This time of year is also a reminder of family rituals, for me personally, and the deep thoughts and sensation that follow. Building rituals into our lives creates surreal memories and love.
What’s even more remarkable about rituals is their origin- starting from an idea, growing by natural progression with loved ones and blossoming into something very special for a lifetime. Rituals have the potential to become traditions, which may then get passed down into generations. The very thought of sharing and witnessing our family traditions into my prime with grand children warms my heart.
All it takes to start a ritual is a little imagination and group enthusiasm- this organized effort can transform and brings love and lasting memory. Rituals and traditions alike bring family together. Family rituals provide opportunity for re-affirming and developing family values, faith, and life experiences together.
These experiences are a hidden reinforcement or way of strengthening bonds ceremonially. These events are a reflection that family is important. Traditions are vital to the family unit. While having dinner together, as an example, has become more challenging by today’s standards, sitting down more often as a family may serve to re-kindle the spirit of that tradition. For families on the go, think about insisting on sitting down for a healthy dinner every Sunday as a start to provide "must" quality time and togetherness.
Make it a priority to create customary events surrounding your lifestyle. It's not hard. I personally looked for hobbies and interests, including my own as a child, to share with my children. I sought out favorite past times from my youth to incorporate with my children to share and keep the traditions going. Reliving parts of our youth with our children is a fulfilling opportunity to underline bonds. Providing and supporting these types of events to help my children identify with my childhood is a feeling beyond which I don’t have words.
Rituals I enjoyed as a child were sledding down winding snowy New Hampshire roads, ice skating on the local pond, and shoveling 5 ft snow drifts into Eskimo igloos. During the summer months, I enjoyed neighborhood rituals such as: Kick-the-can, Capture the Flag, building real usable go-carts for those same winding roads, and climbing the tallest trees to see if I could touch the sky!
Here are rituals I began with my children:
Christmas Eve Pajamas- When my kids were very young and video recording at the time was a highlight to our Christmas, I thought of waking up in new pajamas. My kids found opening pajamas on the eve of Christmas and wearing through Christmas morning a treat and twenty years later this tradition holds today.
Hidden Christmas Ornaments- While on the subject of Christmas, the Christmas after I divorced I started hanging new ornaments annually, typically of Santa and Snowman themes for each daughter, on the tree marked with year notation and special message. My original thought was my kids would have enough ornaments to hang on their first tree one day showing every year we spent together. Today my kids insist to keep this tradition going at our home base even though they live elsewhere.
Camping/ Horseback/ Tubing- I would attempt once a year to venture into the Colorado Mountains to be Colorado's greatest outdoorsman. For one long weekend we would camp, build a fire, cook, walk in nature, and explore. I love horseback and would incorporate into our trip often. Other times we would tube down nearby Colorado creeks. As the children got older this was harder to find time, but it’s the memories we reflect on that are important and will bring us back again someday. !
Finding “The Rock”- I have a framed picture with my kids sitting on a large rock on Mt. Evans in central Colorado. One day I decided to take us back to this memorable place in search of the exact over-sized boulder we recorded previously. Spontaneity is a good thing. Eventually, this became the perfect perpetual excuse for a quick getaway for a day trip with new clues. Almost 17 years after original picture was photographed we finally discovered this evasive and mysterious stone and recorded in our original positions.
Skiing Thanksgiving Weekend- The American Thanksgiving Holiday is typically the first ski day for most Colorado resorts. Naturally, we wanted to be with the first ascendants to break in the season. I taught my kids to ski at Breckenridge, Co. For several years we spent time on those peaks over the gliders and rollers through the trees and onto virgin snow powder. The memories and pictures still serve us well. Eventually, we moved on to more aggressive slopes at Beaver Creek, Vail, Copper Mtn, A-Basin, Steamboat, and Crested Butte.
Carving Pumpkins- Selecting the right pumpkin for the right display is almost as much fun as cutting into Jack-o-lanterns. You don’t know how creative your children are until you hand them an abstract and imaginary task. I became very impressed with the complexity of the designs. This ritual of course followed Halloween and displaying our artwork on the front home stoop proudly was always great pleasure.
