It's Friday at 8 a.m., approximately 12 hours until sunset. For a lot of people that doesn't mean anything, but for me and my family, it's the dawning of the Sabbath — a day of rest to worship and celebrate our faith. In other words, it's time to get ready for church on Saturday, one of the many traditions I love to celebrate with my family.
My introduction to family traditions began when I was what the older generation calls "knee-high to a duck." I remember going to church but also celebrating family cookouts on birthdays, pulling secret Santa names on Thanksgiving night, and gathering at Grandma's to celebrate New Year's, which doubled as Grandaddy's birthday. Each of these traditions shaped my idea of family, and now that I have sons of my own, I continue them.
Faith is the first tradition I followed with my kids. I didn't always go to church on Saturdays as a kid. I can recall the Summer of my ninth birthday, running with friends to Sunday church across the street for Bible school. We didn't have a church we attended regularly yet, but my mom read the Bible a lot and let us visit different functions with friends. The important thing for her was faith; it was her way of teaching us to have morals.
Being in a church atmosphere felt like being around family. That's probably why she later started a kids Bible study at the local community centre and invited everyone in the neighbourhood. We sang made-up songs and ate a hot meal afterward. At some point, mom linked up with a female pastor and opened up our small apartment in the projects for Sunday church, then later moved us on to join a great church with an awesome youth ministry.
I haven't walked away from faith practices partly because of personal beliefs but also because I believe it's a part of my heritage. Church has always been the centuries-old gathering place for families like mine to find refuge, strength, and cultural identity. That same ideology transcends to other customs like the family barbecues and holiday shindigs we still host.
These customs brought us together, and keep us together today, reminding us we need one another.
This past Christmas, my family got together for another party where we all acted as Mr. Claus and exchanged secret gifts — when we were little, we pulled names out of a bowl on Thanksgiving; now we do it from an app on our smartphones, but the sentiment is the same. My mom always hosted the party. She had me and my siblings stretched out in the kitchen helping with set-up, music playing on the old-school stereo, and lots of food around. But for the past two years, I've had the honour of organising the party, enlisting the help of my sons and family members. My mom has sat back and watched as the younger generation carries the traditional holiday torch with the same grace and enthusiasm as she did.
This New Year's played out a little differently than it used to in my childhood. Granddaddy and grandma passed recently, but that didn't stop the ceremonious rituals. We gathered at the church for a special Friday sunset service to bring in the new year, and the next day, it was me standing over pots in the kitchen like mama used to, putting together a good meal for my family.
Recently, I took the kids to visit my mom and rummaged through some old photos. "Mommy, look! You had a cake just like I had at my birthday," yelled my 6-year-old. "You had parties, too? Look at all the food!" I rubbed his head and smiled, looking over at my mom and realising I'd done the same thing for my sons that she did for me and my siblings.
I don't think I'll ever tire of following the traditions we established when I was a child. There's something about walking down the aisle at church listening to the choir sing the roof off and watching the preacher wipe sweat from his face over and over again, or standing in a kitchen or backyard filled with family as the aroma of simmering baked beans comes from the stove or a pound of chicken smokes on the grill. These customs brought us together, and keep us together today, reminding us we need one another.
Traditions are what connect us — both to heritage and to the future. Alongside Clorox®, we're celebrating what makes every family unique.