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Think of a family tradition, and the emotion it conjures.
What did that just do to you? What did you picture? Was it grandma in the kitchen with an apron on? Perhaps mealtime on Christmas? Maybe watching fireworks in your customary place?
My mother and her mother before her, our Nana, were the queens of tradition with the ability of making the smallest holiday so fun and memorable. My Mom says, “There are enough holidays in a year that you don’t have to run out!” We always felt such a drag when we had to take the Christmas decorations down. Our sorrow that the festivities were over didn’t last long however, because Mom would pull out the Valentines decor just a few weeks later.
Traditions are important because
1. They create a bond
When everyone is together, experiencing the same memories, it draws you close. Take those crazy moments when you are all packed in a small house for Christmas. The weather is well below zero so the kids can’t be sent out to sled to lend some breathing room. Invent or pull out a game and create a new tradition! Every time you play, your mind will ALWAYS look back to that moment when it started. At the time, the noise and chaos might feel frustrating, but those will be sweet memories in time to come, and good chance your kids will have no recollection of the reason the tradition was started, only the fun memories of the tradition.
2. For remembrance
Remembrance is a theme in scripture that seems to be of utmost importance. Remember that God has been good. You have been fed. You have been clothed. You have family. You have had a roof over your head. You have been loved.
The Jewish people have a tradition during Seder where the youngest member of the family asks, “Why is this night different from all others?” I daresay tradition is important to God. “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord – a lasting ordinance… And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them.” (Exodus 12:14,26)
3. They are beautiful and enjoyable
Who doesn’t feel a bit of nostalgia paging through a Better Homes and Gardens magazine when you see a perfect table set for a holiday dinner with all the fixings? Every inch of the room exudes beauty – garlands, a fireplace, candles and food galore.
Growing up, Christmas and Easter were my favorite holidays. I loved them. Mom would lay out a lovely tablecloth, fresh flowers of the season (Easter Lily or Poinsettia) and light candles. We always had season specific music playing as well. On Christmas eve – our celebration night – we would all dress up in our finest and my Pa would buy each of us ladies a corsage to wear for the night, even though we were at home. We made a fancy meal, bought sparkling juice or wine, and had a leisurely dinner together. The outside light had the blue of a winter twilight, but indoors all things glittered.
My parents had a home that they opened warmly and frequently to others. Many, many of our friends spent a Christmas or two with us over the years because my folks knew how to foster the beauty of lovely traditions in our home and it beckoned to not only their children, but others who did not know tradition.
A favorite tradition of ours was celebrating St Nicholas’ Day on December 6th. We each had a stocking from our childhood (made or purchased) and we hung it by the fire on December 5th. It was the only morning of the year we were allowed to wake up ridiculously early and wake our parents up as well. Then the coffee would be brewed and the cocoa mixed and we would gather around the fireplace and open them together.
It was a fun “pre-Christmas” celebration. Gifts were simple and inexpensive, but there was always chocolate to enjoy before breakfast. My siblings and I still continue this one with our children, and they love it!
4. They build memories
I love what my husband casually said when I was peppering him with questions about the traditions his family grew up with: “Traditions are an opportunity to live a moment again with the ability to make new memories doing it.” Profound.
He also said, “I feel like tradition says ‘I did this as a kid, let’s experience it with our own children and they can have a peek into our past.” For a man that does not often wax eloquent, I was impressed. His love of family and children was one of the things that attracted me to him in the first place!
Have you ever noticed how closely our sense of smell is associated with memory?
This is because the Olfactory Bulb – the part of the brain that processes smells is beside the Hippocampus which is the connecting point for arriving information. It is so crucial for creating memories that people with damage to this area have difficulty creating new memories. But enough of the science of it. I don’t have to convince you of what our mind automatically knows.
The benefit of this phenomenon is that we can create unique memories along with our traditions! Oils, candles, food… the possibilities are endless to nurture an environment that will create memories to last for a lifetime.
When visiting a new country, I would always buy a small perfume to take with me. To this day, when I pull out certain colognes, I am instantly on the streets of the country in which I wore it. It’s a bit of magic, really!
Suggestions for new traditions
- Take a picnic to the park and feed ducks
- Go on a nature/scavenger hunt
- Jump in puddles
- Visit a maple syrup operation
- Cook a favorite meal on the first day of spring
- Paint rocks to look like flowers or bugs for your garden
- Have a board game night – with family or inviting others over
- Wake up early and watch the sun rise on Easter morning
- Pick spring flowers and take them to a shut in
- Camp in the yard
- Invent (and name!) a new s’more flavor
- Make flower chains
- Pick a book to read about summertime
- Have a backyard BBQ and invite those less fortunate
- Call someone who is unable to get outside and bring them an indoor picnic
- Host a neighborhood game party! Set up card tables in the yard and serve snacks
- Attend a 4th of July parade
- Attend a live music event
- Go skinny dipping at least once
- Do every “touristy” thing you can in your town
- Watch the sunset
- Have a meteor shower sleep out in the yard
- Write a letter to your children or a child that is special to you every year
- Go on a hike someplace new
- Go to the zoo. No really, just go
- Make apple cider and host a fall food themed game night
- Go to an orchard
- Complete a corn maze and attend a fall festival
- Start (and add to each year) a gratitude journal
- Carve pumpkins and make candy apples
- Master baking a perfect apple pie, then bake it on subsequent years
- Sort through your closet and donate what you didn’t wear
- Ride a hayride
- Adopt a family for Christmas
- Make and date an ornament
- Wear your pajamas someplace crazy just once
- Celebrate St Nick’s Day
- Go ice skating and finish out at a coffee shop
- Bake a new bread recipe
- Attend a Christmas concert
- Make an advent calendar to use each year
- Listen to the same CD while decorating the house for Christmas
- Watch a favorite Christmas movie the first night the tree is up
- New ornament each year, related to an event of the past year
There is no reason you cannot start creating your own traditions today. Change your family tree and be the one the family links those precious memories to! I hope this has given you some great ideas to incorporate into your year.
What traditions did you have growing up? Which new traditions have you started? What do they mean to you? I’d love to hear your favorite family traditions.
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