January Family Tradition: An Annual Memory Box

Before I had children old enough to even understand what we were doing, a wise momma suggested this idea of keeping a memory box each year. It’s become one of our family’s favorite traditions, and can really be started anytime! Through this idea developed one of our family values – the art of remembrance.

“I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever” (Psalm 45:17, ESV).

All throughout scripture we are commanded to remember. Why? We clearly struggle with forgetting. We forget who God is, what he has done, and what he promises to continue doing. We forget truth. Throughout the Bible we see God commanding daily, weekly, and yearly habits and traditions designed for one purpose – to help us remember, refocus and realign our hearts with his heart. We are in danger when we forget, and we likewise are more likely to worship when we remember.

This is why family traditions should matter to us. One of my favorite resources for this topic is Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in our Traditions – I highly recommend it! In this book, Piper explains why traditions matter. She writes, “Traditions are a vital way of displaying our greatest treasure, of showing what – Who – is most important to us.”

She gives some guiding questions to consider as she encourages us to establish family traditions:

  • What is my greatest treasure? What is most precious to me?
  • How do I reflect and express that treasure in my life?
  • How can I pass that treasure on to my children and others within my circle?

I am so very grateful for other mothers who encouraged me as a young momma to consider these questions with my husband and discuss our answers together. Some traditions have been going for seven or eight years now, and others we develop along the way. I want to encourage you to consider doing similarly, and I pray that I can provide some tools, ideas, and resources throughout each month this year to aid in this process (that’s the goal, at least!). I’d love to pass along to others what has been given to me. It’s my prayer that you would consider, discuss, and determine traditions for your own family or circle of influence. Why? It’s ultimately about our greatest treasure, about glorifying God.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

So, let’s begin with the month of January – a fresh start and a new year! It’s really the perfect time to begin a memory box, whether you live alone or with a passel of children!

Here are the basic three steps for how to do this: 

  • Find any kind of container you want to use. You can choose a new one each year and have your children help you decorate it, or like we choose to do with this treasure box from Hobby Lobby – you can reuse a sturdy container year after year. The point is simply to have something you can close or shut. 
  • Put in relics of memories throughout your year! The rules in our family are that you can put in anything that will fit in the box, but you aren’t allowed to look at what all is in the box when you add your item – just slip it in and close the box shut again! 
  • At some point around the turn of the new year, open your box and enjoy your memories together! We actually did this on New Year’s Day this year! But there have been many years where it’s New Year’s Eve, or January 15 or some other random day. It doesn’t matter – just find a time and enjoy remembering together!

I’ve been asked before what I do with the items we collect through the year. The system that I’ve developed is that I may choose a very few items to keep in our family keepsake file folders (I have one for each member of the family), but for the most part, I snap a picture of any items we may want to “keep” digitally, and I store it on a digital dropbox folder for each member of the family. I then discard the items. I am unsure what I will do with these digital files in the future, but it should be simple enough to print a photo book with these items to give as a graduation gift, or wedding gift, perhaps, so that my children can always have it if they so desire. 

This truly has become something our family enjoys, and it’s been neat to see my children cherish it as they grow older. It’s also enlightening to see what items they put in the box from year to year – it helps me understand what matters to them and why – there have been countless items from rocks, wristbands from camps, movie ticket stubs, programs from their cousin’s theater plays, candles from birthday cakes, snakeskins, and many more oddball objects. 

New Year’s Day 2022, going through our box from 2021.

Maybe they’ll take one of these traditions and do it with their family one day, but that’s not really the point. The point is that I pray they understand traditions in general as important and valuable, and whatever they choose to do, they do something, whether a young single adult living alone or with a college roommate, experiencing their first few years of marriage without kids, or establishing family rhythms with children, I pray they strive for life giving traditions that help them remember God’s faithfulness.

I am still likely the one who puts the most items in the memory box, but that’s okay, too. I almost always include handwritten notes and cards that everyone in our family receives for birthdays and holidays. I want my children to remember how loved they are, how celebrated they are, and how intentionally we really do live together. And ultimately, I want them to see and recall the Lord’s faithfulness and goodness – it’s really all about him, who he is, what he has done, and what he promises to continue doing.

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).

May we recount the wonderful deeds of the Lord together!

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