At this time of year we tend to focus on traditions; those we continue and those we hope to put in place. What are your traditions?
I believe traditions are essential in our lives. They create a foundation for our values and also provide a way for us to connect with those we love and create memories for future generations. In a way, our traditions are what keep us connected to loved ones that came before us and those that will come after. Everyone wants leadership. Often, the person willing to uphold the tradition will serve as that leader. Knowing that certain activities and gatherings will happen each year provides a sort of comfort and certainty for our families and friends. I have found that even traditions that seem "silly" are held as important to those involved. While you might expect people to grow out of some traditions, they often look forward to the event and find ways to involve their children or growing families.
Growing up, my family's traditions around Christmas are many of my best memories. My mom made sure to be consistent in activities and even foods that are now an integral part of what I consider "the Holidays". She always made sugar cookies which the kids would decorate together. After we grew older, we still would come together as teenagers to ice the sugar cookies (though our designs became less child-like and more competitive). After moving out of the house, this tradition faded and I found that I missed it. A few years ago I decided to revive this tradition in my own home. Not having kids, it seemed a little unnecessary, but I determined that if the activity and memory make me feel good, it is worth doing. I invited my step-daughters and siblings over to participate. Some years they came, other times they didn't. This year, I convinced myself that I was the only one interested in continuing the sugar cookie tradition, so I planned to just do it alone. I was surprised to have a couple of people ask me about it and whether or not I was hosting it again this year. This goes back to my point that people feel good being involved in traditions. They may not go out of their way to plan it, they may not be as attached as you are, but if the opportunity is presented to participate in familiar family-oriented activities, they will jump at the chance.
In our home, Roland and I have made it a point to create and continue traditions. It is easy to get discouraged when others choose not to participate sometimes, but over the years we have learned that if you provide the consistency, they will always come back. Our families know that we are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. While their lives take them out on many paths full of excitement and stress, eventually we all seek out that familiar comforting place we fill with traditions.
So, what are your traditions? I love looking for new ones to share with my family or maybe even good ideas to expand on some of our existing ones. A few of ours include:
- Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner on St Patrick's Day. We recently turned this into a dinner party to invite friends over for the evening.
- Lamb Dinner on Easter. Our families always join us for a lamb roast and mint jelly.
- 4th of July Parade. We meet up at about 4:00 am to go stake out a spot at the local parade. We always stop for Krispy Kreme donuts and then follow it up with a BBQ.
- Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt. This was a new one for us this year (thanks to Roland's sister for the idea!) but it was a lot of fun and I think we will continue this in years to come. We handed out a scavenger hunt list a few weeks prior to Thanksgiving and invited everyone to collect their items and bring them to Thanksgiving dinner where the winner would receive a prize. The competition was fun and it created an opportunity for family members to work together to help their team win.
- Sugar Cookies at Christmas. I love to make my mother's recipe and invite the family over to help decorate and take home a plate of treats.
- Homemade Ornament Exchange. Roland's mother and sister started an ornament exchange a few years ago. They were nice enough to let me join in. Each year the women make a homemade ornament for each of the others and we exchange. The photo at the top of this post was the ornament I made this year.
So, what are your favorite traditions? Do you think tradition plays an important role in your home?