Rituals and Traditions with Meg Cox

I think I have mentioned that I am the program chairperson for my local quilt guild. I really like this task as it allows me the opportunity to learn about so many great teachers and speakers. I talk and email with them and then choose who might come to the area and talk with us or teach a fun class. About a year ago, I was told that Meg Cox would be doing a West Coast speaking tour and would be in our area. She has a friend here she wanted to visit and it worked out she could schedule her visit with her friend around the time our guild met.

Meg Cox is a writer, journalist, and a quilter. She has had a really extensive career which includes authoring five books, being a reporter for the Wall Street Journal for 17 years, a quilter for about 30 years, and has written many articles on family traditions and rituals for lots of trade magazines. I felt really lucky to be able to work this out. Our guild is fairly small and wouldn’t have been able to pay for her travel out here and back as she lives on the east coast. This was a gift dropped in our laps, so to speak.

Last week Meg spoke to our guild about the value of family traditions. We heard about how traditions and rituals give family members something to look forward to and create a stronger feeling of connection. She shared some fun ways to build tradition within the family, whether your family be a traditional one or a creatively built family of friends and/or relatives. She also talked about the wonderful quilting traditions we all immerse ourselves in. Memory quilts and making quilts for those in need is a huge tradition in our arena and she shared all sorts of beautiful examples of these. Her lecture was really timed perfectly as we go into our holiday season which is rich with tradition. I encourage you to check out her website. Meg also has a wonderful monthly newsletter, titled Quilt Journalist Tell All. I subscribe to it and enjoy reading it quite a bit.

Listening to her made me think about the rituals my family has. Some are common and others maybe not so much. But these are the times we all look forward to and look back on fondly. These rituals keep us connected. For example, in my family we made birthdays special in small ways. The person celebrating their birthday chose the meal for dinner that day. I remember when my kiddos were small, they would choose the same thing over and over. Julia went through a stage of wanting hot dogs with dill relish. Not my favorite meal (by a long ways!) but when she was 6, 7 and probably 8 that was her birthday meal. My son Ian chose chicken and tortilla casserole over and over for a couple of years in a row.

Growing up, my family had lots of rituals to observe, both within our family and our religion. I was raised in the Catholic church and attended parochial school through 8th grade. Catholicism is heavily steeped in ritual, as are most religions. But the traditions I really remember are from within our family. Watching Christmas TV specials was such a treat each year. Living before DVD’s and DVR’s, we really looked forward to watching Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My sisters and I looked forward to watching these cartoons.

When the six of us were old enough to know the hard truth about Santa, my mother decided we would draw names and fill each other’s Christmas stocking. I think this was one of my favorite things about Christmas; filling a stocking for a sister of mine and opening my stocking that was filled by a sister. We were supposed to keep it a secret and not tell each other whose stocking we were filling. I doubt we were very good at that.

We filled each others stockings with things like nail polish, 17 Magazine, lip gloss, Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers, and Love’s Baby Soft perfume (because what girl doesn’t want to walk around in a cloud of baby powder scent?) and candy.

Were you a teenager in the 70’s? If so, do you remember this lip gloss?? It was an incredibly thick goop that we applied with a ‘roller ball’ applicator. Ugh. By the way, what is this girl doing kissing Roger, Richie, Fred, David and Bob – hmmmm…

There was also the lip balm style that came in all sorts of flavors. I have such fond memories of our secret Santa stockings we made for each other!

After the lecture I was visiting with some guild members and it surprised me to hear that some didn’t really have strong memories of family traditions while growing up. This made me a little bit sad. I very much enjoy these connections and hope my kids have fond memories of our Christmases, birthdays and other family times.

I would love to hear about your traditions. Let’s share them in the comments. Maybe we can inspire each other and learn some ideas for fun ways to build our family celebrations and holidays. If this has not been something you have done, I urge you to take just one idea and implement it. Your kiddos or grand children will love it. It is a wonderful way to enhance family life.

