Traditions. I sat down to write this post and suddenly the song from The Fiddler on the Roof was running through my mind. There are many kinds of traditions, but at this time of year I always see or hear people asking what kind of traditions others have for the holidays. As I thought about traditions in my life, I realized through the years and stages of my life I have participated in different traditions.
These different times of my life were childhood, my first marriage, single motherhood and now my life as a remarried mom with children from my previous marriage, step children and our 4 little ones at home. As I have gone through these changes in life, traditions have also had to change. I don’t know about you, but I am not very good with change. It is a big transition to realize that traditions you grew up with may not fit a new life with another person. And then it takes time to build meaningful traditions in a new life.
When I was growing up there were a few things I looked forward to every holiday season. My father always took us to the Macy’s parade (yes, I grew up in Queens, NYC) while my mom stayed home and cooked the meal while watching the parade on television. She always said she preferred watching it on television anyway because she got to watch the performances at Macy’s. Of course, the end of the parade brought Santa Claus and the beginning of the Christmas season. This meant writing letters to Santa and closer to Christmas my mom put up a tree. On Christmas Eve, right before we went to bed, baby Jesus was placed in the manger. When morning came we woke up to presents under the tree and stockings filled with goodies. Later that morning we went to the Christmas service at church.
Things changed when I got married and we moved to western NY. I didn’t get to watch the parade anymore and Thanksgiving was a big affair with all the cousins and aunts and uncles gathering at gram’s house. There was a huge meal with turkey and ham plus all the trimmings. Everyone helped out and the table and living room were filled with people enjoying the scrumptious meal. The Christmas season started the next day, early in the morning when my father-in-law, his sister and my now-ex would go Black Friday shopping. They would return with loads of presents for us to wrap and the house would be decorated for Christmas. Though there was no nativity scene. Christmas morning was again filled with presents under the tree either at gram’s house or my mom’s. Plus we had to visit other family whether on Christmas or the day before or after.
After my divorce, being alone on Thanksgiving sure was a shock after the huge family gathering I had been used to for 8 years. It was hard to come up with traditions when I only had the children every other Thanksgiving. We didn’t have cable, so we couldn’t watch the parade. In fact, as we didn’t really have any specific traditions, I really can’t remember what we did each year. Perhaps there were times we went to my mom’s. Christmas was more memorable, because now the children and I focused more on Christ in Christmas starting with an observation of Advent. So, even if the children weren’t at my home on Christmas morning, we still were focused on the reason for the season. We had a huge poster board Christmas tree in the window which was covering another huge poster board painting. As December progressed, each day we lit our advent candles and removed a piece of the tree, then we sang some Christmas songs and read from the Bible and talked about how different symbols of Christmas pointed to Jesus. On the day we celebrated Christ’s birth the tree was gone and a cross hung in it’s place with a crown in the place of the star. Underneath this cross is where the children opened their presents and stockings.
Now that I am remarried with 4 little ones at home I have been trying to start some Thanksgiving traditions up again. Sometimes the older children are here, but most holidays it is just our small (relatively speaking) family. We make a Thankfulness Turkey Chain on which we place a turkey for each letter of the alphabet and something we are thankful for that starts with that letter.
Of course we do other crafts to decorate the house for Thanksgiving. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, we can be found in the living room watching the Macy’s Parade.
I can now completely understand my mother’s preference to watching it on television. I love watching the performances in front of Macy’s. After the parade it is time to get the meal ready. It is a little tricky because hubby is usually working either Thanksgiving night or the night before Thanksgiving, so either way our celebration is cut short. It may just be our little family, but we have our traditional turkey, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie. We can’t forget The hubby won’t let me forget the pumpkin pie.
We still observe the Advent season because I want to make sure the children realize the true meaning of Christmas. We have a poster board tree, though a bit smaller than the one I used to make. Each picture on the tree was cut out of an old Christmas card and I write the name of a family on the back of each one so we can pray for them when we take that section down.
Everyone has to wait upstairs Christmas morning so everyone comes down together so I can get pictures. Stockings are opened, the Advent candles are lit, the Bible story is read, breakfast is eaten, and presents are exchanged. Even the children have purchased presents for each other and mommy and daddy. We usually take them to the thrift shop for this. They enjoy being able to pick out gifts and we want to instill in them a love of giving to others and not just getting for themselves. Our church doesn’t have a Christmas service unless Christmas falls on Sunday. However, we do enjoy a candlelight Christmas Eve service with refreshments afterward. So, we spend our day together as a family, and of course we have another big meal and then we have a birthday cake for Jesus.
I know how much it meant to me growing up to have special things to do for each holiday and I love being able to create memories for the children in these traditions.
Hi, I’m Karen and I blog over at Tots and Me. I have 4 little ones ages 6, 5, 3 and 1 who I am homeschooling. I started my blog 4 years ago to share our activities with other moms of young children. Prior to having the children I worked at a Montessori for 5 years along with another day care, primarily with toddlers, but also with babies and preschoolers.