Scoop: The Book of New Family Traditions

by jake on November 12, 2012

The New Book of Family Traditions: How to Create Great Rituals for Holidays and Every Day
by Meg Cox
Running Press, softcover, $16.00


Here’s the thing about who we are as quilters and sewists and crafters: It’s really not about us.

That’s right. When we set out to make something, yes, we love being creative. But at the end of the process, our creativity is usually given as a gift to someone we care for or love. Or it’s used in our homes, to share with our immediate family and friends. The fruits of our creativity unite our families and welcome our friends into the embrace of our efforts. We create because we want to reach out and fold in to our hearts those whom we love, admire, care for and nurture.

You know what else does exactly this? Traditions and rituals.

Traditions and rituals are repeating gifts given to those around us. We mark the passage of our lives by events and by the ways we use to celebrate, memorialize and acknowledge these milestones. I’d go so far as to say that a family that regularly employs traditions and rituals to outline their lives is really making a quilt of sorts, not from fabric, thread and needles, but instead with joy, reverence and love.

So can you tell that I’m a little biased about this wonderful book we’re showing off today? Yes, Meg Cox is a dear, dear friend of ours and she’s been supporting what we do here as journalists and quilters for many years, even before the arrival of GenQ. But she’s more than that. Meg is a hardcore journo herself, a writer and editor who uses facts and other people’s experiences to paint a picture of how we live. And that’s what her revised edition of The Book of New Family Traditions does.

The first version was published in 2003. Since then, Meg has maintained a regular newsletter where she gathered ideas and suggestions from many other families about what their traditions are. She soon realized that, while her first edition wasn’t aging itself out of usefulness, there were many more ideas that could be of value to her readers. So she got back to work and revised her original book to include oh so much more.

And Meg, being the quilter and the daughter of a quilter that she is, didn’t ignore our fabric obsession. She includes 15 craft projects between her covers, including the Christmas Quilt that we picture here.

This wonderful idea came to her from her son’s babysitter when he was a toddler. (He’s investigating colleges now, if you’re wondering how long ago that was.) She gave Meg 20 squares of muslin and two bottles of paint and told Meg to have Max decorate a square each year at Christmas. When Meg had 15 squares done, she made them into a simple quilt that’s displayed every Christmas in her New Jersey home. Surely we can do something similar with our kids each year, people?

We’re not just into New Family Traditions for the quilt, though it certainly didn’t hurt. This book is really about taking the time out of our busyness to create moments of reflection and joy for what we experience. Yes, some of these rituals take time and work, but what’s life about if we don’t do these things for ourselves and our families?

What’s really cool about Meg’s revised book is that she’s covered so many different events that can have traditions created from them. You can follow them by rote, or she encourages you to just be inspired and go forth creating your own version. And as so many of us are sleep-deprived, getting the jump start is very much appreciated.

Meg divides her rituals under daily, family or holiday headings. It’s easy to find something that applies to almost anything and her ideas are offered in a manner than can be adapted for our culture’s varied religious and personal beliefs. These are not acts of statement. These are experiences of unity and recognition.

Oh, and in case Meg’s name isn’t already familiar to you, you need to know that when Melissa started working in the quilt world after spending years in the sewing and embroidery worlds, Jake sent a couple of books to her for research and reference, a crash course on quilting in a way. Meg’s other book, The Quilter’s Catalog: A Comprehensive Resource Guide, was one of those books.

Now, because we LOVE you all Q-bies, and because Meg is one of us, she’s offering one of her copies of New Family Traditions for one of you. What we need you to do is share with us one of YOUR family traditions or rituals in the comment section below. When you do, make sure you give us your email address because we’ve been getting a few winners lately that we can’t track down. We’ll pick at random on Friday and announce then when we talk about something else that Meg’s doing in our little corner of the q-niverse. Your tradition does NOT have to be fabric-related, but if it is, that’s a plus for sure.

Enjoy your Monday,  folks!

Leave a Comment

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Aimee Morgan Identicon Icon Aimee Morgan November 12, 2012 at 6:49 am

One of the traditions that was handed down on both sides of my family was that of opening presents from family on Christmas Eve, and those from Santa on Christmas morning. This way, we kids all got to appreciate the stuff from family before it was wiped from our minds by what Santa brought. Being the middle of 5 kids on a Navy salary, Santa’s gifts may not have impressed many people, but we were thrilled by them (cake mix – I could make a cake all by myself and only share if I felt like it!)

However, with 5 kids clamoring for ever-earlier present opening, my parents started to establish rules. And we started to find ways around them.

Rule #1 – Dinner must be eaten and cleaned up before opening presents. No problem – we had PBJ on toast for dinner. Present time!

Rule #2 – We had to see what color Vanna White was wearing. Problem solved – someone was designated to watch for ads for that night’s show – they always showed Vanna. Present time!

Rule #3 – The fire truck carrying Santa around town had to pass down our street. This problem solved itself as the area became more and more populated, and they had to start earlier to hit all the streets. Plus, one of the firefighters lived on our street, so we were an early stop anyway. Present time!

