The McKennas Practice one of the Four Keys!

Rituals and Traditions:Anchors and Pillars for a Life of Faith

by Pastor Heath Howe

It begins like this. The family gathers together around Christmas time at a member's home. Some travel thousands of miles and others just down the street. The house where everyone will gather is decorated and a dining table beautifully set. Favorite food is prepared. Anticipation fills the air for all gathered, as they know that this is the night, the very special night when a McKenna-family-favorite-ritual-and-tradition will be celebrated.

Ah, The Tree Ceremony!

On this night of the ceremony, the hostess gives each family member a gift. All know by now that the gift will be an ornament. However, it is not just any ornament. Not all at. The hostess has been searching all year long for the perfect ornament for each member gathered, and each ornament is different than the others. You see, the ornaments symbolize something about the person who will receive it. For example, Warren likes cars so he received a shiny red car one year. Annabelle described Nana's lovely purple and green peacock ornament she got one year reminding all of how small and lovely she was.

However, it is not just the ornaments that make the ceremony so special. "I like the sharing that comes afterward," says Warren. "You see, once the gift is open, the hostess says something about the blessing this person is in her life. The receiver then reflects on what is going on in his/her life, hangs the ornament on the tree for the night, and says what he/she is thankful for now. I like learning what is happening in family members' lives and learning what is going on in their world. Even though it is time for good food and giving gifts, it is also a time to be honest, to share challenges and struggles. It is a way we stay connected." For the McKennas, the Tree Ceremony provides another space for one of the four keys to be practiced, caring conversations.

Still, it is clear rituals and traditions are central to the McKenna family. They are gifts. For Elizabeth, the Tree Ceremony provides "the gift of expectation, anticipating joy. Rituals and Traditions (in general) are anchors and pillars that help you navigate."

How true. As we walk through life as faithful families, Easter Families really, we need anchors and pillars to help. They keep us grounded and on track for our journey. Rituals and traditions sure do that for the McKenna family. The Tree Ceremony is one of many.

A daily ritual they love is the Kissing Hand. Madeline explains, "I have trouble leaving Mommy when I am going to school. She gives me a kiss on the palm of my hand. I give her one on hers. We close our hands up and we each have a kiss all day long." This ritual is Madeline's anchor that can reminder her she is loved by Mom, Dad, Annabelle, and well...God.

Passing on our faith is easy when we practice the four keys: Caring Conversations, Rituals and Traditions, Prayer and Service. For more idea and activities for practicing the keys go to