Do We Value Family Traditions asks Work at Home Grandma
The Family that Once Was
What are our Traditions?
The other day while my granddaughter and I enjoyed a nice lunch together, we spoke about the plans she had made for the upcoming school year and what she did during the summer. As she chattered about all the celebrations that she enjoyed she mentioned the vacations we always took to Duluth. Her statement was exactly “we have to visit Duluth because it’s tradition to go every year”. I smiled to myself thinking how wise she was for her mere nine years. Duluth was one tradition I had made a part of my life since my children were very young. I had 30 years of memories in that air-conditioned city on Lake Superior. I know if you stop to think about it, you too will be able to recall your own traditions.
America is a land steeped in tradition. Some of it is from our ancestors that traveled here from foreign lands to make a new life and brought the heritage of their country with them. Today every family has their own set of traditions that pass from generation to generation but sometimes become a little muted along the way. Sometimes they include vacations, holidays, birthdays, graduations or just favorite events. Even the best of traditions often come to an end, and as we get older that seems to be a difficult choice. So how do we make new traditions and how do we decide when the time is right?
Some Holiday Memories
Holidays can be particularly overwhelming when we take into account the many preparations, parties and budgeting that goes into them. The holidays that come to mind are Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Each of them holds a special place in my heart and perhaps yours too.
This holiday seemed to be the most exhausting, stressful event that took place once a year in December but was paid for the next eleven months. Whether you were celebrating Hanukkah or Christmas, it was often a costly event. You started the celebration planning weeks or months ahead of the actual festivities. Gifts were purchased and hidden until the very special day. When my children were young, I wrapped them as quickly as possible for fear of snoopy elves. My children were smarter than I ever thought and often peeked at their gifts and re-wrapped them back up. Of course the yelps of surprise on Christmas day were most convincing.
The next item on the agenda was baking cookies. The baking started a few weeks before the event and cookies were frozen until the celebration began. Cookies of all kinds, shapes and sizes were made including the Norwegian and Swedish favorites of Kringla, Krumkake, Swedish Ginger, Rosettes and Divinity. It was hours of back breaking work but a joyful endeavor to pass out boxes of goodies to friends and neighbors.
A candlelight church service was attended at 5:00 p.m. then followed by a huge gathering of everyone in the family for a fondue dinner complete with wine, Lefse and cookies. The event lasted for hours and was followed by watching a holiday movie choice of the hosting party. The kids wiggled and whined and then finally fell off to sleep before the evening was over. Hours of cleanup then prevailed for the hosting family and they looked forward to the next year when it would be someone else’s turn to endure the mess.
Gifts were exchanged Christmas morning which became an event of gigantic proportions. I usually had gifts for everyone in abundance from items from the each of the pets, Mom, Dad, and Santa. Each counterpart gave at least three gifts to each person so with our family of four there was at least 50 items to open. We sat in a circle opening one gift at a time so each person could gush over them and then a respective picture snapped of the event. We opened from youngest to oldest with the children often losing patience until their turn came around again.
Mimosa’s and Quiche Lorraine delighted the palette with cookies and sweet breads added to accompany them. Everyone ate in accordance to their tummy requirements without any inhibitions regarding amount or frequency. A good time was had by all and the entire process took almost four hours.
After the conclusion of our personal family time, we packed up all the gifts, food and children and headed over to Grandma’s house where we again indulged in our dinner meal complete with every dish imaginable, cookies, and sweet breads. Gift were then opened all at one time with everyone screaming and yelling and no one able to discern who got what or from whom it was acquired. Afterwards, all the wrapping paper was rolled into balls and tossed about for at least 30 minutes or until someone’s child was blasted in the face with a knotted paper and made to cry. It was utter chaos but a chaos that everyone loved, especially Grandma.
About New Years Day
My second child was born on New Year’s Day thus for 18 years I was hostess for dinner which doubled for John’s birthday. Again much preparation was done but this time other people brought a dish to pass and I bought the cake and ice cream. On John’s 18th birthday I proudly announced it was my last New Year’s Day dinner and I was on a permanent vacation. Everyone agreed and the celebration of New Years was over.
Making Turkey Cookies
This was a special time for me as I hosted the day for over 20 years and loved every minute of it. I started the preparations by having all the carpets cleaned while the dogs went to the groomers to get pretty and fresh. Tablecloths were washed and pressed. My best china, stemware, and flatware were brought out of storage and cleaned to sparkle. Shopping entailed a two day process as I planned for dinner adding wine and appetizers. I did all my own baking complete with Pumpkin and Apple Pie and my famous Turkey cut-out sugar cookies. Everyone went home with a bag of cookies or tray of leftovers at the end of the day. When the entire event was over, I was exhausted but exhilarated by all the fun and sharing. I would collapse into bed with another Thanksgiving over for another year.
