Family Traditions Creates Unbreakable Bonds and Awesome Memories


What do the Sunday night movie, playing Monopoly on holidays and eating dinner at the table have in common? They are the glue that bonds a family together.

According to family traditions are handed down from generation to generation and add to the rhythm and seasonality of life.

What are Family Traditions?

They are those things we tend to repeat doing when we are together, like the things mentioned above. Family traditions differ from family to family and are normally just simple things we do that we as a family love, like having rowdy conversations around the dinner table as the Italians and Greeks tend to have. Or it is taking that annual holiday to the same place every year. So many of my husband’s childhood memories derive from their seaside family holidays, so much so that we live in the town they had their holidays in! My family didn’t have seaside holidays, but we had a big mass of water nearby where we lived and we went camping there over the Christmas season when I was little. It was also my birthday this time of year and to me it felt as if I had my birthday every day during those holidays, as different family members arrived daily with gifts for me!

Family Traditions look Different and can Literally be Anything!

Times have changed and so have the activities we do. But we still participate in traditions – even though we don’t even think of them as ‘traditions’. Mom and the girls going to the mall on a Saturday morning, Dad playing cricket with the boys in the garden on Sunday afternoons, visiting the grandparents for Saturday braai or watching the rugby together, are all good examples of South African family traditions.

The Advantages of Family Traditions

Other than helping the family to bond, it also builds children’s confidence, because their parents are spending some real time with them. That makes them feel grounded and safe and help them to be more outgoing and courageous. You can read up more on the advantages of family traditions on your own.

Family Traditions in the Time of the Corona Virus

Yep, we are locked in and can’t even take our dogs for a walk in the streets, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still do things together. We are after all, cooped up together like never, ever before in our lifetimes! So, this makes it a perfect time to bring back some old family traditions or establish new ones.

If you have stopped or never eaten together at a table as a family, start doing that – even if it is for only one meal a day. Here are a few pointers for this:

  • Ban cell phones from the table and keep a few conversation starters handy to get your family talking to each other again.
  • Research a few good conversation topics which are fitting for your family’s age.
  • Allow difference of opinion, but make sure to establish rules so that it is still done respectfully and things don’t get ugly. If we teach our children to have an opinion and speak their minds at home, educators don’t have to teach them what they want to teach them.
  • Start debates about different topics. Divide everyone present into two groups and let them debate two sides of a topic. When things get heated, change it around. It is fun to see everyone suddenly out of their comfort zones when having to defend the other side! And it normally ends fights immediately.

Play together, whether it is board games or games in the garden. And don’t stop when the lockdown is over.

Create something together, such as cooking, baking and braaiing, making clothes, building puzzles, building lego or whatever your family is into.

Try to teach your children something regularly during the lockdown, but keep doing it hereafter. Teach them to pray and care for others, braai, plant veggies, snoei trees, play chess, build something out of wood, do DIY chores in the house etc. Doing this on a regular basis will not only teach them skills, but give them confidence and the ability to do things for by themselves and for themselves.

Read together. Read bedtime stories to your children from day one. (Yes, they need to hear stories in their dads’ and moms’ voices from an early age.) When they are older (and now during lockdown) you can lie around reading for a few hours a day.

Start a thanksgiving tradition, either at the breakfast or dinner table or whenever you are all gathered together and bored during the lockdown. Think about those less privileged during this time and start a ‘Thank You’ jar where you can all contribute with things you are thankful written on a piece of paper and put into the jar. Open in up in a year’s time or so and read it aloud around the table while eating.

These are just a few examples. There are lots more. You know what your family love doing. Dust off a few old ones or start new traditions. Search the Internet for more ideas if you need to.

Keeping it Up

Our young adult son is still with us at home. We continue doing things together as a family on a regular basis, such as eating together every meal, even though he lives outside in the cottage. We go for picnics at the beach and going on Sunday exploring rides etc. My sister-in-law’s two adult children are having dinner with them every Sunday evening. Some dads and their adult sons have weekly squash appointments. You get the point.

So, when this lockdown is over or when the children are all grown up, don’t stop with the traditions. Many South African families are split up and live all over the world, but with the technology available these days, we can still be ‘together’. Make a family group call on a week night/morning (depending on time differences) and kuier together on Skype or WhatsApp video calls.

Do whatever it takes to keep your family traditions going, because they create awesome and precious memories for your children which they will carry over to their children.