Rule #4 – We had to see what colour Mrs Slocum’s hair was on the BBC classic “Are You Being Served?”. Hmmm. While there were a limited number of choices (all pastel, and none remotely natural), there was very little chance of actually catching a preview of the nights show. Fortunately, by the time my parents came up with this rule, we had all gotten old enough to wait patiently for presents. Or at least, to FAKE patience.

I have started this same tradition in my family. Unfortunately for my kids, my husband insists on a real dinner on Christmas Eve, so even with the use of disposable pans and paper plates, we still have a wait for presents.

Maybe I can talk him into PBJ this year…


Carrie Identicon Icon Carrie November 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

This looks amazing and I am gonna go buy it right now! Thanks for sharing.


patty Identicon Icon patty November 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm

We celebrate Christmas Eve with a soup supper, then Mass and when we come back home we find out that Santa has been there! paweis at yahoo dot com


Elizabeth McDonald Identicon Icon Elizabeth McDonald November 12, 2012 at 4:38 pm

One of our family traditions, now that our children are adults and scattered throughout the world, is to phone a family member on his/her birthday, and sing Happy Birthday loudly when they say “hello” from both phone extensions.


Tess Holland Identicon Icon Tess Holland November 12, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Every single year in the month or so before Christmas, we make spritz cookies and decorate them however we like. I’ve done this as long as I can remember, first with my mom and now with my son, and always with the recipe from her old WWII women’s cookbook.


Denise L. Identicon Icon Denise L. November 12, 2012 at 5:50 pm

One tradition we’ve done for quite a few years is to go skiing or hiking on Christmas day. The roads have little trafffic and it’s a mellow way to celebrate the holiday.


Paule-Marie Identicon Icon Paule-Marie November 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Like Aimee, we opened family gifts on Christmas Eve and Santa’s presents on Christmas Day. Both day were at our house, but my Grandparents always had a small tree at their house and ALWAYS hung orange net stockings with nuts, an apple, an orange and hard candies in it. I miss those stockings. (As far as I know that was an Italian custom for the kids). The really fun tradition was that my parents hosted a big family party on Christmas day starting around noon. While my dad was an only child, my grandmother was one of 6 and my grandfather was one of 3. So lots of people showed up. Lots of food, lots of noise, lots of fun. My Uncle Frank always demonstrated his Christmas gift for us – waders one year, a old jeep another. He was one of the kids. Then everyone would go home for Christmas day dinner.


helen kipling Identicon Icon helen kipling November 13, 2012 at 3:01 am

One of our christmas traditions is that we buy or make a new christmas bauble/ornament for the tree every year up to the age of five, now that my children are past that, it’s my grandsons turn. They love finding and decorating the tree with their ornament and discussing who made what. I still get sentimental and buy them new ornaments now, my eldest is 24 and they love it. This year I am starting a new tradition of making them pj’s


Lush Identicon Icon Lush November 13, 2012 at 3:02 am

When my son was little & growing I would measure his height twice a year, once on his birthday & once at Christmas. I also measured myself for comparison much to his delight. As we were renting, we recorded these heights on the side of a bookshelf that moved with us wherever we went.
At Christmas we went & had photos with the big guy in the red suit. Both of us together. We now have a lovely record of how tall we were & what we looked like for all those years.
We BOTH loved creating these memories, much planning was made as to what outfits we would wear & bets were made as to how much growth could be expected.
My son is 26 now but each year we still have a photo together just because.
Lush x


Tsigeyusv Identicon Icon Tsigeyusv November 13, 2012 at 7:01 am

We have several, which include hiding baby Jesus in the manger, chopping down our own Christmas tree from a tree farm, my kids putting all the bird related ornaments towards the back of the tree, and celebrating the holidays on whichever day the family can get together, not just 12/25. With multi-generations, divorces, kids with girlfriends, and geographic distance, , ther can be just too many homes to visit on one day. I love that we celebrate when we can get together, not just on one stress inducing day.


Jan Identicon Icon Jan November 13, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Before every important holiday my mother sewed matching dresses for my three sisters and me.


sue Identicon Icon sue November 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm

We celebrate Christmas Eve with fondue and home made french fries… it’s a second generation tradition that started with my parents when my sisters and I were children and we lived in Germany. When I married almost 30 years ago, my husband and I continued the tradition in our own home with our two sons. Since it is a slow paced meal, it allows for some nice quiet conversation in the midst of a very busy and hectic season.


quiltzyx/sue Identicon Icon quiltzyx/sue November 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm

In my family, we’ve always opened just one gift on Christmas Eve, and rest of the them on Christmas morning. Our stockings usually had one small gift, mixed in with the oranges, bananas & nuts. Our family gifts were wrapped in one paper, while Santa’s had a different wrapping…I never noticed if Mom used Santa’s paper the next year.


Tiffany Identicon Icon Tiffany November 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm

We have a tradition of inviting all our neighbors and friends over for a turkey fry on Thanksgiving Day. We supply a “sacrificial turkey”, Mimosas and Bloody Marys. Folks bring munchies and we fry any bird that’s brought along. It’s a great time for all!


Jen B Identicon Icon Jen B November 15, 2012 at 6:56 pm

One of my favorite traditions is chocolate waffles for breakfast Christmas morning. It’s a special treat once a year.


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