Our modern lives often feel disconnected from the past.
Often our families immigrated or moved from their original homes. Or maybe, like me, you’re a third culture kid, raised in several cultures and countries, and not really belonging to any of them. And sometimes as adults we have chosen to move away from where we grew up, for jobs or partners or other reasons.
As a result, we often feel that we don’t have any traditions. So businesses have stepped in, ready to make wealth from our insecurity and loss.
Corporate traditions: rich on dollars, low on meaning
- They tell us we need to shop and give expensive gifts for Christmas.
- They tell us we’re “cheap” if we handmake a gift for someone we love, spending hours and giving our time and effort.
- They promote the idea that Santa gives gifts, the Easter Bunny brings chocolate eggs, and that money has nothing to do with any of it.
- We’re told we need to buy costly flowers and sweets for Valentine’s Day.
- They sell us chocolate eggs for Easter.
- We’re made to feel guilty if we forget Father’s Day and Mother’s Day.
- Halloween – never popular in Australia or New Zealand – is out of control in the United States as a consumerfest, and now its plastic pumpkins, cheap costumes and cratefuls of sugary junk food are infesting other countries too.
It’s hard to avoid these massed consumer events, unless you belong to a strong subculture that intentionally disregards them (Judaism, Seventh Day Adventists and so on).
No matter how hard you try, you still find yourself caught up in the sales and the planning, the turkey basting and the plastic trees.
Finding a pathway out from the nonsense
I think the key to avoiding all this nonsense – and the insanity that goes with it – is creating our own, strong, family traditions.
I’m not saying that we need to avoid the consumer holidays, but that the more we create our own traditions, the less meaningful the consumer holidays will appear by comparison.
Traditions remind us of who we are, and help keep our relationships strong.
Some of our own family traditions
Putting the Christmas Tree up on December 9th. The reason? My brother’s birthday is the 8th, so the tree went up after his party when we were children.
I’ve kept to this tradition, and so has my brother’s family and my parents. All our trees go up on December 9th. I’ve no doubt my children’s trees, when they have homes of their own, will go up on December 9th!
Having all our meals together at the dining table. I’m continually surprised at the amount of families who don’t do this. I’m even more surprised at the amount of people who don’t even have a dining table these days!
Make meals a time to be together and share news. It’s important. We don’t eat anywhere except at the dining table, and I’m happy about this “tradition”.
Pancakes on Sunday morning. Having pancakes on Sunday mornings is so lovely. We all sleep in a little, then we make a huge batch of pancakes for the kids. The pancakes fill them up right through until dinner.
My boyfriend is now doing the same thing, because it makes so much sense, and his kids love their Sunday morning pancakes too.
Every year, we build lanterns and go to the Dunedin Midwinter Carnival. It’s a lovely thing to do with our kids, and we all enjoy it.
Every year, we make lanterns in the community workshops and participate in the Midwinter Lantern Parade.
My children bringing me wildflowers in Spring. Every Spring, my children collect wildflowers from the side of the road on the way home from school and give them to me. This simple gesture of love and thoughtfulness means so much to me.
Painting eggs in Spring. My children and I like to colour eggs in Spring. It’s fun and beautiful. Then we give them as gifts.
Friday night treat night. I buy a chocolate bar for each of my kids on Friday. This is their treat for the week – they don’t get junk or packaged food any other time.
Turning junk food and sweets into special occasion foods helps restrict junk and return it to its proper place as a “sometimes food”.
Friday night board games. We often get together with friends and play board games on Friday nights. It’s a lovely, old fashioned way to catch up.
Our rotational eating pattern. We eat according to a rotational menu, and I guess this is a kind of tradition too. The kids know what to expect each day during the week, and it helps keep things simple and easy.
Putting the tomatoes in with my daughter. Every Spring my daughter helps me put our tomatoes in. I think she might have a vested interest in this tradition!
Keeping chickens. We keep chickens. Always will. Yes, it’s a tradition! 😉
Other great family traditions I know of…
Beach holiday. A family I’m friends with goes off to the beach for the week directly after Christmas, and camps out. The kids look forward to this more than the actual consumer holiday of Christmas. (Remember, Christmas is in summer in New Zealand!)
Helping pack charity hampers at Christmas. Another family I know packs charity hampers at Christmas with a local outreach group. It helps remind them how fortunate they are, and to be thankful.
Fishing in Spring. Another family I know of goes on fishing holidays with their kids every Spring, when the fish start to run. It’s a great way to connect with nature and just be together.
What traditions do you have? Can you think of any traditions you’d like to have?