It was windy and dark, and she was pretty sure there were cobwebs in her hair as she shivered beneath the giant pine trees. Clutching her long, black robe tightly around her, she crouched to avoid discovery while the headlights of a large SUV crept closer to her hiding place. Closer… any moment… suddenly she sprang out of the trees with a mighty “RAAAAWR!” Screams echoed from the open windows of the vehicle.

Is it a scene from a horror movie? Actually, it’s a silly scenario I act out every Sunday night after our family dinner and activities are finished and our children and grandbuddies say their goodbyes. What began on a whim has turned into a tradition of sorts, as my oldest daughter’s family inches their car down the long tree-lined driveway on the north side of our property, waiting for grandma to scare them. They never know which pine tree I’ll be hiding under. Often, one of my grandsons reminds me as he hugs me goodbye, “Grandma, remember to rawr!”

Family traditions are customs, routines, activities, or beliefs transmitted from generation to generation which reflect the values and interests of a specific family. These traditions play a significant role in families by promoting unity, strengthening bonds, and reinforcing spiritual values. Traditions often revolve around regular family gatherings, such as weekly family nights, and daily prayer and scripture study, or special celebrations, like baptisms, Christmas, and Easter. In some families, participation in temple and family history work, or missionary service become traditions.

While some family traditions are elaborate and require serious planning, especially those surrounding holidays, other traditions are unplanned and seemingly insignificant, yet they linger in the memories of children and grandchildren after decades have passed. Who knows–maybe my “rawring” will become one of those? My Grandpa Kapp always carried jellybeans in his pocket as a treat for children, and my own kids recall their Grandpa Dick having his pockets filled with Tootsie Rolls for his grandkids. Margaret Kitterman calls these “…micro traditions or little connections points…” (1) 

Just last week as I finished Sunday dinner preparations, I noticed my six-year-old grandson Daniel opening the drawer below the microwave. I wondered why he was looking in that particular drawer which only contained hot pads, sandwich bags, and aluminum foil. As Daniel searched carefully behind those items, I suddenly realized what he was searching for: the golden birthday fork. After locating the desired object, he placed it on the counter and smiled up at me.

We were celebrating his mother’s birthday that night and Daniel wanted to be certain I didn’t forget one of our “micro-traditions.” Long ago, my husband and I received four place settings of golden utensils for our wedding. Somewhere in our decades of marriage, as I was serving birthday cake to the family, I decided to put one of the golden forks on the plate I handed to the birthday child, while everyone else used the everyday silverware. I didn’t plan for it to become a tradition, but somehow it did, and now the next generation is ensuring that it continues.

There are so many possibilities for connecting with our family. Here are a few examples:

  1. When my father came home each day after grad school classes and work, my brothers and I would attack him at the door. One would climb on his back, one was scooped up into his arms, and two of us would sit on his feet, each clinging to a leg while Dad stalked around our little apartment as we giggled. I still remember how it felt to rise up each time he lifted a foot.
  2. At least fifteen years ago, my husband decided to fix chicken noodle soup–with delicious homemade noodles–while listening to the Saturday morning session of general conference. The soup was such a hit that our family has insisted that Brad make it every conference weekend since, with volunteers chopping carrots, onion, and celery. It wouldn’t feel like conference without it.
  3. For years my son-in-law Tyler’s family baked cinnamon rolls on conference weekend. Now that the children are all married and living in three different states, each household still makes cinnamon rolls, then they text pictures of their creations to each other to help stay connected.
  4. When my brothers and I were teenagers, any time we had a band or choir performance, or were in a play, our parents took the family to an ice cream parlor afterward to celebrate our performance.
  5. My husband and I met on a blind date the day after Christmas. For thirty-seven years we have gone out to dinner on December twenty-sixth to celebrate that life-changing event. It’s one of our favorite traditions.
  6. Once a month I sit in a restaurant with three men. I love looking into their eyes: one set blue, one set brown, and one set hazel green. These are my brothers, and sibling lunch has been a tradition for probably seventeen or eighteen years. We don’t recall who suggested it, but as we became busy with work and the demands of young families, we were losing touch and decided to go to lunch monthly to reconnect as adults. It’s rare for grown siblings to all live in the same valley and we cherish this time together.

One of the most important family traditions occurs when we teach our children to work. While they might not always love it in the moment, their lives are better for it, and when enough time has passed, they might even look back fondly on some of those times.

