Friday 28 September 2012

Traditions in the Making

~by Kendal

Tradition is a word that evokes a very unique response in each of us. Some hear it and feel dissatisfied, frustrated or rebellious. For some, it evokes warm feelings of things that were once looked forward to, that perhaps still hold a special place in hearts or memories.

I’ve never been particularly attracted to cultural or social traditions. Aside from  the ones that we are all, inevitably, swept up in, like Christmas, I’ve never felt the urge to do something purely for tradition’s sake. Getting married, I didn’t feel the need to wear a white dress as a symbol of something archaic and redundant. I did wear a white dress, but mostly because I love wearing white and there’s very little occasion to in everyday life.

There are certain traditions though that I am fond of, because they have particular significance to me and my memories of childhood. Spending Christmas at my grandparents, the smell of honey roast hams and roast beefs, Yule log cakes and soups in every room, or travelling North in the October holidays to Oban and spending a week reading and playing games and exploring the beautiful city.

Having a family brings the idea of tradition more closely into my mind though, particularly at this time of year. Next week, we celebrate both Howard and Ava’s birthdays, and then there is Halloween, Bonfire night and of course, Yule, and all the marvellous things that happen to celebrate it.

I’m particularly fond of the idea of creating our own family traditions, things to do every year, things to anticipate and hold close to our hearts as part of our own story, told again and again every year. We already have some, although I expect as Ava gets older it will be easier to add in more, to see what sticks and what doesn’t, and to adapt as our family grows and changes.

Since my husband and daughter’s birthdays are six days apart, this will be the second year he takes a week's holiday over this period, so we can have a week-long celebration of their birthdays. During this week, we do various things together, like take long Autumnal walks by the river, collect leaves to dip in beeswax and string up by the windows, bake and paint and see friends.

We have special birthday bunting, and a photo timeline of the past year. Then there are the things that I plan to give Ava for her birthday, every year. A birthday dress (Mama made), letters written to her from her Daddy and myself, and a special birthday breakfast made of all the foods she loves the most, wearing her special birthday crown.

Although I’m sure she may not consciously remember these things, we wanted to start them on her first birthday, cementing them in her memory so she always remembers how special her birthday is, to her and to us.

Last year was the first year we celebrated Solstice and began the tradition of exchanging a gift on Solstice eve, and giving Ava some Solstice jammies too, which I made out of very warm fleecy cotton. On the Winter Solstice, we went for a walk and collected some treasures to put in the centre of our table, then lit a Solstice candle to symbolise the beginning of this long winter period.

Ava and I on our Solstice walk, 2011

Christmas day was a bit of a nightmare. We were staying with family and Ava had a ridiculous amounts of presents to open (most of them ‘fillers’ that didn’t have any real purpose). 10 minutes into present opening, and having hardly made a dent into the grotesque pile of presents waiting for her, she was already upset and frustrated and completely over-stimulated. The gifts we had carefully chosen for her - beautiful wooden bark blocks, playsilks I had made myself and her first Waldorf doll - were lost in amongst the pile of glowing plastic toys that we had specifically requested not be bought for her. Most of the day was spent trying to calm her down.

So we decided that from now on, we would exchange our Yule gifts when we celebrated Solstice, and on Christmas day, we would focus on creating a beautiful Christmas feast, playing games and enjoying the time as a family. Presents from other people, family and friends, will be opened on Christmas day, so that there is less of a chance of complete melt-down from overstimulation.

(This year, we also want to start other Yule traditions, like taking Ava for a sleigh ride during December, reading Yule stories by the tree every night, and giving Ava a Christmas Eve box filled with some Christmas Eve treats like special hot chocolate, a Christmas film etc) And of course December will be our elving month, where we make special gifts for all the people we love.)

There are many other festivals to be celebrated through the year, of course, but I’m still trying to figure out what we will do for most of them. Most of our celebrating is seasonal and it seems fitting to the way we live to observe the passing year in this way.

We hope to create some meaningful family traditions that help us celebrate the beauty of the passing seasons, whilst creating an annual rhythm. Whether it is birthday traditions, or honouring the stillness and reflection that Autumn brings, acknowledging the cycle of the seasons is something that, if done mindfully, can connect us to the earth and to each other. Providing an opportunity to make, to be grateful, to gather with loved ones and to prepare and enjoy significant foods, these are the traditions I hope my children remember when they are grown and have families of their own. 

 “think together with” the fading of the leaves, 
with the ripening of the fruits, in a Michaelic way, 
just as at Easter one knows how to think with the sprouting, springing, 
blossoming plants and flowers.

Rudolf Steiner


  1. My favourite family tradition is carving pumpkins on the eve of Halloween. We do something different ever year. Then we bake lots of treats for the next day.

    1. I do love Halloween too. One of the many reasons I love America is the way they celebrate it! x

  2. I love creating our own traditions! We do Xmas eve pj's.

    Another beautiful post, you have a lovely voice. I love both your blogs.

    Dianne x

  3. Read this over my morning coffee. I really want it to be December now! I hope my kids always think of home as a warm, safe and magical place to be.

    1. Me too, wherever we live I want them to always know it's their home too, their sanctuary and that they will always be welcome there. - K x

  4. i think the best thing about being a parent is putting in the effort to make magical memories for you and your children. following the seasons has become a natural routine for us, and so im enjoying finding out about seasonal traditions too.

    i love the christmas eve box, i do that for oscar with pjs, book, film, christmas candle and a special decoration (that he has made) to hang on the tree. this year id want to add a scrapbook of the previous christmas (and hot choc, he was too little before!). its so lovely to have family traditions, it just makes you look forward to exciting times spent with the people we love the most!