Traditions: More Than Just Fun
As a kid I marked the approach of Christmas with each additional bucket of cookies being set along the kitchen wall. Ice-cream buckets, roasters, and dutch ovens full of gingerbread, jam jams, butter cookies with icing in the middle, cherry balls, molasses softies, tarts and more. And of course, Lemonia Cookies - a traditional cookie from my mother's childhood.
Lemonia cookies meant that ‘Christmas had arrived’. A decadent two layered biscuit style, lemon flavored, cookie with a prune in the middle that is then topped with lots of peppermint icing and dipped in long shredded coconut.
It Just Looks Like Christmas!
For many, baking or some kind of food experience forms part of our best holiday memories. Some so ensconced with the meaning of our family that they are considered traditions.
For my family, baking continues to be a huge part of our ‘bringing-in’ of Christmas. But for some reason, the Lemonia cookie stopped with the end of my mom’s baking years.
This year, I felt a strong urge to bring Lemonia cookies back into the baking repertoire. It also was equally important that I did this with the girls and my mom, now 86 years old, to symbolize the passing of this multi-generational tradition.
At first no one besides me was that excited. But as we got organized, dug out the recipe, sourced baking ammonia - which is not easily found, and talked about where these cookies came from, everyone's anticipation grew.
Together we worked to pull them together with great results (yummy tasting) and more importantly feelings of connectedness.
So what is it? Is it the actual cookie… the memory... the joint connection… or all of it combined? Why do so many families work to build and maintain traditions?
Our little family is steeped in tradition. Hubby and I work to keep meaningful actions and events going day after day, season after season, year after year, and at times I will honestly think “Phew… I could just forgo this for something… easier". But easier… is less… less significant… less meaningful… less connected. To me - it is less family.
Tradition helps build strong family relationships and a common identity within and across generations. Practices handed down through the generations tell a story about a family.
Tradition teaches and grounds our children in their family culture and religious history. Repeatedly celebrating our history gives us a confidence in the hows and whys of whom we are today.
Tradition can also represent new events that shape your own family identity. (For each of our birthdays we play the Beatles “Birthday” song really loud. Year after year.) Tradition creates bonds and connections that come from feeling that you are part of something unique and special.
Tradition plays an important role in shaping a child's personal identity. Children who have a strong understanding of their common identity tend to be more self-confident in expressing their own-self. Understanding your past and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself instills confidence.
Tradition acts as an anchor for your family. For most families, life is continually fast-paced and high stress. Stages and phases of the family life change rapidly and the everyday things we attach ourselves to come and go with the blink of an eye. Tradition provides a sense of continuity and routine that young people can relay upon for comfort and security. The grounding force of a common purpose is particularly important for children in times of stress or grief. It allows them to focus on the things that are truly important and re-enforces the deeper love we hold for each other.
Tradition teaches and transfers family values. Tradition is a vehicle to living the values that are important in our family. When asked what they remember most of their childhood, people tend to cite those things that represent their family values. If faith is valued, a tradition of daily and special prayer will be upheld. If family solidarity and unity is of value, family dinners will be a mainstay and coveted. Through nightly bedtime stories the value of education, reading, and lifelong learning is inculcated.
New traditions can be easily created. Tradition does not have to be events handed down through the generations. If your history isn't there, don't let that stop you from starting a tradition at any time. To do this, just decide on an action or behaviour that you want to pursue, define what it is and why it is relevant to your family, and then do it again and again with intention. Let it organically take form over time with input and influence from all family members. Before you know it, your kids will be looking for that tradition - that thing - that bonds them to you and you to them.
A final comment about tradition, it offers an excellent context for meaningful pause and reflection.
My wish is that this post has given you pause - a moment to consider - what are your family traditions, or where you might create new ones, and that you celebrate them with purpose and intention this season and throughout the coming year.