Creating New Family Traditions: Reformation Day and All Saints’ Day

Yesterday we celebrated Reformation Day with our crew at the bee-hive. There was Mexican food, pie (because why not have pie?), and lots of discussion about what the Reformation was and all sorts of church history trivia. We heard a nice little 15 minute devotional by Dr. Stephen Nichols. We watched “Luther” again as a family and talked through it with the little ones.

I know they are a little young to understand deep theological truths, but they understand a lot more than you think they can. Trust me.

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. ~ Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV)

Today we had “Snoopy tickets” (oh, my dear, the new Peanuts Movie is a charmer — I actually had tears in my eyes towards the end when the red-haired girl got on her school bus to go to summer camp). And today is ALL SAINTS’ DAY. I never heard about this day as a kid. It wasn’t until I met my Lutheran husband’s family that I learned about many more traditional Christian holidays, and then even more as I worked for a time at a Catholic diocese in Houston for a while when my big kids were tiny. I saw such beauty in the traditions that were lost to me and my kinfolk – witnessing mass and liturgy and ceremonies with fresh eyes and ears.

So what does a modern day “reformed” Christian do on All Saints’ Day? I don’t know – we are learning and making new memories with our kids as we go. You have to just jump in and start somewhere and forget the thought that it might not be what the church fathers did. Just research and grow in your knowledge and show your children that holidays have meaning… even those that the world might consider “obscure” because they never learned about them.

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. ~ Hosea 4:6 (NIV)

As for our little hive, tonight we’ll go to church and take communion … and come home to have a little feast of some sort (probably Asian fried rice and leftover pecan pie). We’ll talk about the “Saints” who have gone on before us – our ancestors – and what it means to be a saint for God. We’ll set out stones of remembrance or light little candles and tell stories about our past. We’ll do our best to connect the dots for the kids so they are plugged in to their history, church history, and the “tree of life”.

For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. ~ Ephesians 5:23 (NIV)

How do you celebrate All Saints’ Day? Reformation Day? All Souls’ Day? Have you studied these customs with your little ones?

These are new traditions for us and I’m reading about creating new traditions all the time. I have been loving the Celebrating Biblical Feasts in Your Home or Church:

We have been doing Hanukkah for two years now and I love it more every time. Each year we learn a little more and do a little more. It makes Christmas so much more meaningful as the “gift” of God (Jesus) that arrives at the end of the “Festival of Lights”. I’ve done Passover once back when we were doing a unit study about holidays and living in Arkansas. This year we failed miserably to celebrate Sukkot. I just take it one holiday at a time and do the best I can, trying to build on the previous year’s knowledge and hopefully build a legacy of faith in my kids. I ache that the church as a whole has lost so much by “going to ground zero” (wiping the slate clean) on traditions during the Reformation (although I understand why this happened and you can, too if you watch the movie “Luther” and do some reading of your own). If you read through the Word, though, you’ll find that God was keen on tradition and celebrations to teach meaning to His people.

Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. 15 For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete. ~ Deuteronomy 16:14-15

After all, History is HIS-STORY and He has asked us to re-tell it endlessly to our children and never forget what He has done for us. What could be better than to re-claim the traditional feasts and weave the truth into them tightly? We explain the foreshadowing of Christ throughout the Old Testament. We can point them to the beauty of  God’s promises and instill in them the hope and joy of celebration. Thankfulness should be the very BEST reason to celebrate. Christians should be all about it! Every day.

I’m sorry, but I tend to wax poetic and passionate when it comes to biblical holidays, being thankful, and teaching kids about the love of the Lord. This time of year brings it all home again in my heart.

I’d love to hear about your favorite traditions.

One new tradition for us that we are going to talk about today is the Jewish tradition of leaving stones on graves instead of flowers. Apparently they felt that flowers were more of a pagan tradition and preferred the lasting remembrance (think: altar) of a stone instead on their loved-one’s gravestone. According to some sites where I’ve done research, this practice was the thing that brought about the use of headstones to begin with.

Placing a Stone

I began noticing this when we took a trip to DC with our kids a few years back. In the national cemetery, I saw many headstones with little stacks of rocks on them. I loved the symbolism of this unfading solemn bond between the rock-placer and the loved one.

Today as we remember the saints in our family history and our favorite biblical heroes, those we admire and are thankful for, we are leaving a little altar of our own with a small, stacked pile of rocks in the back yard (driving hither and yon would be way too expensive and our relatives are scattered all over this big nation). We are telling their stories. We are continuing in the faith they left us. That’s what traditions are for… to help us not lose who we are and to inspire in us to be who we aspire to be.


    • says

      :) That’s awesome. I had a lot of people unsubscribe to the blog email list over this post, which is sad. I also had some people give me a bit of flack on Facebook about celebrating Catholic traditions being unBiblical. That makes me sad, too. Not everything about the Jewish traditions or Catholic or Lutheran (etc.) ones are bad. Here was my response to this:

      We are always looking for a reason to celebrate Jesus – whether it is a Jewish feast or a re-purposed meaningful Catholic holiday or just a regular nature walk and every subject we teach in homeschool pointing back to Him. I’m not a Catholic – but I don’t believe in division between Christians and I certainly do believe that there are many Catholics who will be in heaven just like there will be many Jews who will be there in the end. I test everything with the Word and don’t do things that I feel convicted not to (Halloween being one of them). However, I know that God wants my kids to feel joy and celebrate Him — and I see nothing wrong with honoring those who have come before us (that’s sort of what telling “bible stories” is anyway — and we don’t call them stories, but rather “bible history”). There are even things about secular Christmas celebrations that we don’t participate in – but I definitely celebrate Christmas. :) Each man has to be fully convinced in His own heart and stand on his convictions… but that is the beauty of it – when you do that, the Lord is able to make you stand. (Romans 14)