© 2020 Fielies De Kock 

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopefullest writer. Foreverest dreamer. Living in a coastal village in the Overberg, South Africa, with a husband and two dogs in a small heritage house, and an adult, recently-graduated, job-seeking son in the garden cottage. His CV is available on request. 🙂🙂🙂


My Grandfather’s Shop


Oupa Willie behind the ‘stationery’ counter


ansie en ek

My friend, Ansie De Villiers and I (I’m the one with the frown on the left) in front of Oupa Willie’s shop


Memory Lane Chronicles

My grandfather had a little shop in a small town called Delareyville in South Africa, named after Boer general De La Rey. It was about the size of a typical small Crazy store today, which included the front part of the shop, a store room in the middle and a small bathroom at the back. The bathroom and store room served as the living quarters for the storekeeper as was the custom in the early 1900s, but my grandparents chose to live somewhere else later on.

In the front part of the main shopping area, my grandfather had a stationery counter at the entrance with a cash register. In the middle of the shop was another counter dividing the gifts, greeting cards and toys sections. This was his way to neatly sidestep the apartheid laws of having separate ‘white’ and a ‘non-white’ counters. In the end anyone who came in to buy stationery (not only non-whites) used the ‘stationary’ counter and those buying gifts (mostly whites) used the ‘gift’ counter to pay. The black headmasters though, who came in to buy a year’s stationery for their schools were offered a high chair, next to my grandfather’s at the ‘gift’ counter. There they would have rooibos tea and chat while my step grandmother scuffled around to make up the order. I remembered watching them talking, but I didn’t know about what. I could just see on the faces of the various men that came in and my grandfather’s that they enjoyed themselves.

Once new stock arrive, which included a toy doll that could ‘walk’ if you held her by her one stiff arm. I absolutely loved that doll. So, for my birthday at the end of that year, imagine my ecstasy when she became mine! I named her Lizanne. Two decades later I handed her down to my brother’s daughter.

My grandparents were Oupa Willie and Ouma Ralie. Oupa and ouma are the Afrikaans words for grandfather and grandmother.  I ‘worked’ in their shop at the age of five, since my mother started working only two shops from there at the Boerewinkel (farmer’s shop). The Boerewinkel was a sort of supermarket and sold almost anything – from clothes to food to toys to appliances. It even had its own hair salon, which I think at a stage was the only one in town. It was a wonderful arrangement. I was close to my mother, but I could have fun with my grandfather the whole day!

Oupa Willie taught me to read and write numbers and let me help Ouma Ralie mark new stock. In those days the prices were written on a small sticker and attached to the back or front of a product – depending on what it was. Gifts were marked with those dainty little tags with a piece of string through a hole in the tag. Oupa Willie bragged with me regularly.

“She’s such a clever little one,” he used to say to a customer, although when he told me about all the things my little cousin, Rindie, living far away in Randfontein, could do, I didn’t feel so clever anymore. But I liked Rindie very much anyway. She looked like a little angel with her golden curly head of hair and when we saw each other – which weren’t often – I loved playing with her. I often wished that we lived closer together so that we could play all the time.

When I wasn’t ‘working’, I built puzzles. I didn’t have many puzzles, so to keep it challenging and to impress my oupa, I believe, I learned to build them with my eyes closed. Oupa Willie’s pride didn’t know its end! I would also ‘write’ stories in one of the ‘exercise’ books Ouma Ralie would give me from the stationery shelf. I loved stories. Sometimes she read me stories from the books in the shop. I even tried to read myself, but was frustrated because I couldn’t, so I kept asking everyone around me to read from a particular little story book and in doing so learnt the words by heart.  I would then take the book and ‘read’ it to anyone who wanted to listen – concentrating very hard to turn the pages at the right places… The little book still sits between my Bibles on my bedside table today.

Ouma Ralie was my mother’s stepmom and things weren’t always going so well between them, but to me she was a great grandmother. She was also the only one near us, because Ouma Grietjie, my father’s mom (and my favourite grandmother) was living in the same town that my cousin Rindie lived. I was always jealous of Rindie living so close to Ouma Grietjie – although she wasn’t even Rindie’s grandmother and they probably didn’t even know each other! I loved Ouma Ralie though. She read me stories and gave me rooibos tea and Rice Crispies in a Tupper bowl for breakfast. To me that equalled love. (Rooibos tea is a very tasteful herbal tea original to South Africa and is mostly grown in in the northern parts of the country.)

