thanksgiving in the mountains near Boone, too. (We should get together!)
    We always cut our Christmas tree while there.

    We always have a Christmas Eve morning teaparty for just the girls in my family. My mom always makes it girly, fancy and fun.

    There are many more, but this is your post, not mine ;o)


  15. messynester says:

    What a sweet story!


  16. a simple seeker says:

    I’m so anxious to create a second year of traditions, while still enjoying the joys of our first, with that lovely man of mine.

    And a personally ecstatic “yay” for finding another Greensboro ladies’ blog to love. ๐Ÿ™‚


  17. My prayer for years is that we begin to develop priceless traditions within our own family. Unfortunately, all my kids’ cousins live far away, and we rarely see them. But there are things we are starting to do in our own little family.

    We do Toys for Tots every year, and we’re going to put together care packages for soldiers this year. My kids also go through all their toys and donate the gently loved ones to kids in need. I think this year we’re going to bake pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and sneak around the neighborhood, anonymously leaving tins of them on people’s porches. My neighbor and I think we should start “elfing” people (like “booing” at Halloween, only with Christmas goodies. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    My kids go leaf sledding in my in-laws’ backyard (they have a big hill perfect for it) until the snow comes, then it’s the real thing.

    I will keep praying that God lays more traditions on my mind and heart. I’m getting such wonderful ideas just reading some here!

    Blessings, Jen!



  18. Sandy Toes says:

    Go ahead and cut and paste….sandy toes


  19. What I love most about this time of year with the upcoming holidays are the traditions in our family. Some old and some new. I too, am going to be sharing our traditions. I always enjoy hearing from other families traditions that thy have. Also, remember I told you that I have the same journal (Counting Your Blessings)? Well, I pulled it out this weekend and asked my husband and children to write things that they are thankful for in it. I told them they can do it everyday or whenever something comes to their mind. Thank you for reminding me I had this book!


  20. What a lovely reminder to enjoy the now that is!


  21. Our Complete Family says:

    Oh my gosh~ so sweet and kind that your children mailed you the leaves. Wow! It shows what a wonderful Mom you are and a lovely family you have! We have some different tradtions growing up military and overseas, but fun nonetheless! When we’ve had leaves to rake where we lived, we raked and jumped and had leaf fort fights! We have plenty of leaves here in IL so we’ll be raking and leaf forting for our little guy as soon as my hubby is home from his current TDY with the AF. I can’t wait to read more of your tradtions. The December 23rd one? So especially awesome to read! Happy Monday~ Les


  22. Elizabeth says:

    What a great story! ๐Ÿ™‚ There are so many family traditions I remember growing up, and I try to keep at least a few of them going with my own family. I am hoping to write a post sharing some of them very soon!


  23. What a sweet story! My daughter and I always watch Little Women and make pumpkin cookies a few days before Christmas, we always open our stockings Christmas eve, we always drive around and look at Christmas lights the week before Christmas, we always go to whatever Christmas movie is playing in the theaters. So many things. There are some things we used to do when our DD was little that we don’t do anymore. I’m looking forward to reading about everyone’s traditions. Maybe there will be a new one we can start this year.



  24. Hi! What a beautiful post! I love reading about your traditions. They are so important, I believe, as we pass these down to our children.
    Thank you so much for popping in to see me today!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ๐Ÿ˜‰


  25. Buzzings of a Queen Bee! says:

    I love your tradition of sleeping under the Christmas lights on the 23rd. I always wanted to make my kids’ visit to Santa Claus on the 23rd…but so far my daughter has been scared to death of him! ๐Ÿ™‚


  26. Gayle @ thewestiecrew says:

    Beautiful pictures and a GREAT post!

    I popped over here from Michelle’s (RaisingLittleWomen) and I’m glad that I did. ๐Ÿ™‚


  27. awwww, this post was soooo good, it made me well up. thank you so much for sharing the leaf with us, it really does make you consider what its truly important!! Leah


  28. Hi Jen! Yes I’ve become one of those Twilight people ๐Ÿ™‚

    This is a great post. Our family has lots of traditions. I love them all! One of our favorites at Christmas is decorating a gingerbread house that I’ve baked. We always have friends over to decorate it with us. A couple of times we’ve had entire classes from high school come over to to decorate–they have as much fun as little kids do.


  29. Thanks for a great reminder about the importance of traditions-we’re still developing ours with our young kiddos. One firmly established is that December first is gingerbread house day.

