Traditions are the glue that hold a community together. A community may be your family, your school, your neighborhood, city, state, country or the culture you grew up in. Communities can be small or large, near or far, present or past. As with the traditions themselves your community changes with time. Some traditions last many generations and some are there just for a season. It is the memories of traditions that hold the members of the community together.
We have traditions here at preschool. We just held one of my favorite – Pumpkin Night. It is something the alumni children look forward to and remember. It holds the memories of ‘their school’ and they are excited to come back and ride the horses, play with the trains and see what is in the sensory table. These shared memories are part of what builds the preschool community.
In our neighborhood we have activities that have created a bond with our neighbors. Some of the families have been in our neighborhood for 35+ years and we have watched our children grow into adults and now have the privilege of watching their children come back to the neighborhood for visits. This year Ansel came and Trick-or-Treated at the same neighbors’ houses that Joel went to as a child. Our neighborhood has many traditions in place. One of them, that has warm memories, had a cold start! My sons still send me notes when it starts to snow because a snow event was a big deal when they were young. Two of our favorite activities: to build snowmen using all the snow in the parking strip (because you usually needed all you could get to make a snowman Seattle) and our 'first snow' neighborhood snowball fight – no matter what time it started to snow! All the families with children would be outside as soon as the snow started to stick. If the kids were in bed we would wake them up and put their snow clothes on over their jammies. With their footie sleepers tucked inside their boots we would go outside to play in the snow because we all know with Seattle Snow there is no guarantee it will still be there in the morning. I have great memories of our snow days. Now there are no snowmen in my yard but I enjoy walking the neighborhood to see the snowmen pop up in yards and listening to the children laughing as they play in the snow.
The traditions you share with a specific group of people will glue that moment within your heart – a memory you can keep forever. As we enter the Holiday Season you are probably trying to figure out how to navigate through a large mix of family, community and cultural traditions. As warm and cozy as the thoughts of traditions are when you mix them all together it can become a sticky mess that is difficult to untangle. What traditions do you want to keep, to start for your own family, to share with others? How do you choose which ones to keep? What new ones to start? How to tell your Mom (or Mom-in-law) you are saying “no” to some of the family’s traditions? It is a time to sort through the memories and decide what traditions you would like to invest in this year. It is an investment – always of your time and sometimes of material goods. The nice thing about a tradition is that they can be made to fit your family. You can add to it, take it away, or keep it exactly the same. They are moments in time that create memories you can hold in your heart. Just remember that as with any event these memories can make one laugh, cry or cringe. Ah, the memories of holiday times with family – the foundation of Hollywood movies!
For our family we have had many changes in the last few years. We have become ‘the inlaws’ to two of the nicest daughters. Danielle and Joel have started many new family traditions. We have adjusted to their choices on how to spend the holidays. It was not easy for us but it is necessary for them to be their own family. And now they have Ansel to add to their traditions and memories. Greta and Nick will be adding to the changes in our activities as well as starting their own traditions. We are working on blending, creating, establishing, keeping and remembering new traditions and traditions from the past. As our sons have left home and are creating their own family traditions, Curt and I have created some new ones – a drive to Vashon to see the leaves, going to the Pumpkin Farm by ourselves (and this year with the Eagles Class!) and knowing we will continue to adjust to activities without Joel and Nick. Joel and Danielle have introduced Ansel to the zoo, hiking, camping, Discovery Park and soon he will join them as they continue the tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree. Greta will always be with her large, extended family during Thanksgiving and Nick has discovered that one of Greta’s family's traditions is similar to one of ours. Both families play ping pong after the Turkey Day feast. They call it RoundyTown. Nick has introduced them to our version which we call Round Robin. It is fun to see some of our family traditions live on with them.
Sometimes a tradition is started by someone other than family. That was the case for one of our most treasured holiday traditions. When our sons were little a lady in our church asked if she could bring them gifts at Epiphany. Maria was from Mexico and she did not have family here in Washington. We learned that Epiphany, Jan 6, is the actual Twelfth Day of Christmas. In many cultures all around the world it is they day that children receive gifts as they celebrate the day the Wise Men brought gifts to Baby Jesus. Joel and Nick put their shoes outside the front door on the eve of Jan 6 and the next morning their shoes were filled with small gifts. It was the start of a new tradition for our family. We began to celebrate Epiphany with a ‘fancy’ dinner chosen by the boys that included the ‘fancy’ Loony Tune cartoon glasses. It was a time for our family to celebrate Christmas – just the four of us – sharing a fancy dinner and opening a gold box that contained a family gift. When they were little it was a trip to the zoo or a new game. The year Nick started his PhD it was a family trip to Kauai. We knew that as Nick began this new adventure it would be a time of change for our family. Since then we have added Danielle and Greta to our family and our dinners may not be on Jan 6, but Epiphany will always be a shared time of fun and laughter with the emphasis on family and time spent together.
As you decide on your family traditions remember that the traditions are a memory maker – adjust them to fit your family.
Traditions change, as do the people who make up our communities, but the memories will be with us forever.
Some of our favorite family traditions:
~Walks in the snow
~Bike rides to see the cherry blossoms at UW
~Bonfires and s’mores
~Camping at Mt Rainier
~Fall hikes at Discovery Park to crunch leaves
~Visit to a Pumpkin Patch
~Nighttime bedtime stories
~Playing games after dinner
~Putting together jigsaw puzzles – especially on Jan1
~Watching seasonal movies and eating homemade caramel corn
~Making homemade Valentine cards
~Waiting for the Leprechaun to visit and make mischief at the house
~Coloring eggs and hiding them
~Leaving May Day baskets at the neighbor’s door
~First Day of School picture on the front porch
~Pumpkin carving party
~Leaf walks, flashlight walks
~Cutting down our Christmas tree