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unnamed-3I have a shirt that has amazing powers.  If I put it on in the morning, my children will groan and moan and even break down into hysterics at times when they see it.  What is this shirt??  Well, that’s a long story that started 25 years ago!

The summer after I graduated from high school I attended a camp at BYU.  During that camp my group did a silly dance with props –  McDonald’s hats, trays and styrofoam take-out containers.  Our group leader managed to get us some t-shirts to wear during the performance.  They were bright yellow with the words “Good Food, Good Folks, Good Fun” on the front, and “In search of M” with the big McDonalds logo on the back.

Other uses

It’s the kind of shirt you send to the thrift store when you’re cleaning out your drawers, but for some reason I didn’t get rid of it.  It was certainly not something I would ever wear outside my home, so I decided it would be the perfect canning shirt.  When I’m canning, my shirt gets filthy.  I use it as my hand towel!  It’s now so stained it all just blends in.   I’ve worn it proudly nearly every time I’ve canned for the past at least 20 years.  So when I put it on in the morning, the kids know they are in for a super fun day of helping me can – thus the groans and hysterics!

My son made a funny comment a few weekends ago when I was sporting “the shirt”.  He said if someone only visited our house in September, they would think I loved McDonalds!  I wear the shirt everySaturday!  He’s right.  And we all got a chuckle yesterday when we were watching some old home videos.  There I was, 16 years ago, canning peaches in the shirt.  Both the shirt and I looked much younger then, but we’ve both stood the test of time!

Tradition, Tradition

This got me thinking about family food traditions.  Have you ever thought about how food plays such an prominent role in most family events?  Family get together – what are we going to eat?  Birthdays – cake?  Reunions – grandma’s potato salad.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Easter – they all have food that goes hand in hand with our celebrations.

So I have two questions for you – why do we have these traditions, and second, what are your traditions and how have they molded you?

Interesting questions.  I found a good definition for tradition: “any activity you purposefully repeat together as a family that includes something extra that lifts it above the ordinary ruts.  Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit, and texture to our everyday lives.”

Why Traditions Are So Important for Families

Traditions have played a role in families since the dawn of time.  There are some reasons they persist:

They Provide a source of identity. Traditions and rituals often tell the family’s story.   Traditions teach us about where we come from, and remind us of who we are.   They even help create our identity.  Psychologist Marshal Duke has found that children who have knowledge of their family’s history are typically more self-confident than children who don’t. Understanding who you are brings that confidence.

My grandma started my canning tradition (I don’t know if she had a shirt though…) and my mom continued it.  That’s where I learned to can, and where I learned to appreciate the fruits of these often long, hot labors.  A few weeks ago, my mom, now living far away in Kansas, commented that my pictures of canning jars full of peaches made her homesick.  “There’s nothing quite so satisfying as filled canning jars,” she said.  I even use three canners – my grandma’s, my mom’s and mine (see photo).  It’s kind of like they are there with me in the kitchen – right where I remember them being.  Hard work and providing for my family – that part of my identity came from those two wonderful women.

They strengthen the family bond.  Research has found that families that frequently do things together have stronger connections and unity.  Especially in today’s day and age, face-to-face interaction is seriously lacking.

I think the perfect example of this is the quintessential Sunday family dinner.  For years in both my husband’s and my families, this meant roast, potatoes and gravy, and jello salad of some sort.  I don’t always make this Sunday dinner for my family, but I did this week.  It just feels comfortable and safe…like family.

They teach values. One of the main purposes of traditions is to reinforce values.  Daily family prayer teaches the importance of faith and gratitude.  Nightly bedtime stories reinforce the importance of education – and teach it is okay to dream.  Family dinners and family activities show that it’s okay to be with family, and that family will be there for you.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve choked through tear jerkers like Island of the Blue Dolphins and Where the Red Fern Grows with my kids.  It’s really hard to read when you’re crying!!  And my boys in particular always look up when my voice starts to get that almost crying tone to it – they want to watch mom lose it!  But I wouldn’t trade those quiet days, snuggled in a bed next to them, for anything.  We talk about hard things and use examples of these characters that have become our friends to learn life’s lessons together.

They connect generations. In his book The Secrets of Happy Families, Bruce Feiler explains that grandparents serve as humanity’s “ace in the hole.”  Grandma and Grandpa being involved in their grandchildren’s lives leads to lower mom stress and happier kids.

One tradition we have with my husband’s parents is rolling tires.  I believe I’ve written about it before, but it’s worth writing about again!  It is the ultimate redneck activity.  Grandpa brings a whole bunch of old farm tires to the top of a large hill.  There is some farm junk at the bottom – rusted out refrigerators, old cable spools, etc.  The kids roll the tires down the hill and if they hit some junk, grandma pays them a quarter.  Grandpa goes to the bottom with his tractor and picks up the tires, brings them to the top, and they do it all over again.  Now who wouldn’t want to go to grandma and grandpa’s house if you get to roll tires?!

I know traditions have certainly helped mold who I am today, and I hope they continue to mold my kids as well.  In honor of my canning shirt, I want to share one my family traditions.  This  is my mom’s famous salsa recipe that I cover my shirt with every year:

Sue’s Salsa

  • 30 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 8 green peppers, chopped
  • 8 onions, chopped
  • 12 long chilies, chopped
  • 6-12 jalepenos, chopped (please wear gloves!)
  • 3/4 C white vinegar
  • 1/3 heaping C non-iodized salt
  • 2 t celery salt
  • 2 t garlic salt
  • 1 t mustard seed
  • 1/2-3/4 C sugar

Mix all together in a very large stock pot.  Put in oven and cook uncovered for 5 hours at 325.  Stir every hour or so.  Process for 20 minutes in water bath/steam canner.

Have a great week!

Dr. Michelle Jorgensen

This information is not meant as medical advice. It is provided solely for education. Our Provo, UT dental would be pleased to discuss your unique circumstances and needs as they relate to these topics.

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