It was going to be a bad Christmas. Nothing could be done to salvage it. The little tree (the only one we could afford) was bare, surrounded by its fallen needles. The Christmas presents were not much; Santa did not have the means to give the children what they had on their Christmas lists. It was going to be awful, the season of joy and giving was corrupted, nothing in the tiny apartment even resembled Christmas. The little, dead, bare Christmas tree was prophesying what the season would really bring that year to the family, almost nothing. How could they save the holiday? It seemed almost hopeless, but it turned into my family’s most loved and fun family ritual.Order now
To this day, I cannot remember a Christmas morning where Santa did not fill the entire living room floor with balloons. Every Christmas morning my family wakes up to a jungle of balloons; long skinny ones that look like baseball bats, the regular round ones, some that have a special design on the rubber, and others that are so tiny we do not notice them until we hear a big bang when we accidently step on them. This Christmas tradition is the one that saved Christmas back when I was really young. My parents, in an effort to save the holiday, had rushed to the local corner store and bought some balloons. The balloons were cheap, took a long time to blow up, and made that Christmas and every Christmas after that so much more exciting and fun than if my parents had been able to afford all the gifts we had on our list to Santa that year.
I have always known that spending time with your family is important, but I never had a testimony of its importance in my life. When I read the words “wholesome family recreation” in the Proclamation to the Family, it surprised me. I want to better understand why the Lord would have us spend time together so that I can strengthen my testimony of “wholesome family recreation.” I have to admit that this is an aspect of family life that I have never developed a “testimony” in. The experience listed above has touched my life deeply, but it never struck me as a way to help my family grow.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “We know that the Lord operates through families. He himself lives in the family unit; it is his eternal system of government in heaven and on earth, and he always offers as much of his own system to men as they are willing to receive” (McConkie, p.35). What a wonderful thought! Families are so amazing, they are pieces of heaven and visions of eternity that we can experience here on earth, given to us from our Heavenly Father. Since families are such an important asset in this life it is vital for us that we learn to appreciate them and to utilize the time we have together. Adler said that “the most fundamental human need is to belong” (Albert and Popkin, p.18). We can show our families how much they mean to us and how much we need them in our life by spending time with them, getting to know each individual and compromising for each other.
According to Wolin and Bennett family rituals are “vital to the life of the healthy family” (Wolin and Bennett, p. 407). When we take the time to plan and accomplish family recreation, we make that experience more special and meaningful because we, as a family, chose to spend time togther. Opportunities like this give the family a closeness that is deeper than love, it makes a family that likes one another and enjoys the other members. When parents and siblings take time out of their lives to go on a vacation or participate in family prayer it shows the other members of the family that they are more important than a job, school work, or friends. Some family scholars have used the term “metaphor” when describing aspects of family rituals (Imber-Black, et al) because the effect of the ritual is more then just “hanging out” together. The ritual is a time where each member puts the family first.
According to my Family Science book, family rituals turn a house into a home (Burr, et al., p.331). The time that we take eating meals as a unity, praying with one voice, and sharing weekly activities invite the spirit into that house. The house that makes time for each other is that house that appears to welcome its members. In a home the overwhelming feeling is love because the members have to sacrifice for the other members in the family. In the text for this class there is a subtitle in chapter 11 called “self-sacrifice,” it talks about how we have to sacrifice for a successful family (Dollahite, p.158). When we share daily, weekly, and yearly traditions it is a way for us to show the other members in our family that we are willing to sacrifice for them. My mom never buys anything for herself because she would rather her children have more than her. This visible giving of self by my mother has made me love her and appreciate me more because it shows me that I am special to her. My dad always (well, almost always) eats dinner with us. He is a lawyer and a bishop and he does not have much free time. Nevertheless, he puts off work so that he can spend those few minutes with his children. His sacrifice of time shows me how much he truly cares about my family because he is willing to stop and eat with us.
When we look back on the times that we have spent in wholesome family recreation the experiences are usually more cheerful and optimistic. The rituals provide a reservoir of goodwill, unity, trust, and confidence. They make the world resemble a more comfortable place because it gives us a place where we fit in. (Burr, et al., p.332) Looking back to when I was growing up I got into many fights with my little siblings and my parents, but when I remember the times that we planned to spend together most of my memories are happy, energizing ones. I know that I did not grow up in the perfect household, but when we stopped to spend time together and enjoy one another’s presence it helped build felicitous memories.
Wholesome family recreation does not have to include every member of the family, the text says that it involves two or more members of the family (Dollahite, p.197). Over the Christmas holiday I made it a point to spend individual time with each of my siblings (all five) because it is one of my goals to always remain close to them. We sat and planned our activity together, got all the things we needed to prepare, and then spent the day together. I had a picnic with my sister, I bowled with my brother, and I got to know more about them. Meredith and colleagues said that family rituals “encourage contact between family members, in a relaxed, enjoyable setting . . . This may lead to increased communication and cohesiveness” (Meredith, et al., p.77). This time that we spent together not only provided a few hours of fun, but it brought us closer as siblings. Meredith also says that most family rituals have a theme of “appreciation.” When we take time to spend with members of our family, it shows them that we appreciate them as an addition to our family.
In the movie Fiddler on the Roof Tevye says;
“Why do we stay up on the roof if it’s so dangerous? That I can tell you in one word… TRADITION! Because of our traditions we/ve kept our bonds for many years. Here we have traditions for everything – how to sleep, how to eat, how to work, how to wear our clothes. For instance we always keep our heads covered and always wear little prayer shawls. This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, How did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you (pause) I don’t know, but it’s a tradition, and because of our traditions everyone of us knows who he is and what God expects of him.” (Tevye, in Fiddler on the Roof)
Wholesome recreation like family prayer, family home evening, and eating family meals help the family members know more about whom he/she is and what their importance is. The rituals that we plan into our lives help give each member a sense of purpose and connection with the family. Also, through productive family recreation, we have an opportunity to teach our children about their Heavenly Father and elder brother, Jesus Christ. These experiences that bring us closer as a family can also bring us closer to deity and building a testimony of our own. Every day since time began, at least for me, my family has prayed together in the morning. Now I cannot leave my apartment until I have prayed because my parents taught me through that experience the importance of prayer.
Christmas morning without balloons would be empty and depressing; those balloons helped my family bond. Family dinners without dad are lacking significance because when he was there we knew of our importance to him. Morning without prayer is not completely; those prayers helped me learn the gospel. There are so many benefits to wholesome family recreation that go unnoticed underneath all the fun. Before I started researching this topic, I did not think that having a testimony of recreation could be possible; testimonies were about tithing and the atonement. Now I realize that family traditions and rituals are an indispensable aspect of family life. I can say that I have a testimony in the importance of wholesome family recreation. When I start my own family, I want to continue and build new rituals so that we can build lasting and meaningful relationships. The Proclamation to the Family is incredibly insightful, who would have thought such a minor thing was really an ingredient to having a successful family.