When my brother was about seven, he was keenly interested in detectives, codes, and solving mysteries. In a sheer genius parent move, my mother and father decided to follow my brother's interest, and encoded all our present tags that year for Christmas morning. They used a simple alpha numeric code for clues about each of us (favourite colors, sports we played, birth years). Thus buying themselves time to sleep a few more minutes and make coffee before the three of us could open anything. We spent that early morning cracking the code, and eventually sorted out whose gift was whose, to the joy of two well-rested parents. In the 20+ years since, my parents have dreamed up ciphers, crosswords, logic puzzles, and other math problems to solve Christmas morning (yes, we're all a bunch a nerds).
It's the rituals, the little predictable things that so many of us find comforting about our holiday celebrations. For our children, this is even more true. Traditions offer a chance to pause and mark an occasion, a chance for children to participate in the events. It's an opportunity to turn something ordinary into something special. Traditions strengthen our family culture, and create stories to share with future generations. I couldn't tell you all the gifts I received as a child, but I can recount plenty of these little traditions:
We had a handmade wooden countdown calendar for the month of December. Each day had a different wooden figure, and my brothers and I took turns putting the day's piece onto a wooden tree. I always tried to get the day with the angel.
Someone would wrap the tiny baby Jesus from the nativity, and place the box under the tree to open Christmas morning.
My mother saved every ornament we made as kids, and each of us had a box of our own to hang on the tree each year.
Both my grandmothers came over to make flavored hard candy pieces and lollipops with my family.
Every year my Dad procrastinated hanging the lights outside our house until a cold, blustery day in late December. We started to joke that the lights HAD to go up in particularly nasty weather. One year it was unseasonably warm, and as Dad went to hang the lights in the warm sunshine my brothers and I brought out fans and a tray of ice cubes to throw his way.
Our family would drive around Christmas eve to look at the neighborhood light displays. We would rate the level of intensity by singing a silly song. The crazier the display, the louder and longer the song went on.
We always watched the same movie Christmas eve, all together.
On New Years Eve, my mother would help us write a family list of “best of...” from the year. We recorded all the memorable events, and reflected on the past year together.
Some of these hold more meaning than others, and a few accidentally became traditions after a few years of repetition. But all of them still bring a smile to my face, and offer a wonderful story to share.
It's easy to start a meaningful tradition with your family! Traditions can be elaborate or simple, silly or serious, planned or spontaneous. No matter what you celebrate (or don't), there's a small meaningful routine your family can start. What's something you're already doing that could be repeated? Feel free to adopt one of the nine from my family, or create your own. And I'd love to hear all about it! Share your family's traditions over on Facebook, Twitter, or our group for parents.
Leanne Gray, M.Ed is the owner of The Prepared Environment, which supports families in creating an ideal environment for their children at home. She has over fifteen years experience working with children in both public, private, and Montessori schools, and is AMI primary trained. She particularly loves to hear from you! You can always contact her for personalized support and answers to your questions.