By Laura Sager
What does family tradition mean for a new family? There are so many things to things to think about. The list a new parent can make is potentially as long as Santa’s!
It’s probably true for everyone and more true for some, that when you get married, you are marrying a lot of family traditions. This was easy for us before kids, when we were free to hang lights or not, attend a religious service (whose, his or hers?), or bake anything at all.
For us, it all changed on Christmas Eve – really! That’s the day we drove home from Ballard Swedish. It’s fortunate that it was a holiday, because we made that drive at 25 miles an hour – and no one was on the roads to honk. The house was entirely ready for Christmas; tree and wreath and even a new little stocking hanging by the chimney with care. But it wasn’t just because we were tired that those presents under the tree no longer held our focus. It took us days to open even just a few packages.
With this baby, and the next and the next, we created our own holiday traditions. And we looked for simple rituals throughout the year that would be fun and memorable as the girls grew up. Things like Daddy’s waffles on Sunday and the annual trek to IKEA for Swedish meatballs.
Whatever it takes to make it enjoyable – that’s really my best advice. Traditions are just something you like to do with (some) regularity. Keeping the gottas, the ought tos, and the shoulds off your list is just as important.
But of course, those gottas get in there anyway. I have a smiling picture of us the first year we didn’t cry making a gingerbread house. So many little fingers grabbing so many little candies! What was I thinking?
Yes, my children can be very serious about our little traditions. I might hear with a certain whine, “But we always take hot chocolate with us when we go!” And so as the calendar gets packed with activities, I try to remember to shake things up a little by doing something new or leaving something out. I may cling to certain traditions myself, but my kids at least should learn to be flexible!
In the New Year, I’m already planning something that may hopefully become a tradition. All my life I heard stories of how my dad grew up in Panama – going to the beach on Christmas day, nothing could have been more exotic to a kid in the freezing, snowy Midwest. His step-dad was the guy who brought in all the Christmas trees for families living there. A little like Santa, in my imagination. But in all those years, we never ate a meal of traditional Panamanian food! I recently came across an old snapshot of a party with huge platters of tied banana leaf packets and salads. It’s going to be a resolution of mine in 2015 to find some recipes like this for my family.
Traditions can be very simple, can change, can succeed and fail, and over time they can be sweet ways to remember what it was like when the kids were babies or introduce ourselves to something new.
Have fun out there – and tell us about your newest tradition during the holidays!
About the Author
Laura has earned her keep writing copy around town, editing other people’s words and thinking about how we tell our stories to each other. Laura knows her commas, mostly – and admires good writing everywhere. She is an MLIS with a deep interest in books for adults and children. At home, she is the mother of 3 inspiring and demanding kids, who often finds herself overcommitted, overwhelmed, overjoyed and overslept.