Thursday, October 27, 2011

Family Traditions - Part Two

As we approach this holiday season, I know that there are plenty of traditions that are observed in American homes. At our house, autumn brings an exciting collection of family traditions. With the start of autumn, I make sure that we have chrysanthemums on the front steps. They start off on the front steps, and then we plant them in the ground when they finish blooming. Dad collects several bales of hay, some corn stalks, and a few pumpkins and gourds to make a fall decoration by the driveway—Dad’s autumn masterpiece, as the kids call it.

After taking care of the decorating traditions, we move on to those that can be appreciated around the kitchen table. With the harvest of the apple crop here in Tennessee, we have warm apple pie and ice cream in the evenings, while gathered around the table rehashing the latest football upsets, debating which baseball teams will make it to the World Series, and planning the upcoming holiday season.

Sometimes traditions can span the miles between family and friends. Years ago, family members and friends began choosing which NFL teams would win the Sunday games. We named this process “Football Picks,” the object being to see who could pick the most winning teams, This tradition now is carried on by email for a collection of friends and family across the country, and it is a simple and fun celebration of the season, crossing miles and keeping everyone in touch.

With the advancing cooler weather, we have other traditions here at the Bennett home. We make quite a production of the first fire in the fireplace, enjoying the beauty of the fire and using the occasion to thank everyone for their labor of cutting and splitting the wood for the coming winter. With the cooler weather, we also begin our autumn weekend sky-watching parties around large campfires so that we can watch for stars and planets and satellites, and enjoy the Milky Way as it spreads out in the dark country sky. Family and friends come from all over to join us in this endeavor, and while we don’t work out ALL of the problems of the world, parents, grandparents and children all benefit from the time spent together.

One holiday tradition that we have observed for many years is enjoyed around the kitchen table. In the evenings, we gather and paint those small, plaster village houses to create an interesting holiday village. As the children have gotten older, we have created villages for their new homes and homes-away-from-home. The tradition of gathering around the kitchen table to paint and be creative has brought about some fascinating conversations and treasured insights into each family member, not to mention the “unique” pieces of art that have been created!

Early in November, we pull out the favorite family holiday recipes, and my husband begins the preparations to make his German family’s recipes, handed down from generation to generation. Many of these take time to prepare, and some of them have to age at various parts of the process. Yes, the house smells fantastic this time of year, and the kids have come to appreciate the smells and time with Dad in the kitchen.

What are some fun traditions in preparing for Thanksgiving?
·    Planning the holiday weekend with the whole family in early November (who shall we invite, which relatives will be here, what games shall we all play after dinner?).
·    Planning the menu so that everyone gets to choose one of his favorite foods to be included.
·    Putting up a blessings tree when the children were younger, making the tree trunk from brown paper, and each family member adding colorful construction paper leaves to the tree. Each leaf has a written item that the family member is thankful for—a blessing on each leaf.
·    Finding ways to bless others, sharing the blessings by packing Samaritan’s Purse Christmas boxes for children, taking homemade gift baskets of goodies to neighbors and those in need.
·    Bringing out the special Thanksgiving creations collected over the years: a model of the Mayflower, a special Thanksgiving unit study tablecloth, handmade pilgrims and native Americans, pinecone turkeys, and a basket of some of our favorite holiday books.
Christmas traditions are also special at our house. From the close of the Thanksgiving holiday, we begin our Christmas traditions. We all plan this exciting month, inviting friends and family for this very special celebration, bringing out the favorite Christmas books, setting up the family crèche collection, making wreaths for the house and barn by hand, enjoying the observance of Advent with a special wreath, candles and devotions, and so much more.

Whether for birthdays, seasons, holidays, or other special times, traditions make up an important part of family life. Traditions will be passed from generation to generation, perhaps changing a bit as time goes by, but the core values and family love will carry along with the tradition.

Why are traditions important?
·    They help families come together.
·    They remind us of times together in the past.
·    They give children a sense of security and predictability.
·    They help our values and character span generations.
·    They remind families that love and continuity go hand in hand.
·    Traditions can be old and many are new.
·    Traditions give children something to anticipate and a perspective on time passing by.
What are your favorite traditions? Ask your children about their favorite traditions. Ask your children about their favorite parts of autumn, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Now that I’ve given you some ideas, perhaps you can begin to reflect on some of your family’s traditions and possibly create some new ones. Recognize them and get ready to enjoy this season of fun and fellowship, laughter and celebration, thanksgiving and blessings. Happy holidays!


Amanda B.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! What a lot of neat traditions you mentioned! I grew up in a home that had hardly any traditions at all, so I really appreciate reading this list to give me ideas of what we can do with our children now. . .


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