    You know, sometimes traditions have a way of sneaking up on you. So much of my memories of holiday traditions are doing things my parents didn’t really do on purpose, but things they valued and saw as important. It’ll be fun to see more ideas for new traditions.


  30. We have a couple of family tradiditons that I remember and have tried to start with our little guy. We always got to open one present on Christmas Eve, usually something small. Christmas breakfast was and still is cinnamon rolls. Since my sister and I are both adults with our own families we all show up at her house Christmas morning between 6 and 6:30 and she has coffee and makes a breakfast casserole and cinnamon rolls. We still all have breakfast together. This year we have started the Elf on a Shelf tradition with little man and he loves it! We also make Christmas cookies and Reindeer food (that’s a new one we started last year). I’m sure that over the years we will develop a few more but those are some of my favorites.


    Jen Reply:

    I did Elf on the Shelf for two years. My daughters loved it and even the guys because they became the “elf.” Last year, I MISPLACED CARL. I found the BOOK and can’t find him. SO sad. I had to create an entire story to make up for it and have no idea why he isn’t in our Christmas boxes. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    P.S. Moral of the story, don’t lose him or you’ll have to fed ex it. ๐Ÿ˜‰


    Amanda Reply:


    That’s so sad that you can’t find him…….. We have already had two mishaps with our elf. Once, we forgot to move him but it happened to be the night of a very bad day for little man. When he asked why he hadn’t moved I reminded him that Chuckie (he choose the name) was reporting to Santa each night about his behavior and that since he was not on his best behavior the day before maybe Chuckie decided to give him another chance to show how good he could be so that he could explain to Santa it was just a bad day. The other thing is that he keeps wanting to touch him so we have to keep reminding him that when he touches Chuckie it makes him loose some of his magic and the more magic he looses the harder it is for him to get back and forth from Santa each night. It seemed to help. He really likes looking for him each morning.


  31. Oh, my heart aches for Boone! SO jealous!! My husband and I went to school there and we miss it terribly!! We were there this past weekend and saw SNOW!! One of my family Christmas traditions is to open one present on Christmas Eve. It’s always the same thing: new pajamas! My parents still keep this tradition, even though we’re now 21, 26, 29, and 30 (my husband) and our kids (18 mo. and 2 1/2) also get new jammies! So fun!


    Amanda Reply:

    @mollie @ momconformist,

    My husbad and I went to school there too! LOL We miss it so much. We went back over the summer to take little man to Tweetsie for Thomas and it just made us want to go back even more. There’s just something so nice about being up there…..maybe it’s just the good memories but it’s like a totally different place up there. As inconvienient as it could be I miss the crazy Boone winters and crave Stick Boy…….and several other places.


  32. Stephanie @ Kick-Ass Wife says:

    My husband and I usually spend our Christmas time home with parents and siblings, but this year we are staying in WA. I think we will carry on some traditions from each of our families!

    Once we have kids it will be great to instill some wonderful traditions for our kids too.


  33. We celebrate Mardi Gras.

    On Fat Tuesday, you can have all the junk food you want. At any time.
    Ice cream for breakfast? Fine.
    Cookies for lunch? As long as you clean up after yourself.
    Then we go out for dinner — in the Southwest, restaurants aren’t crowded on Mardi Gras.


  34. This is an absolutely beautiful idea. I grew up in an extremely dysfunctional home, and there were no traditions worth repeating, if you know what I mean. Now that I am the mother of four, I work hard to create memories for my kids. It made me a little sad this year that my 10 y.o. didn’t want to help carve the Jack O’ Lantern, but he’s ten, and I figure it’s normal for 1 out of 4 to not be into it.

    When I went through a divorce, I think the kids found the traditions to be a comfort. Now I am remarried, and this will be my second Thanksgiving/Christmas with my new husband. He is looking forward to staying here for Thanksgiving and relaxing, without having to go out and be stressed over food allergies. Later in the day, we’ll go out and visit. I know having the do all the cooking sounds like a lot of work, but I love how we don’t have to get dressed up for our Thanksgiving, as well. That tradition started with my oldest child’s food allergy.

    When Christmas comes, I have TONS of traditions! It’s my favorite holiday! One thing I always do is buy the whole family a set of matching pajamas. That way we all look snazzy on Christmas morning for the unwrapping melee and resulting photos!



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