Family Traditions
September 20th, 2010

I spent a fair amount of time over the weekend thinking about traditions.  Specifically, I wondered what my own family’s traditions will be.  It was an assortment of hot air balloons that sent me on this mental tangent.

Every year our city hosts a hot air balloon race.  The race is always held on a Saturday.  And on the night before they have what’s called the Balloon Glow.  All of the balloons are inflated, but tethered to the ground.  After the sun sets the inflated balloons synchronize their flames so that they all glow in unison.  It’s really pretty amazing.

Many families take blankets, camp chairs, picnic suppers, and make an evening of it.  Even if we’d had the forethought to plan such an evening, IEP’s bedtime would have cut us short.  But as I watched children running around, parents sitting back watching them, and a backdrop of glowing hot air balloons I thought ahead to next year.  IEP will be nearly three and I wonder if we might be one of those families relaxed on blankets enjoying a perfect autumn evening.  And I wonder if we’ll go every year; if the Balloon Glow will become one of our family’s traditions.

I look back to my own childhood and think fondly of some of our traditions:  Sour cream coffee cake and scrambled eggs on Christmas morning.  Playing miniature golf during vacations to Colorado.  “Going around the table” during dinner after church every Sunday and contributing our own responses to a common question. 

As I think about these things I’m struck by the fact that I have no idea how or why or when each one originated.  I’m quite confident that my parents didn’t set out to make them traditions.  They evolved organically – threads in the fabric of our family that emerged into a pattern over time.

So, back to today, and back to my family.  Here is my question:  Must traditions evolved organically?  Or can we be proactive about creating them?  And if they come about on purpose, are they cheapened by that genesis in any way?

I suppose, more than anything, I hope that my family has traditions.  I hope that we will have quirks and idiosyncrasies that are enduring and beloved.  I hope that our traditions are remembered affectionately by my children when they are grown.  I imagine that every family has traditions of some kind, and that ours will be no exception.  But we are still a young family and most (if not all) of our family traditions are still to be born.  So I am left to wonder what they will be and where they will come from.  My mind could go in a thousand directions with a topic like this.  But I suspect I will be best serve by letting our traditions develop on their own.

11 Responses to “Family Traditions”

  1. Rebecca Says:

    I think of this topic often and like you long for some traditions and rituals unique to my little family. Like you said, our family is a young one and those traditions are yet to be born. Other than our iterations of generic American traditions, such as at Christmas and Thanksgiving, I hope to cultivate other moments of thoughtfulness that we can all look forward to year after year and that my children reminisce about in their blog posts! Note I said ‘hope to cultivate’… organic traditions are ideal, but I think in our family it will be up to me to nudge some of these things along! Very nice post!

  2. Gale Says:

    Rebecca – Thanks for your comment. I love your idea of “cultivating” traditions. I think you’re right in that they may need a nudge here and there, which is certainly different from issuing them by proclamation. A terrific perspective. Thank you.

  3. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    I think we can create our own–why not? If we do something as a family and it goes over really well, we often decide to “make it a tradition.” Thus, the pre-trick-or-treating chili party and the Christmas cookie decorating get-together.

  4. Jane Says:

    I love the Sunday “round table” tradition! We do something similar with prayers – but not responses to questions. What a great idea!

  5. Cathy Says:

    I agree with Rebecca. If we didn’t work a little, traditions would die. I think a key to a tradition though is making it so that it doesn’t become too much work. I also think that as each generation evolves, they pick and choose which traditions to keep from their own childhood, and create new ones on their own.

  6. Gale Says:

    Jane – Yes, we played the “go around the table” game almost every week. Questions were usually seasonally appropriate. Such as – What are you thankful for? What are you most looking forward to about summer vacation? What is your favorite thing about spring? Etc. I have very fond memories of that particular tradition.

  7. Kristen @ Motherese Says:

    As half of an intermarried couple, I think about this question all the time, especially since many of my childhood memories of family traditions centered around religious holidays (especially Christmas and Easter). But the more I think about it, the more I realize that my favorite family traditions from growing up are actually a mixture of the organic ones and those my parents worked to shape.

  8. BigLittleWolf Says:

    One of the heartening things about traditions is that they can – and will – evolve. Some of my best memories from childhood have to do with visiting my grandparents at holiday time – not something my children have been able to do, so we’ve created other traditions at varying stages, and allowed them to change over time.

    Covering the walls and cabinetry with balloons for special occasions – a tradition that began when they were babies – is something my boys seem to have carried on. It’s a silly thing, but festive and so easy. I hope it’s something they’ll do for their families, or replace it with a tradition that is equally gleeful, and really so little trouble.

  9. Says:

    I agree with those that have seen traditions as a mix of the intentional and unintentional. I do think traditions take effort to cultivate, and I hope to do the same for my own family someday. But at the same time, nothing’s more uncomfortable than a tradition that’s run its course and needs to be let go. (This is why I do not jump on my parents’ bed on Christmas morning anymore…)

  10. Gale Says:

    BLW – I’m a couple of days late in noticing it, but your comment above was my 1,000th comment!! I think that makes you a TDT VIP, or something. Anyway, thanks for being such a loyal reader!

  11. Ten Dollar Thoughts » Blog Archive » The Royal On-Deck Circle Says:

    [...] I firmly believe that traditions are important and valuable.  They help us stay in touch with our roots.  They remind us of people and places that aren’t with us anymore.  They provide us an intimacy and kinship to our own lives that gives them meaning.  But the thing about traditions is that sometimes we abide by them mindlessly.  Sometimes we forget how they emerged in the first place.  And sometimes they cease to serve their intended purpose and are merely an empty shell of something that doesn’t exist anymore.  And in situations like that – like this – by continuing the tradition we actively honor something that perhaps shouldn’t be honored. [...]