Corn was a big deal at our house. For my husband, tasting the first garden corn of the season was nearly a religious experience. His usually impeccable manners were checked at the door on those occasions, and after slathering the golden ears with an obscene amount of butter, the most anticipated moment of his summer arrived. The family stared in rapt attention as their father chomped his way recklessly through multiple ears of corn, butter literally dripping from his chin. Then the kids watched in horrified fascination as their dad made his way over to me, their giggling mother, and planted a big, fat, buttery kiss right on my lips!

Of course, no one was excited to harvest the corn. There were always plenty of sighs, and a few of our five children conveniently disappeared when it was time to shuck the ears, because who knew when an earwig would wriggle out of the husks? But somehow, we always got into a rhythm. Might have had something to do with the Diamond Rio album we blasted through the kitchen on “corn day.”

There was the picking, the shucking, and the washing of the pearly ears to remove stray corn silk. There was the three-minute boil and the icy water bath to cool the corn down. Once the kernels were sliced off the cob, they were bagged in three cup portions–the perfect amount for Sunday dinner. Finally, each bag was labeled and frozen.

It was carefully choreographed chaos as seven humans and fourteen elbows bumped and wove around each other and the U-shaped kitchen counter, ever cognizant of boiling water and sharp knives. If you timed it right, you could steal a handful of freshly blanched corn without losing a finger, and those golden kernels were as sweet as any dessert.

As the years passed our nest gradually emptied–as nests usually do. It seemed that every autumn there was another son or daughter missing as we preserved the corn; one less voice to harmonize with the family. More than once a lump rose in my throat as I stripped silk off the yellow ears, longing to have the whole gang under one roof again.

My husband and I are officially empty nesters now, and the corn rows in the garden have been drastically reduced. Last September, as two of us worked the tasks once covered by seven people, we preserved a small but respectable batch of corn. Though I missed our children, this time I could almost hear them as we sang along with Diamond Rio. I could almost feel their young ghosts with us in the kitchen–space made sacred by the memories created there.

How I treasure those times when the line between work and play blurred a bit, and we sang and licked yellow kernels off our fingers. Though we didn’t realize it during all those hours of picking and shucking, we were preserving so much more than corn. (2)

Perhaps one of the healthiest family traditions we could implement is having everyone put their phones away for a specified period of time. We could actually look each other in the eyes and converse and listen without distraction. Family time is precious, and we never know how long we’ll have together

I recently discovered someone who embraced family traditions, as I attended the funeral of a stranger. Gary Frandsen, the brother of my friend, passed away just seven weeks after receiving a serious medical diagnosis. On the day of his funeral, the chapel and cultural hall overflowed with hundreds of people who had come to pay their respects to a wonderful man who died too young.

How do I know he was wonderful? Though I had never met him, I watched pieces of his life play out on a large screen at the front of the chapel while waiting for the service to begin–photos of many happy adventures with his family: hiking, boating, spending time at his cabin, dirt biking, playing games with his grandchildren, and other special family moments. Those pictures from Gary’s life were photographic evidence that what mattered to him were his family and his God.

The funeral congregation laughed as one of Gary’s sons claimed that when The Family: A Proclamation to the World was first published by the Church, the main concept his father took from the document was “wholesome recreational activities!” (3) He managed to mix his love of God with family adventures. It was evident as Gary’s four grown sons spoke of their father that he showed them that a life centered in Jesus Christ and His gospel is a joyful life.

As recorded in Gary’s obituary, “He considered it an honor to meet each new grand baby, and would do so in a white shirt and tie.” Just days before his passing, Gary started a new tradition by making sure his testimony was written down for his posterity. I have no doubt that his children and their children will read his words often in the coming years:

“I have a testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ is absolutely true and that as you stay true to its teachings it will bring you a lifetime of joy and happiness. Being faced in a world with so many struggles and mixed messages, you can simplify it by remembering the scripture 1 Corinthians 14:33, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.” Are you following the path of peace or the simple path of the gospel plan? And if you are confused, remember that is not part of His plan. Confusion is what the Adversary wants to create in your life. The gospel is the plan of peace.”

I am inspired by the example of this good man who turned games and outdoor activities into joyful connecting points with his family, and, by leaving his written testimony, will stay connected to them spiritually long after his passing.

Gary had the same idea as Nephi, who wrote beautifully of the best family tradition of all:

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (2 Ne. 25:26)


  1. Margaret Kitterman, Micro Traditions, Not by Chance Yearbook, 2023, Rooftop Publishing.
  2. Lynne Perry Christofferson, Preserving More Than Corn, Not by Chance Yearbook, 2021, Rooftop Publishing.
  3. THE FAMILY: A Proclamation to the World.