I used to teach writing, and one of my most favorite topics to explore with the children was "family traditions". We would typically begin the conversation around a Patricia Polacco title like "The Keeping Quilt". Literature is the most effective means of supporting a young child's comprehension of something they have never explored. Literature is tangible, it's magical, and in a way, it's cozy. Cozy experiences bring us to life. Sitting together in a circle sharing a beautiful story, what could be more cozy? In a way I suppose, our classroom tradition was to read together daily after lunch.
If you think back to your own childhood you may remember a few traditions sprinkled here and there, or perhaps your home was rich with tradition? For some of us it may be a little hard to think of one, or two. I personally didn't grow up with much tradition, but Christmas time always felt special. Celebrating Christmas was the tradition I valued the most growing up, it was the highlight of the entire year. It was the time of year that I could count on; I knew that we'd celebrate this season regardless of the circumstances. To this day it's the time of year that I look forward to the most.
Traditions speak to our values as a family, they honor our beliefs. Traditions create consistency and bring our families together. Traditions teach us that life isn't just about being an individual, but life is about family and community. While our sense of identity should be solely placed in God, it's a difficult truth to explain to young children. If children are able to establish identity and a sense of belonging through their family traditions and the cherished memories made together, they are more likely to grow up feeling this same sense of connectedness to their own purpose in life. Through traditions, memories are made, stories are shared, and history is established.
One of the first traditions we attempted to establish as a new family (newlyweds), was "Pancake Friday". After Sam and I were first married I was bound and determined to start this Friday night tradition. It seems odd, only because pancakes are more common on Saturday mornings, and they're for breakfast. But he's never been a morning/breakfast person so I thought Friday nights would be fun! Plus it would be a great way to stay in and not spend money eating out. It didn't quite take root, I think we had a pancake Friday two or three weeks consecutively, and then we diverged. Now that we have Ester we realize how important traditions will be for our family. So far, we have dinner together at the table most evenings, and last year at Christmas we celebrated the Advent with the book "All Creation Waits". Traditions will fall into place as she grows older. It almost seems like they come along naturally if our priorities are centerted around togetherness and being family-minded. We should always be intentional, but we shouldn't be too rigid either. For example, Thanksgiving is a rigid tradition for most Americans, we can be intentional with the day but the way the day progresses can be more spontaneous and flexible; over the years as a family grows and changes, so will the details that take place on that day.
Traditions can be simple, meaningful, and beautiful.
Traditions we're hoping to establish as Ester grows...
- Pancakes (maybe Saturday mornings or Wednesday evenings) - they're always fun and changing up the batter and the toppings makes it exciting
- Celebrating the Advent ("All Creation Waits" - one short reading each night) + Lighting Candles
- Shabbat or Sabbath meal once a week - a time to share our blessings and come together - invite someone to join - share scripture
- Nightly family meals at the table
- A family outing to the park or a hike together during significant times of the week/month/year (maybe Sabbath)
- Celebrating milestones in a consistent way (birthdays)
- Passing along skill sets learned from grandparents - finding ways to share traditions with grandparents (even on FaceTime)
- Church weekly + maintaining a true Sabbath
- Meals for certain days of the year (cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning)
- Sharing songs together
- Creating a "family book" where we can add photos - notes - ideas - stories - thoughts
- Prayer together - creating an environment for true meditation (age-appropriate)
- Planting something new each year - tending to our plants and trees as if they're part of the family (well, because they are!)
- Reading together daily - sharing wonderful pieces of literature and non fiction discoveries
How about you? I'd love to hear how you're honoring traditions in your home, or the new ideas that you have.