29 thoughts on “Rituals and Traditions with Meg Cox

  1. Wendy Tuma

    Oh my, I had forgotten about those goodies – that lip goop (good word for it!), 17 Magazine. Wow, what a walk down memory lane. One of our family traditions that has stuck down through the years is my husband hiding the kids’ “big” gifts and giving them clues to find them. He puts a ton of work into it. Once the two got past high school and into college, it became more of a memory, since the clues were getting too difficult to come up with. For Thanksgiving, the four of us make soup together for our meal.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Those are both lovely traditions but I have to ask? No turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving??? How did that come about?
      As for Christmas gifts from Santa, did you wrap those for the kids or leave them unwrapped? When I was a kid, our stocking gifts were wrapped so I continued to do that with my kids. But I always bought a different wrapping paper for the Santa gifts because I figured he certainly wouldn’t use the same paper in which we had wrapped our gifts that for under the tree. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. Carol Elbert

    I love hearing about your family traditions. One of mine is exchanging Advent packages with my sister. We must have started this about 20 years ago when I was first divorced. She prepares a box for me, I prepare one for her. We individually wrap small items, things like a chocolate truffle, a mini-puzzle, a chapstick, a homemade pot holder or crocheted dish cloth, a silly wind-up toy, a tea bag with a comic cut from the newspaper–whatever. Each package is numbed, 1-24, and as we open a package a day, we both know we’re thinking of each other. Now that we’ve been doing this for so long, we enjoy re-gifting to each other favorite little things.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Oh I love this!! What a great idea. When the kids were here they usually had those little advent calendars with the doors you popped open each day so you could eat the chocolate candy. Do you and your sister live a distance from each other? That is a really fun tradition.

      Reply
  3. Robbin Golden

    A fond memory that I have of Christmas Eve growing up and what my husband and family still do is going for a ride to look at Christmas lights after Christmas Eve service at church. People always had their lights on and it was a perfect treat after singing “Silent Night” holding candles and turning off the lights. Lights on, lights off, it’s all good!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Yes! I love Christmas lights and tell myself every year I want to drive and just look at the lights. Somehow it rarely happens though. When my kids were very small, their great-grandma would come to stay with us between Thanksgiving (at her house) and Christmas (which would be at my house). She loved this tradition of looking at the lights. She lived way out in the country so not a lot of neighbors. She would take our (then very small family of four) to an early dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Afterward we drove around and looked at all the holiday lights. The two toddlers generally fell asleep in the car and we put them to bed after this. Thank you for stirring up this great memory Robbin.

      Reply
  4. Gretchen

    Growing up we were a family of eight including our parents. Approximately three weeks before Christms we would draw names to exchange a gift with each other on Christmas Eve. You had to guess who had your name to open your gift.
    After dinner, we could go to a Christmas Eve program at church with my father while my mother, I imagine finished wrapping the gifts. Coming home after church we went to bed. We probably dozed out for a half hour or more and then our parents woke us to tell us Santa came. We opened our gifts then which was so exciting with it being dark outside and the beautiful lite Christmas tree.
    I’m pretty sure this tradition allowed my parents to sleep in on Christmas morning a bit longer prior to going to Christmas Day mass.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      My gosh, how did you all manage to fall asleep,, knowing they would wake you when Santa came? I haven’t heard of this sort of tradition but it is so creative. And how did they get you all back to bed after the excitement of opening your gifts?? Your parents sound wonderful!

      Reply
      1. Gretchen

        Since my sister and I were the youngest, I have a strong suspicion that we were the only two who feel asleep. We were allowed to play with our gifts for awhile which I’m sure guaranteed we would sleep in a bit longer than usual. Wonderful memories of family Christmas over sixty years ago. Thanks for triggering some special memories with your topic.

        Reply
  5. Julie Lewis

    Our family has shared a tradition that started with me and my sisters, then was carried on to our children and now is there for our grandchildren. My parents were tired of at least one of their four girls getting up before 7 am on Christmas morning to sneak to see what Santa had left under the tree. My father went out and bought a set of harness bells (used on horses pulling a sleigh) and announced that when we heard the bells on Christmas morning we could all come out and see the tree. If you woke up before, you needed to stay in your room until you heard the bells. My Dad would walk through the house ringing the bells and shouting” Santa Claus was here”. What music to our ears!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Oh, what a wonderful idea!! I love the idea of the kids hearing those bells. That is the best. I bet they were up so early just waiting for the bells to ring.