The few years in Oupa Willie’s shop is of the best early childhood memories I have had. Before my parents moved into town, we lived on a farm closer to our neighbouring town and we had to wait for our grandparents to visit us once a week to see them. On one of his annual visits, my big brother, Pieter – sixteen years older than me – and our youngest brother, Willa, who is nine years older than me, built us a tree house and Willa and I would go sit in it on the evenings we knew they would come to visit. Then we would shoot Oupa Willie’s car wheels with arrows from our little self-made bows, before we made our way down the rope ladder to receive sweets which he always magically retrieved from the pocket of his large pants. Heart problems made my father seek another job and we moved to the town Oupa Willie lived in. By that time it was already only me living with my parents, as Ouboet Piet was far away in Pietersburg (now Polokwane) and Willa and my sister, Marieta – twelve years older than me – stayed in the school hostel in our neighbouring town, Sannieshof, during the week.

The store room in the shop stockpiled fireworks, something which could be sold at almost any outlet in those days. Oupa Willie also rigged up his camera equipment in a corner of the store room, where he took identity document photographs and other portraits on request.

In my oupa’s shop I experience two things that I would love for the rest of my life – photography and writing.

I loved watching Oupa Willie fidgeting with the buttons on the boxy camera and then throw the black cloth over his head before he took a picture. And when he did, it was as if the world around him froze. Myself included, as the person whose picture was taken, had to remain motionless. And for several moments before and after Oupa Willie pressed the button, he also remained motionless. So, in honour of this almost holy process – or maybe it was just to participate in the action – I froze too. I didn’t breathe until he removed the cloth covering his head, with Oupa Willie sweating and sometimes breathing with difficulty as he had damaged lungs, injured through years of working in a mine. Then I couldn’t wait to see the picture. Unfortunately, I have absolutely no memory of the development process. I guess the technical detail of the mysterious process of developing photographs didn’t interest me enough back then. Perhaps I just thought that my Oupa Willie performed a miracle every time he pressed the button of his black picture-taking box and that was enough for me at that stage.

Oupa Willie also sold Helen Steiner Rice greeting cards in his shop. These cards fascinated and frustrated me at the same time. Unlike the other greeting cards these didn’t have big, colourful pictures on the front, but had a printed message, with lots of words. Somehow, they were just more beautiful to me than the other colourful cards. The only thing was – I couldn’t read them. So, sometimes when no one was in hearing distance, I would go to the greeting card stand, take one of the cards and concentrate very, very hard. I thought maybe, if I tried hard, the letters would reveal themselves to me and I would be able to recognise them, like I did with the numbers and I’ll be able to read the words and the sentences. But to no avail. I even tried to write them and filled Ouma Ralie’s exercise book with scribbles – trying to write real letters. But alas, I couldn’t read my scribbles and I’m absolutely, positively sure that no one else would either.

Unfortunately, in those days nobody cared to teach a pre-schooler the basics of the alphabet. My parents were too busy and as a late arrival in the family, my siblings weren’t home most of the time. And there wasn’t a crèche to go to. Or maybe there was already, but it wasn’t the norm. Most of us pre-schoolers hung out with our mothers or grandparents. (Thanks for that, because otherwise I would have missed all the adventures in Oupa Willie’s shop!) So, my frustration only ended when I went to school and learned to read and write more than just numbers.

The frustration didn’t go away entirely, because I had an appetite for words and stories and in school one didn’t get much opportunity to feed the always-hungry Word Monster. I did, however, decide then that I would one day find a way to write for a living – in spite of being told that it was such a difficult career to follow – especially in South Africa. But that didn’t stop me and although I can’t make a living on what I earn from writing today, I still write. But watch this space… And something great came out of this desire, because our Father in heaven gave me the idea of The Writing Club, a club I founded to help children get the willing and unwilling words in their heads onto paper. So, today I work very, very hard and earn very little money from it, but I’m doing it anyway, because I love writing and I love to help other people write. And to think that it all started in my grandfather’s tiny shop in a little South African town.

Thank you, Oupa Willie. I still think of you very often. And I miss you so very much – even after all these years. And now that I am older and not as clever as that five year old anymore, I sometimes wish that I could just spend one single day more with you in this life – to ask you many, many questions for which I’m sure you would have at least some answers for.

© 2013 Riëtte de Kock

I am trying hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellent wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful entrepreneur and freelance writer all at the same time! I share a living space in Pretoria, South Africa with my husband, son, mother, four dogs and sometimes the neighbours’ cats – and my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters.

Visit my website at and buy my children’s ebook, Yeovangya, on Amazon Kindle at

My Afrikaans blog is available on my website – or just click on this link: