Sarah's musings as seen on Helium:
I believe family traditions are very important because they create a sense of connection to life. However, when my husband and I became parents, we had an interesting dynamic to examine. You see, my husband's family had very little in the way of traditions, no Halloween, no birthdays, no regular sports, no Christmas, no just-because-it's-Monday. In fact, he recalls with great sadness being left out of many school activities due to the restrictions placed upon him by his family's religion. His family's choice in religion was limiting in that regard. For myself, I grew up in an abusive environment, where celebrations were erratic unless held at my paternal grandparents. Even then, it was up to me to push for the tree, the lights, the merriment. If I had not been so determined to celebrate, I am quite sure no one would have done it. Many of the traditions once held dear in my family unraveled with the years of escalating abuse. It was not very safe to feel merry, for I always knew any merriment was a precursor to violence. Still, I stayed up all night decorating that tree, giving my soul room to be expressed.
Therefore when my husband and I came together and created our own family, we were truly dedicated to creating a family life of celebration, joy, and vitality. In fact, we began keeping a book of ideas for our vision of a joyful family life. In our vision, we celebrate everything. Celebrations can be soft and poetic, or raucous and exhilarating. We infuse extra soul and joy into Christmas, Birthdays, and Earth Day. We also celebrate life's many passages, such as the change of seasons, a pet's birthday, a new friend at school, and many of the developmental milestones our children experience. Learning a new skill such as new words can spark an all out dance fest in this house. Earth Day is all about being a good steward of the earth, picking up trash, hiking, and hugging trees. For Halloween, we carve intricate patterns in our pumpkins, cook special meals, such as pumpkin shaped homemade pizza. Doing well on a spelling test begets a trip to the cafe for milk and a pastry. Or we have cafe dates, well, just because. Just because. Just because is a complete reason!
Birthdays are an exaltation of the day we were born, so we take them to the highest level. We always say to one another, "I am so glad you were born." We talk about each child's day of birth, what a blessing they are to this world. We play that child's favorite music, usually a mix cd Mama has made for the occasion. Lately, that's been the Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles Abbey Road. I make collages and scrapbooks for each celebration, creating art that is a tangible source of joy year after year.
Another ritual in our family is the "Feelings Box", a decorated box where each child may write down how they are feeling and put it in the box for safekeeping. valentine's Day includes the children as well. We make "love scrolls" for one another, writing a poem or list of reasons why we love one another. We ties a ribbon around them and set them with dinner at the table. We make it a point to talk to our boys about love, emphasizing how much we love them, but also how deeply Mommy and Daddy love one another. We can see their spirits smiling as they know it to be true.
An essential tradition in our family is music. Music for every reason and season is played in our home. We have unique and eclectic music to enkindle us at each place we happen to be on our life path. Neil Young's After the Goldrush plays for fall, Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London for Halloween, bluesy electronic remixed Christmas songs permeate our home for the month of December. It is not unusual to hear Motown Christmas songs, funky James Brown howling through the stereo about his soulful Christmas tree, and Eartha telling Santa to hurry down that chimney. Celebrations are not just for official holidays, though we adore trips to the tree farm for Christmas, apple cider in hand, a glimmer in the children's eyes as they gleefully await "the biggest tree." When one of our son's demonstrates compassion toward his brother, we make merry. When it is just another day, we find a reason to celebrate. Maybe because it is Monday, or maybe because it is just fun to applaud life. Mostly that, I have to say.
After my difficult childhood, and my husband's limited ability to celebrate as a child, we exalt and we enchant and we delight in the simple things in life. The most profound beauty I find in the so called "simple things". When I see my children happy, free, and safe, I celebrate that with a deep smile, taking the moment home into my heart, and thanking the universe for this life. As we do this in our new family, we heal the children we once were as well, so everyone benefits. Instead of being angry or bitter because we were cheated, we choose to celebrate, and the taste is ever sweeter because of our respective histories.
The whole point of life for us is to acknowledge the magic that exists, and teach our children that no matter what happens in life, we can choose to celebrate what is good at any moment. When we live from the center our souls, life is one giant fete of miracles. Cheers!