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  6. Quiltdivajulie

    Now that my sister’s three boys are grown and married and my boys are in their 40s (or nearly there), we make a donation each Christmas in honor of each other’s family rather than any kind of gift exchange (long distance shipping adds up much too quickly). We’ve donated to Heifer International many years now and feel so good about empowering others instead of adding clutter to our respective households.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      The charitable donations are a super idea. I like Heifer International as well. Our family has grown to the point where we don’t exchange gifts with my siblings and their families. There are just way too many people and really at a certain point, people don’t ‘need’ things anymore, right? I do love making gifts for people and plan to make some simple linen table runners this year. I think those will be fun to give.

      Reply
  7. Torry

    Growing up we all (the 6 of us children) got to open one package on Christmas Eve. Amazingly, every year the gift was either night gowns or PJs! So we all look very cute in the Christmas Day pictures.

    I traditionally do a gift for everyone on Thanksgiving. It is something that wouldn’t make much sense to give on Christmas . So, a CD of Christmas music, a gift card for babysitting so the parents can either shop or wrap without the little one underfoot, a holiday shirt.

    Before cancer and the treatments, I used to do a craft night for older kids (school age) so friends and neighbors could get stuff done for a few hours.

    Santa at my house (for our children) did not wrap gifts at all. Santa brings the big gifts (sleds, bikes, etc.) and wrapping those is a head ache. And, Santa only brings one gift. Everything else is from someone who puts their name on the tag.

    My first Christmas in the Army, I had been home on leave for Thanksgiving and so couldn’t have leave in Dec. So I was 3,000 miles from home. I had left gifts with my mother for everyone, but my littlest brother wouldn’t believe that his gift from me was actually from me! Finally Mama had to sit him down and talk about how I had left the gifts with her and she had put them under the tree. Turns out he thought that if you weren’t there, you couldn’t leave gifts, because only Santa did that and he KNEW I wasn’t Santa!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      So many nice memories to share Torry. Thank you. I failed to mention the matching pj’s. I do that quite often (most years?) and buy matching pj’s for the kids that are home for the holidays. Some years I end up buying lots of pajamas and some years only a few. This year will be just a few. But it is a fun tradition!

      I love the idea of watching the kids so people could get things done. I bet the kids and their parents loved that.

      Reply
  8. Kaholly

    Delightful post, Bernie. I remember those days. Over the years, my family has gotten smaller and smaller, and very spread out. Similar traditions to yours have gone by the wayside, but what wonderful memories you have conjured up. Thank you for introducing us to Meg.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      I think that is part of the importance of tradition. Those memories tie us together even when we aren’t necessarily physically together any longer. My kids have spread out, which is so hard (I know you can relate) but I do love thinking back on these fun holidays.

      Reply
  9. Carole @ From My Carolina Home

    OMG, I had a part time job at Sears in cosmetics when I was in college and sold Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers and those Mabelline Love Potions!! Yes, I remember them well, LOL!! I love to watch those TV shows for the holiday season, and have them all on DVD so I can watch them when I want to.

    Reply
  10. Kathy in NY

    Thank you for the reminder of Meg As I think she might be the person documenting quilts that I saw years ago at Manhattan quilters alliance in NYC. I will enjoy her newsletters so I appreciate the link. Loved reading the holiday traditions of you and others as these are what help us through bleak days by remembering we are cared for. I fix the same brunch food every Christmas morning for my children and grandchildren who come to our house. We are blessed to have them so close by. It just seems the years pass by so quickly and I am once again buying the bags of hash browns that seemed like I just bought them six months ago.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Yes, Meg is involved with the Quilt Alliance as well as other groups. Let me know what you think of her newsletters. I like the content quite a bit. She also have a great giveaway each month which I am sure thousands of people enter but hey, maybe we will get lucky?? πŸ™‚

      Totally get what you mean about buying the hash browns faster and faster every year. What is the deal with the passage of time these days?? It is nuts – I think about an event that seems to have JUST happened and then I realize it was years ago. Time needs to slow down!!!