Turkey Sugar Cookies
1 ½ C Shortening (Crisco Recommended)
1 ½ C Granulated Sugar
Cream Shortening & Sugar then add:
2 eggs, ½ C milk , 1 Tsp Vanilla
Stir in Dry Ingredients: 4 Cups Flour, ½ Tsp Salt, 1 Tsp Soda, 1 Tsp Baking Power
Chill dough before rolling out to about 1/8 inch thickness (do not roll too thin)
And cut with cookie cutter shaped like a turkey (Mine are from Tupperware)
Bake at 375 until puffy and very slightly brown on bottom. Cookies will be soft when taken from the sheet but will firm up in minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE
Frosting: 2 sticks butter, ½ bag powered sugar, 1 – 2 tsp vanilla to taste and moisten with half and half. Cream together and whip with beater to remove all lumps.
Tip: Add a few tablespoons of Crisco shortening to frosting to take away the sweet sugar taste. This also helps the frosting stay moist.
Divide frosting into bowls and make colors of toast, orange, red and yellow to decorate the turkey. Kids have great fun with this and the cookies are the hit of Thanksgiving. (at least at my house)
We Celebrate Memories in Pictures
Most of you probably have family traditions that accompany the events of life that are a part of each of us. Special memories are captured in picture or video and become the subject of many hours of family sharing. I recall seeing old videos with improper lighting and stilted people causing hilarious outbursts from the audience and hours of laughter and memories. Of all the celebrations, there was one that my mother adored --the family birthday.
All About Birthdays
My mother loved birthday parties. She insisted on a celebration for everyone in the family, adults and children alike. When the grandchildren were young they had a party complete with hats, presents and lots of cake and ice cream. The adults also had their own celebration. No matter when your birthday rolled around a card would be received in the mail complete with a $20 dollar bill and the words, “buy a treat”. Then Mom would invite you over for birthday cake and make you blow out candles. You were wise if you showed up for the celebration.
When her children turned 50 Mama planned a big party complete with gifts, balloons, pictures, cake and ice cream. A picture collage of all the life’s most important events (at least to Mama) was put on display for all to see. All those wonderful moments of childhood, graduation and weddings were just a part of the awkward collection that brought smiles to our lips and tears to our eyes.
When my mom turned 80 we gave her a beautiful surprise party complete with all her friends and a Norwegian band. We even made a video of all her children and grandchildren that made her weep. It was the most important event of her life and the last one for which she would be whole. Mama had a stroke when she was 81 and passed away at 86. Her life was a celebration of love and her memory will be treasured forever.
Continue to Make New Memories
Change is one of the most difficult areas for me especially as I grow older. Accepting change doesn’t mean giving up the old memories; it just means making new memories.
As Christmas is my very favorite holiday time, I had to learn that my budget could no longer handle the gift orgy that had become a part of Christmas morning. As my children grew and married, the family expanded with other adults and grandchildren. Christmas is still celebrated of course but with much less grandeur and fuss. Each family now celebrates their own Christmas Eve. I still celebrate with my younger brother. We indulge ourselves with a simple fondue dinner ending early so the children can get to bed to await Santa’s arrival. Christmas Day at my house is still Quiche Lorraine and Mimosa’s but the gifts are limited to one for each adult and a mere six or seven for each grandchild. After all, I couldn’t give everything up. Following our personal Christmas exchange we arrive at my brother’s home with a dish to pass and we all eat dinner together. Mama has been gone for eight years now and things have greatly changed. My youngest brother has four grandchildren of his own and I have two blessed ones. My oldest brother passed away two years ago and my sister’s family no longer attends family gatherings. My other brother has two wonderful children but both are still single. He is still waiting for those grandbabies. And he will be a delightful grandpa when they do arrive.
We only celebrate birthdays for the grandchildren now but each family has their own private celebration. The adults may have a party on a special birthday achievement such as 60, 65, and 70 – ugh. Can’t believe it’s gone that far.
This year I will be enjoying Thanksgiving at my son’s home as my brothers both decided to celebrate with their own families. And I – I’m just too tired to cook for 25 people. It’s time for a rest. Time changes things. Soon, my grandchildren will become adults and I will be the grandma that they visit on Christmas afternoon. My son in his wise old age of 45 told me just a few weeks ago. “It’s time for you to rest and let the younger members of the family do the work”. He may be correct on one count – I will relax but I will also have a tiny part of my heart that wishes things would always stay the same. Perhaps when my son becomes a grandpa and I have gone to my rest, he too will have a little bit of heartache when his daughter turns to him and says, “Dad, it’s time for you to take a rest”.