I was reminded recently about how this is the season of many of our family’s traditions. Many of them started accidentally, but they’ve accumulated over time. I knew from way back when that I wanted a few traditions or rituals that would define my family. Something me and my wife would know and would call our own, separate from our respective families. Something our kids could count on and remember when they reflect on their childhood later on.
The way things stand now, Halloween (and the multi-day event it has become since it is my wife’s favorite holiday) is the unofficial opening to this season. But it’s with Thanksgiving that things get real. We’ve always tried to spend that day with friends, family of our choosing, either by opening our home or going to others (this year we went to a buddy’s house, deep fried two turkeys, baked a ham, and did all the fixings essentially for me, my wife, kids, and him. A glorious bacchanal of food capped off with a Magic: the Gathering marathon).
The weekend of Thanksgiving, our family makes a series of ridiculous movies (none of which shall ever hit the internet), which later serve as part of the festivities of our Broaddus family Christmas party. That started off as a murder mystery party, but as the crowd swelled each year, it evolved into a costume themed party. We then spend December scheduling time with our respective families so that come Christmas Eve and Day, we’re hanging out just as a family (though Christmas evening we open our home up again for friends who want to escape their families).
Last up is Kwanzaa. We practice it as a family, a simple evening ritual between Christmas and New Year’s Day. A quiet time as we reflect on the principles that define us as a family. This is capped by the double feast traditions. First is our New Year’s Eve party. This is an example of one of those accidental traditions, that started when my sister was pregnant: she was over one New Year’s Eve and, because she had cravings, shouted a meat she wanted me to fix a meal around. The next hour, she shouted a different meat. Next thing you know, we’d fixed a meal every hour until midnight. At which point she demanded that we do it again the following year. Second is New Year’s Day. As Kwanzaa is supposed to end with a feast, we cheat by going over to my aunt and uncle’s house as they fix a spread of food encompassing every meat group, a mix of Jamaican and American staples. We don’t even pretend that we’re going to lose weight during the last quarter of the year.*
To sum up, we’re all about remembrance. We, as a culture, have notoriously short memories and notoriously hard hearts and heads. We need rituals to draw our imaginations back to certain things, to stir our affections, and to serve as reminders to what is important in life. What are some of your traditions?
*If this sounds like a people intensive time, that’s because it is. But that’s balanced by the fact that we basically cocoon from January to March: 1) that’s how my introvert side balances out all of that extrovert activity and 2) I typically write a novel during the winter months.