The Power of Positive Family Traditions!

There is great power in the establishment of positive, repetitive personal, family and community traditions. We need to consider how to add these small and more momentous acts into the lives of our family. Part of offering welcome to others around us can also involve including others in these traditions. Why go to the effort to plan and implement regular family traditions?

  • The repetitive act of family traditions gives security to family members.

  • They add a sense of identity to our families.

  • They give the opportunity for "family lore" and stories to be passed from one generation to the next.

  • They connect us to the larger community.

  • They root our story in the historical stories of our family, community and country.

  • They need to be planned to be simple enough to implement without exhausting all concerned!

  • They must be adjusted through the years as our children grow (see story below)

  • They can help to reinforce our faith and what we believe.

  • They are fun to pass on to the next generation and add a sense of continuity to the next generation.

  • They give us an opportunity to live generously and to include others that may be beyond our family circle.

Some of our family stories:

One year we had to adjust our normal family tradition as our children had grown older. Our children (and a friend of Fay’s) wanted to climb on the roof to have the Easter picnic! We all climbed a ladder and I served food and hot chocolate on the roof and we told the Easter story up there. It was good that it was very early in the morning as I am not sure what the neighbors would have thought had they seen us!

Though the years we have had an Easter Morning sunrise picnic with our children and have used the Easter Story Eggs to tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We have passed on this tradition to our children for them to share with their family. Brett made a set of the Easter Story Eggs for our son and daughter-in-law and this is now a tradition for them as well.



seder meal

Passover is such a significant time for Jewish people all over the world.  The Passover holiday begins with the Seder, a ritual feast, that retells the story of the Israelites being delivered by God from slavery in ancient Egypt. The Israelites were instructed to tell their children the story and pass it down from generation to generation as recorded in Exodus 13:8. The family gathers around the table and reads the text of the Haggadah while eating symbolic food. 

I have so enjoyed the times when I have been privileged to attend a Seder feast and have loved being reminded of this important story through the words being spoken, the questions asked (often by the youngest child), answers given and the food we ate.

Seder meal - Rudee family

My friend Gail Rudee shared with me how she and her husband traveled from Seattle to Los Angeles to celebrate Passover with their son Alex.  Because they were visiting their son they didn’t have Gail’s fancy tableware with them so wine glasses from a wine tasting the previous day did the trick!  Gail cooked her grandma’s “old country” recipes and transported them to LA. and they so enjoyed cooking the last minute dishes together.  When their daughter Talia was not able to attend the seder as she was at college they “skyped” her in!  I love how we can use technology to keep families connected.

Robin Cunningham has four children and shared with me that Passover is their family’s favorite holiday.  They have a number of regulars who attend the meal and then they reach out to new people each year.  Robin says her Christian friends are often the ones most excited to experience a Seder. They have many traditions that add to the richness (and fun) of the experience.  They go around the table and ask everyone what they would take, and why, if they had to leave home in a hurry and knew they were never coming back.  Robin says they have heard some fun responses through the years! 

A Bay Area resident shared, "When I think of Passover, I immediately think of a long night of traditions and a time of remembrance. I think of the opportunity to be with family, talk about the hardships the Jewish people have overcome, and look to the past to inform our future."  Another person added, "When I think about hospitality in the Passover tradition, I'm reminded of Elijah's chair. There's always space for God. And there's always space for another friend to come and join the seder."

I love that.  There's always space for God.  And space for someone else to come to the table.

Check out our Heartistry Pinterest Board for Passover table decor ideas.

Invited to the Table

It has been such a joy through the years to be invited to the table by family, friends and those we did not know. I grew up in a home where hospitality was offered on a regular basis. My mom could bake her famous Hot Milk Sponge in half an hour and never needed more warning than that to invite friends over for tea. My mom always encouraged my twin sister and I to invite our friends to our home and made them very welcome. At times she helped us plan fun parties and special events that we hosted. I love this photo as it is the only one I have with both my grannies, my mom, my daughter, an aunt and cousin all together. It was taken in our home in Cape Town and I think this was my granny's birthday celebration.

