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Off the Clock features Press of Atlantic City staffers writing about their lives outside the newsroom. To read more of our Off the Clock columns, visit PressofAC.com/Life/OffTheClock

My family began watching Star Wars together when we were just little tykes. On lazy weekends in the summer, my four siblings and I would pull out all our Star Wars DVDs and watch all six films over the course of a few days.

When we got bored from our movie marathon, we’d take a break and have lightsaber battles inside the house while wearing the Jedi robes our mom sewed for us — they looked a little more like the brown coats the Jawas wear, but we went with it.

We continued the marathons a few years in a row, eventually moving on from our Star Wars obsession to the busy lives of adolescents and young adults. But when we heard that Disney was going to be releasing a seventh movie in 2015, we decided to once again bring back our tradition. And we are continuing it this year with the upcoming release of Episode VIII, “The Last Jedi.”

My family has a lot of traditions. We’re the family that does something one time, and before we’re finished, someone says, “We should do this every year.” At that point, it’s pretty much guaranteed we will.

This year, with now eight movies — counting “Rogue One” — to watch before Dec. 14, I texted my family in August to tell them we were going to be starting our marathon again at the end of the month. Believe me, it takes a lot of work to coordinate nine people’s schedules. We successfully completed our goal, finishing the final two episodes, VI and VII, on Saturday.

The viewing nights look something like this: We start out by getting a bunch of snacks together, maybe finding a recipe on Pinterest for “Wookie Cookies” or “Yoda Soda.” It’s a mad dash to find enough seating for everyone, with the group sometimes increasing to 15 counting the significant others and friends who join us in our chaos.

We never start on time — I always have something still cooking in the oven when people arrive. After the theme song from the disc menu has replayed about 20 times and the timer has beeped for the last time, signaling the brownies, cookies or dip are ready to be eaten, we all settle into our seats — even the dog grabs her own — press play, and the film begins.

What draws me, my family and friends to the films isn’t the sci-fi elements or the cool fight scenes. It’s not the special effects or the editing. It’s not even the lightsabers. It’s the characters and their humanity that draws us into the story.

Although set in a galaxy “far, far away,” Star Wars connects us to the things that make us human — family, friendship, the choice between good and evil.

The story begins with Luke Skywalker, the farm boy ambitious to leave his small world behind and fight the evil forces of the galaxy. From there, we’re taken on a journey with the Skywalker family and meet new friends along the way, such as Han Solo, Obi Wan, Yoda, Padme, and Chewie. And now, the Star Wars story lives on in new characters Rey and Finn.

We’ve gone through a few transitions since those days in the summer as kids. My sister Madlyn is now married with a baby boy due in March. My sister Abigail is engaged and getting married in June, and my youngest brother, Jacob, is set to graduate high school this coming year and enter the exciting world of college.

I don’t particularly like change — but I’m getting better at embracing it, and traditions are one way we keep our growing family close. Just like Star Wars had to grow and change, so our family of seven has had to grow and expand. Our Star Wars tradition has been one way to embrace the change.

This holiday season, I’m thankful for traditions and for all the new characters in my family’s story. And I look forward to my soon-to-be nephew joining us for our next Star Wars marathon.

Contact: 609-272-7415 JMcQuarrie@pressofac.com

I interned with a small magazine in Wildwood before starting at The Press in 2013. I currently handle our Hometown and At The Shore calendar of events submissions and enjoy interacting with the local community.

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