      Reply
  11. Linda (txquiltgal on IG)

    Ok first things first – I LOVE your hair! The longer style is so flattering, and you are lucky to have curls. πŸ™‚

    Your post sent me on a trip down memory lane. We have traditions in our family, because I grew up with them and cherish my memories of them. Birthday traditions were pretty much the same as the ones you described with your family; but our strongest traditions are evident at Christmas. My childhood memories of Christmas are magical; so much so that I tried very hard to make it magic for our kids too. Daddy always read the Christmas story from the Bible before we opened our gifts, and Mom always made a ham dinner. I’d say the majority of our traditions involve food!

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      Thank you for the compliment Linda. Sometimes I like it and other times I want to chop it off. Sigh. Such is life!
      As for traditions and food – we are the same. We all love to cook and love to eat! It makes each meal a lot of fun. I think that is why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – it revolves around family, food and gratitude. Love it every year!

      Reply
  12. jean fletcher

    I’m the youngest of 4 children. Christmas was magical in that we got to “open” our Christmas Stockings when we got up on that special morning, and didn’t have to wait till after lunch. However I would awake too excited to sleep in and one sis or the other would have to restrain me and tell me to go back to bed. Mother even set up “road blocks” so we would make noise and she would see our faces when we did open them. Instead of hanging the stockings on the fireplace, we clothes pinned them to the bottom of the tree. Some times what she wanted to put in the stocking was too big, so it was unwrapped and placed under our stocking.

    As a second wife I didn’t create children, but we have had a tradition of December 1-24 watching a different Christmas movie each night. Twice I had quite a collection of DVD’s then one or another of my friends would say, “Oh, I’ve never seen that one” and I would loan them the whole set then forget that I ever loaned them. Working on making my set full again. Some are getting harder to find. As adults we do stockings, and likely not much other gift giving at that time of year.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      I love thinking of your mom setting up ‘road blocks’ so you wouldn’t be able to sneak out on Christmas morning. That is really cute! These memories are such treasures and I am really enjoying reading all of the comments here about other traditions from reader’s. Thank you for sharing yours. Hoping you find all the holiday movies you love watching. Many are available on-line these days!

      Reply
  13. Rebecca Grace

    First of all, you need to update your profile photo on the blog — I barely recognized you in the photo with Meg. The short hair was cute, but I love how you’re wearing your hair now! I am right there with you as far as waiting for the Christmas specials to come on TV — adding to that list the ones my Dad loved: It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bishop’s Wife, Auntie Mame (with the wonderful song “Haul Out the Holly” that I still sing while decorating the tree). My kids also like watching Home Alone and the National Lampoon’s Family Christmas or whatever that one is called. There is nothing like listening to my sons roaring with laughter while the Griswolds’ Perfect Christmas Tree goes up in flames…

    Reply
  14. tehachap

    My mother always made “Heavenly Hash” at Christmas — a concoction of miniature marshmallows soaked overnight in crushed pineapple (including the juice) and then whipped cream was added the next morning. Ambrosia is a close second to our special dessert with the addition of coconut, mandarin oranges and fruit cocktail. That’s about the only thing I remember always having at Christmas.

    Reply
  15. Leanne Parsons

    Filling each other’s stockings sounds like a wonderful idea! This will be our first year with no one believing in Santa anymore, which feels a bit odd. Traditions are such a special part of the holidays for me that I, too, feel sad for anyone who didn’t have that growing up.

    Reply
    1. Bernie Post author

      I think changing to that tradition made it really fun to keep the stockings hanging up. Now that it is me, my husband and Julia at home, we draw names and fill a stocking for each other. When the kids were still living at home, Ray and I didn’t have stockings for each other but this way it makes it more fun for Julia – she still has the fun of opening stocking stuffers. Ray and I enjoy it as well. Happy Holidays Leanne!

      Reply

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