My parents still host me regularly and love to have me at their table (or relaxing on the couch with our food on our laps!) Brett's mom, affectionately known as Ma, loves to welcome us to her home in South Africa and it is such a joy for us to spend time with her and the rest of our South African family. Brett's sister Sally hosted us and served very traditional food made with water lilies called Waterblommetjiebredie (see if you can pronounce that!) The table is set with the national flower of South Africa, the Protea.

On another occasion we were able to take some people who were traveling with us to see the ministry that Sally and Brett's mom help run. We stood in the kitchen and heard about the amazing work they do in feeding thousands of poor children. (Check out Life Community Services.) We were honoured to eat at the centre that is used to serve so many needy young people. You can see Ma with her apron on, explaining how this simply stocked kitchen serves so many meals each week. Inspiring! 

Building lasting family relationships takes time, commitment and financial resources. Brett's mom visited his other sister in Maryland, USA and we realised that this would be a good time for our whole family to connect and also for Ma to meet her newest great-grandchild. So we all traveled to the East Coast and spent the July 4 weekend together. You can see the joy on Brett's mom's face to have part of her family that she doesn't see very often around the table!

A year ago Rebecca, who is like a daughter to us, was married in Tuscany. A group of 18 of us stayed with the bride and groom in a big, old villa near Florence. The week was filled with rich fellowship, fun tourist activities and preparations for the wedding. The night before the wedding, friends and family from different countries around the world gathered around the large dinner table, held hands and prayed blessing over Rig and Rebecca.

The following day this same table was set with exquisite Italian dinnerware and flowers to create one of the most stunning table settings I have ever seen. The 34 guests who attended this intimate wedding, were treated to a gourmet Tuscan dinner served family style. (On a later blog I will share more photos as Rebecca and Rig's beautiful wedding photos were featured in Italian Vogue Bridal Magazine!)

After the wedding we enjoyed a Tuscan picnic in the garden of a local artist, before everyone headed home again. We had left-overs from the abundant provision of food at the wedding and this pretty table was filled with tasty treats and the wedding flowers. We were thankful that we had the time to relax together in the warmth of the Italian countryside and spend our last day together. The guests in this photo live in India, Ireland, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan and the USA! Isn't that amazing? 

Through the years Brett and I have been hosted by people all over the world and have received such warm hospitality. Last year we took a group of people who volunteered their time with our non-profit rēp to South Africa. We stayed at T'Niqua Stable Inn in Plettenberg Bay. The owners Michiel and Bettina Meyer have beautiful Percheron horses and took us down to the coast for a picnic in a carriage! It is not every day that one can picnic out in the veld overlooking the Indian Ocean and even have a table on which to arrange all the food. It was transported down there on a horse cart! Such fun! 

A few years ago we went to Egypt right before Arab Spring.  We were so deeply touched by the hospitality we received from the local Egyptians we met. This delightful woman, Nirvana invited us to her home in Cairo right after meeting us and prepared a special meal for us. She cooked fish that her dad had brought from the Red Sea and even though her baby was due in just a few weeks, she opened up her home and heart to us. We felt such an affinity with the people we met in Egypt that we returned to visit again. Hospitality bridges people from different cultures and opens doors for on-going connection and community building.

A table can be so much more than a table. It can be an oasis, a fortress, a bridge, a door, a key, a gift, and the start of new ways to be generous. I encourage you to make the time to "Set the Table" today.


When have you been impacted by an invitation to the table?

Please share a memory of a special dinner you have attended in the comments below.


Valentine's Day

Establishing simple traditions for ourselves and our family can add so much richness to our lives.  Repeated, predictable events can help to provide a sense of belonging, security and identity.  These traditions can be as simple as having tea in bed on Saturday mornings, or challenging your children to hold their breath when going through a tunnel because your dad did that with you!

Valentine's Day with Davey

When our children were young, I used as many opportunities as I could find to add fun and celebration to our family.  Valentine’s Day was an excellent excuse to host a mini-celebration, dress in red (even in a very ugly sweater), eat heart shaped food items and express our love once again. I have to admit that I still put Valentine’s cards in the mail to our adult children, whilst hoping that I don’t embarrass or annoy them!  It’s just that I still want them to know how loved they are, and I will take this designated “love day” as yet another opportunity to tell them so!

Valentine's Day