Easter Egg Baskets- Easter is an important date for acknowledging our savior’s transcendence for our sins. I’m also one of those parents that have a hard time giving up displaying a basket even though my children are all in their twenties now. I still dole out candy for my daughters who can be here, and baskets are shipped for those who can’t. It’s primarily a way of holding onto the past when they were little perhaps. I always found joy in seeing my kids faces light up no matter the occasion. I'll admit, I still steal this opportunity.
Daniels Park Hike- When I felt we needed to exert some energy, Daniels Park never failed. This park was a short drive out to a rural area with a phenomenal panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains and Mt Evans mentioned above. The park stands high on a mesa and is a mecca for beginning rock climbers. We would travel the ornery paths through, around, and atop massive rocks circumventing the mesa to a stone cabin in the distance. Our reward was standing tall atop the cabin and yell out into the open space toward the Rockies.
Labor Day in Aspen, Co- We ended the summer season with flair in a road trip to Aspen, Co over the Labor Day weekend. This ritual started after a remarkable camping trip (and horseback ride in Carbondale, Co) culminated over the September holiday that year in Aspen. I made sure we returned the same time every year to ride horseback, see a concert, eat ice cream at the "Paradise Bakery" in town, buy small gifts and tokens, celebrate a birthday, and view the large network of Aspen trees, etc.
Vacations- Every two years I would take my kids on excursions primarily around the US. We visited southern California, Catalina Island, Vancouver British Columbia, Outer Banks North Carolina, and perhaps my favorite, New York City and the New Jersey Shoreline. It was on this shore I spent most of my teens. It brought me a lot of joy sharing the beach, surroundings, and this type of experience with my kids.
Date Night- I started a rotation of weekly one-on-one dates with my young girls shortly after their mom and I separated. One evening a week typically from 5 til 9pm, I let my date choose her dinner place and then some activity afterwards. During conversation waiting for and over dinner I would learn and understand my daughter's world listening to her ideas, thoughts, and imagination. This was my opportunity to show each child individually I have a stake in their lives, they are important, and I approve of them lovingly and with acceptance. Afterwards consisted of movies, playtime at a favorite indoor amusement place or nearby park, making desserts, hide-and-seek and board games, inline skating, mini-golf, bicycling, sporting and concert venues, or painting ceramic arts and crafts- anything which brought lighthearted fun without the need for discipline or judgment.
Making Pizza- My father was our family’s first generation born American. My extended family on my Dads side, Agatha and Vito descended from Italy- just to give credit to my mom, my Nana Chantal was French Canadian and my grandpa Fred was German. My dad started making pizza on a whim one day when I was about fourteen. He was always seeking ways to cut financial corners. When my two oldest daughters were about three and five and I was well into my twenties, I brought the tradition home. Today, our pizza has improved, recipes are handed down, and is much better than I remember. Sorry Dad, R.I.P.
Saying, “Goodnight, I love you”- The least time consuming of rituals may sometimes be the most endearing. At the end of the day I would tuck in my children for the night. In the early years they shared bedrooms and I would make the ritual of getting to their rooms just in time for an, “I love you”, listen and share some of the highlights of the day, and maybe some thoughts and plans for the days ahead. As they grew older into their teens and into their own individual bedrooms, my two oldest moved away from this experience, but I haven’t forgotten. My youngest two, would call out as they lay into bed well into their mid-teens.
Summer is here. If you haven't already, start planning and generating this Summer's seasonal traditions. In the meantime, my family rituals and traditions keep moving and the wonderful memories grow fonder. I know it’s not too late to start new ones and my children now have opportunity to begin their own and renew old ones. The very thought of sharing and witnessing our family traditions into my aging prime someday with extended family warms my heart.
photo courtesy: www.flickr.com/photos/stacibug
© 2014 Bruce Buccio