Make Time for Holiday Traditions
When I was thinking of a topic for this week’s blog, it seemed appropriate as we enter the holiday season to talk about Family Traditions. Sometimes the things you think matter the least to your family are the very things they hold near and dear to their hearts. The food you serve, the Christmas puzzle that takes the entire season to complete, cookie decorating, holiday crafts, drinking hot chocolate and skating on the pond together, decorating the tree while watching Christmas Vacation (an absolute must in our house!), volunteering, and opening presents together are all traditions that are important to families.
With Thanksgiving approaching in about a week, it is a great time to ask yourself what your family traditions are and what you can do to build upon them. Traditions are usually activities that a family does now, has done in the past, and plans to continue doing in the future.
So, why are Traditions so important?
- They give us a sense of belonging and they are a way to express what is important to us.
- They help pass along cultural and family values to the next generation;
- They provide a sense of family history;
- They can give each member of the family a sense of identity, strength and belonging;
- They provide a meaningful purpose for coming together;
- Traditions are a way for families and friends to bond with one another over things they have in common.
Quite a few years ago when my children were preparing for Confirmation at our church, we were attending G.I.F.T. (Gathering In Faith Together); this program replaced the traditional weekly C.C.D. classes that we used to go to when we were kids. Anyway, I remember in one of our G.I.F.T. sessions (yes, the whole family goes, “so the adults can reinforce the lessons being taught at home”) when Father Joe (Donnelly), now Monsignor, encouraged all of us to go home and think about what Traditions our family has now and to think about creating even more. So, I went home and asked my family these questions. Some things that my kids cited as Family Traditions, I didn’t even consider, so it was a fun exercise and I would encourage all of you to do the same with your family. It was not surprising however, that our list seemed to be heavily focused on food (we LOVE food in our family.) We always serve my Dad’s clam dip and chips - it was his favorite, something he shared with his family when he was young, my brother Paul’s garlic mashed potatoes, Joanie’s Pecan Pie, my Mom Colleen’s bakery Rye bread (for round two Turkey sandwiches), my mother in law DeLoris’ turnips and creamed onions (even though there are few other takers, lol!), Aunt Reen’s jello dish, plus Mom (Grandmother) Stone’s famous pudding, Sarah’s Gluten Free Oasis Rolls… just to name a few. And, if you think that traditions don’t really mean much to your family, try making a change and see what happens! One year I substituted white potatoes on my grocery list for the Yukon Gold which are in Paul’s garlic mashed potatoes recipe and oh boy, was I informed “that is simply not acceptable.” I made the mistake of trying to take a short cut at the grocery store because they were out of the Yukon Gold- big mistake! Needless to say I’ve since been relieved of my duties in that area!
Traditions are things that must be present during the holidays because they provide comfort and joy to people or when they are absent, people can become very emotional or sad. I’m almost 100% certain that most of you have similar Traditions in your family and just thinking about them will probably make you smile - sometimes because they will seem ridiculous to outsiders and sometimes just because of the history and memories they evoke. I even fondly remember some of the Traditions of my neighbors like Mrs. Janson’s glogg at Christmas.
We all love Traditions and they can be so much more than food; running the Turkey Trot 5K, going to the Macy’s Day Parade, playing and watching football on Thanksgiving… or more simply, that mandatory family walk after the big meal. I was so inspired by Father Joe’s lesson that over the years I have started to create more family traditions. Since my nieces Mandy and Meghan were little we have our annual baking and holiday crafts gatherings. We’ve made the cutest turkey place settings, a memorial to remember family members that are no longer with us, and so much more. However, the most fun we’ve had as a group is playing a new board game each year on Thanksgiving followed by lightning rounds of Ellen’s “Heads Up” game on the ipad. We are all so competitive, it's hilarious. Everyone participates - all ages. Afterwards, Matt usually has something up his sleeve like a surprise fireworks display or lighting up our skating pond, an outdoor bonfire… he really loves to do something special outside for everyone.
Perhaps your family is steeped in traditions that have been carried out for decades; you love the old, but you think it’s time to create some new traditions of your own. There’s no need to be intimidated. New traditions don’t have to be time-consuming or complicated. Traditions are simply a great reason to spend time together, be present- doing fun things with family and friends. Don’t get caught up in instituting the perfect family tradition, it’s not about being perfect- it’s about the experience you share with your family. And, if you aren’t home for the holidays, be sure to make that special dish or play that favorite holiday movie (Christmas Vacation) wherever you are and whomever you are with and carry on those same Traditions. Be grateful for all the things that make your family perfectly imperfect.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you,
Chris and The Piper and Dune Family
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