How to start a family tradition that will be repeated for generations
When you think about your childhood years, what are your memories about? For most people, it is about the traditions. I remember when I was growing up, we always went to a movie on Thanksgiving day before the meal.On Christmas Eve, we would follow the trail of cars touring the beautiful decorations. It was a yearly family event! As were many other fun things! When I had my children, I realized that I wanted them to have cherished memories, too. Memories that not only signified love and fun, but also stability and predictably. Not such bad things to have when you are growing up!
It became even more precious to me after we moved to Israel and I not only felt the need to preserve the old while making new family traditions, but to teach my children about the American traditions that were also their heritage.
[truh-dish-uhn] Show IPAnoun1.the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs,information, etc., from generation to generation, especiallyby word of mouth or by practice: a story that has come downto us by popular tradition.2.something that is handed down: the traditions of the Eskimos.3.a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting: Therebellious students wanted to break with tradition.4.a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices.5.a customary or characteristic method or manner: The winnertook a victory lap in the usual track tradition.
What I was striving for with my children was to introduce them to ethnic and religious traditions, family traditions and to make new traditions that were all ours! It wasn't always easy to do this, living so far from home but I tried to accomodate for the differences by using substitutions that closely resembled "the real thing." For example: Halloween is not an awknowledged holiday in Israel. Prior to the actual day, I would read the kids books and show them videos or shows about halloween. On the day of, we would take out the dress-up clothes and make-up and have some fun. Once they were in costume, I would hand them each a trick or treat bag and we would have a treasure hunt. I would write poems and hints or require a stunt and they would get a treat or prize in their bag at each station. For a little added fun, they were always welcome to have a friend or cousin or two join us. The kids always got a kick out of describing Halloween to others. When the treasure hunt was over, they would sit at the table and dump their treats out. Sound familiar?
On a budget
When the kids were small we didn't have a lot of money. A birthday party at that time in our village consisted of inviting all the kids to sing,eat cake and play at your house. No Chuck E Cheese or MacDonalds birthdays there! When Tori was 5, I bought her the "Baby Alive" doll that she was begging us for. Knowing that she was already familiar with the kind of fanfare a 5th birthday in America would bring, I was feeling a bit incompetent. I stayed up the night before and thought about what I could do on a limited budget to make it special. I decorated the house with Happy birthday posters and balloons as was my usual custom but this time I added something new. I took the new doll and put her in the new cradle we had purchased for her. I tied balloons and streamers everywhere on them. I put this in Tori's room so that it would be the only thing she would see when she woke up! We continued this tradition of birthday morning surprises! One year, running out of clever ideas, we took all the stuffed animals in the house (and there were a lot!) piled them all on the table holding the balloons and signs. Ben didn't see his surprise when he first woke up. He made his way, a bit disappointed, into the dining room only to find the whole crew waiting to yell "Happy Birthday!"
The family that plays together....
Another thing we like to do as a family, is watch meteor showers, etc. We usually get the blankets or lawn chairs, make popcorn and hot chocolate and star gaze. Somehow, being outside together in the still hours of the night, where the grass is dewy and the air is chilly, brings out the warmth of our relationships. I remember one year when Tori and I wanted to see a meteor shower at about four in the morning. We prepared our hot drinks but were a little afraid to venture too far from the house. We put on our hoodies and sat on a big rock not far from our door. The view wasn't much but the companionship was awesome! Our most memorable sighting turned out to be a pretty remarkable one. In February, 2003, the space shuttle Colunbia was going to be circling over Israel. It was a big thing for many reasons, including the fact the first Israeli Astronaut, Ilan Ramon, was in that shuttle! We were told that it was expected to be sighted around 4 am. My husband, at the time, and I were cold and tired so we decided to send then 13 year old Ben outside to watch for it. We sleepily told him only to call us if he saw anything. Wew dozed off, fully expecting it to be a bust. Lo and behold, he began to yell. We ran out to what looked like a white streak overhead, like a comet crossing over us. What an awesome sight! Sadly, this memory became much more poignant to us when, only a short time later, the Columbia blew up over Texas on it's return.
The simple things
It doesn't have to be grand gesture to become a tradition. It can just be as sweet as this one. I had a friend who would wake her kids up in the middle of the night just to experience the wonder and beauty of the first snowfall of the season. Do you think they will ever see freshly fallen snow and not remember the beauty and stillness of those nights?! And you know that they will always remeber their mother's contagious enthusiasm as she heralded them outside.
We also have our little traditions.Some of them, like the next ones are pretty universal but we have adopted them and made them our own. The time is 11:11? Quick! Kiss the clock and make a wish! We take turns, everybody listening, when reading our fortune cookies and sometimes add the words "in bed" to the end. My kids know that one of the most important ones that I insist on following, is not allowing physical things to come between us. For instance: We are walking down the street, 3 abreast and there is a post in the middle of the walkway. We MUST, I repeat must walk on the same side of the post. In my mind, splitting up would be a foreshadow of future "gloom and doom" It has become second nature for them to humour me. I know, that years down the road when they are swapping silly mom stories, this will be one! I wonder, though, will they do it, too?!
Create your own memories
Ask my kids about the tooth fairy. Go on, see what they say. They will say that the tooth fairy came for every lost tooth, but....she had a friend. The tooth mommy! She also came for every lost tooth. She always let the tooth fairy buy the tooth back but she was so proud and excited, she left a little gift under the pillow. She was such a great tooth mommy that she even left a little gift for the kid who didn't lose a tooth! (Ever trying to be fair!) To what extreme will we go to insure these childhood memories? My mother had a friend who dressed up in a fairy costume to place the money under the pillow. That was her way of insuring that a wakened child wouldn't be disappointed if they spotted mommy in their room. I decided if I just include tooth mommy, they won't catch on if they catch me!
My Parting Wish
With Thanksgiving looming just around the corner (How did that happen so quickly!?!?) the meaning of traditions is more prevalent in most of our minds. How do I know when something I do hits tradition status. One way I know is when I hear them talking about it. They use sentences like, "We always...., my mom makes....since we were little...." Here is one example: Last year, before Thanksgiving, I called my daughter who was away at school, asking her what I could make her to substiitute the turkey, now that she is vegetarian. She said, "You know, I can eat a little turkey, that's ok." A week later she called back. "Mom, can you brine the turkey and make the sweet potatoes and green beans the same way you did last year and can I bring some friends?" That's how our holidays go. Traditional food and always room at our table! For those of you who celebrate it, I hope you all have a very happy and healthy Thanksgiving, filled with good food, family, friends and laughter. Always laughter!