The Magic of Holidays: Traditions

Tomorrow’s Halloween!! Mr. T and I love holidays. We both decked out apartments and dorm rooms with decorations (many sent from our parents) before marrying each other and consolidating our decorations. Don’t worry, we’re not all scary-music-in-the-lawn for Halloween or timed-musical-light-show at Christmas crazy. But we do decorate. We have a 4-foot tree in our entryway that we decorate for every holiday. For Christmas, we move it upstairs and put it in our window. The kids love holidays because we love holidays. While decorations are not something we would currently spend money on, we’re glad we have them.

Before we got married, Mr. T and I took a marriage and family class. Our homework one week was to write down all the traditions our families had growing up. We were to list each holiday, what we did, and what traditions we wanted to continue in our own, new little family. We were also to list weekly, monthly, and yearly traditions and do the same exercise. Mr. T and I had a blast compiling holiday traditions, discussing them, and deciding what we wanted to do for our family on each holiday. Nothing is more exciting than to get two engaged holiday fanatics in love talking about all their future holiday plans for years to come!

Family traditions are important and worth the money. In 2012, the Institute for Advanced Culture and Studies published the culmination paper on a 3-year study of family culture. The report discussed parenting styles, but concluded that family culture ends up being more influential than parenting styles. It ended by saying: “Family culture acts as a filter for the larger culture, and its role in forming character ideals among the young is fundamental and irreducible to other factors. […]  Though largely invisible, these family cultures are powerful. They constitute the worlds that children are raised in and, therefore, are crucial elements for understanding the moral life of children and their families.” The Art of Manliness covered the report nicely as well as the research behind the intersection of family culture and family traditions. The moral of the story here is that you are creating a culture for your family. And it’s up to you what that culture is.

A culture is defined by its customs and traditions. And kids can’t help but get excited about holidays. Sure, a lot of it has to do with consumerism, but if you don’t have traditions to replace the “buy me” messages associated with the holidays, the societal culture of materialism will become the holiday culture for your family. And your family traditions don’t have to cost money.

Moving to Alaska changed our holiday traditions drastically. Halloween is probably the most different because fall is over by the end of October. So far this year, we don’t have snow on the ground, but we have had Halloweens that were full-on blizzards. Here’s what our family culture of Halloween in Alaska looks like:

  • Costumes – The kids get really excited about picking out their own costumes. In years past, I have made their costumes (Penny’s Rapunzel costume was something I was quite proud of since I don’t technically know how to sew…). This year, the girls spent a whole evening cutting up old clothes that already had holes to be “vampire princesses.” They even made elaborate crowns out of pipe cleaners. Costumes are mostly the same as anywhere else, but require the ability to be warm in a possible blizzard.
  • Trick or Treat – No one wants to walk their children from house to house getting candy up here. It’s freezing, often snowing, and that’s a hassle. Several places around town host indoor trick or treating. Our church hosts a trunk-or-treat which I am convinced is the absolute best way to do Halloween in Alaska. People line up their cars (usually 30-60 cars), open up their trunks, and hand out candy. It takes us 20 minutes to get from one end to the other and they score way more candy than I ever did growing up going house to house. The people in the trunks are very generous so they can pack up and go home quickly as well and the whole event is over in about an hour.
Penny as Rapunzel a few years ago trunk-or-treating in a blizzard.

Penny as Rapunzel a few years ago trunk-or-treating in a blizzard.

  • Pumpkin Carving – Of course I can’t forgo the pumpkin carving tradition, but there just aren’t cheap pumpkins here. Our pumpkins grow incredibly large, like all Alaskan vegetables, but they peak out in September and are long gone by Halloween. We just returned from the Midwest and we really considered smuggling pumpkins in our suitcases, but we couldn’t reasonably figure out how. Pumpkins up here are on sale this week for 0.69 cents a pound, and they are all giant! Lucky for us, my neighbor gave us one pumpkin because she got one too many (and managed to get one that wasn’t gigantic), and I talked my daughter into buying a tiny squash instead of a pumpkin. This, my friends, is called an Uchiki Kuri. Florin calls it her “weird pumpkin” and I’m only out $3.50 for pumpkin carving this year! (Lui is still too young to really care to do his own. He was happy helping the girls.)


Happy Halloween! What are your family/couple traditions for Halloween?

Accountability Friday: Last Friday through yesterday:

F(es)-No – traveling, M(ex)- No – recovering, T(Cam)- No – Spent the day getting Florin’s X-ray, W(Ex)- No – no sleep thanks to Harry Potter Tickets, Th(Cam)-Yes. These details and more in Monday’s post! Hopefully I’m jumping back in to the habits though!


The Magic of Holidays: Traditions


The Index Card Challenge: My Submission


October 2015 Plan Update


  1. I always love reading about other people’s traditions! For us, we actually do not have too much tradition centered around Halloween (yet!) because it’s all dependent on our work schedule and which day of the week it lies. We are, however, excited that once we start growing our family, we will definitely create some traditions with the kids. 🙂 We are all about building that culture! For Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have several traditions with my direct & extended family – as well as with my fiance’s family! One of them (which is my favorite) includes staying up until late hours on Christmas Eve making crepes & watching Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase!

    • MaggieBanks

      Our crepe making holiday is New Year’s! How awesome! I love Halloween because it kicks off the Thanksgiving and then Christmas season! I Love the holidays!

  2. YES – we love Halloween! Got over 200 trick or treaters last night. We give out the big, full-sized bars. Thanks for the link to the interesting study.

    • MaggieBanks

      I’m sure you are loved by those trick or treaters! We only got four total kids at our house… Alaskan snow makes them choose neighborhoods wisely!

  3. I love that holiday traditions were part of your pre-marriage counseling! That was not included in ours, though ours was of the more new age variety. (We spent a lot of time talking about how we could achieve “we-ness” while trying not to laugh at the word. Ha!) As a result, we still argue about whether we open presents on Christmas Eve (my preference) or Christmas Day (Mr ONL’s). 😉 Your Halloween celebrations look so fun — love that you carved a squash! I got this super weird looking but cute blue squash/pumpkin hybrid at the farmers market, and very nearly carved it — but I wanted to eat it instead! Now you know a lot more about our priorities. 🙂 Hope you all had a fun time trick or treating!

    • MaggieBanks

      Baa ha ha ha ha – “we-ness!” – That’s totally a planned tactic. No marriage can fail when they can just go “Remember that we need to achieve we-ness!” and all tension is gone! I would have eaten the squash as well if it were up to me, but 5-year-olds have to be appeased in these kinds of things. 🙂

  4. Family traditions are awesome, it was fun seeing the Halloween costumes. I can remember when I kids used to dress up and go out. Time flies!

    • MaggieBanks

      Time sure does fly! It’s an honor to see you around these parts, Steve. Welcome!

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