Traditions – Time for Connection

His eyes were as wide and shiny as silver dollars.  It was Thanksgiving and time for bed. When the door opened Santa, and his reindeer were dancing on my three-year-old son’s bed. Full of wonder and excitement this started our yearly tradition of Santa arriving a month before Christmas.

A tradition represents a part of a culture that is passed down from person to person or generation to generation. Traditions can be what binds a family or friends together.  Some traditions are big and grand, while others are small, yet equally meaningful.  Traditions are the glue for people. Not only does it give structure, but it also helps define a system that otherwise might be struggling.   It helps everyone feel safe, like a warm blanket. Today’s world is busy and often feels chaotic.  Traditions or rituals allow us to feel settled as if we belong and have a purpose.  It helps us do what is so essential today-connect as human beings.

While thinking about this article, I recall my own family and friend traditions.  When my son was little, I bought new Christmas sheets for his bed.  Every Thanksgiving, I snuck into his room and put on holiday sheets.  For years to come, he laid his head and dreamed of sugarplum fairies and the arrival of Santa.  To this day (yep he’s 27!) if he’s home on Thanksgiving he still gets the early Christmas gift. Each year Santa stuffed the Christmas stockings.  Among the small gifts was a unique ornament to represent his year.  One day these will adorn his own unique tree.   As my son grew up, there were new traditions added.  Once the turkey was in the oven he and I  went to play hours of tennis.  He did his best to beat his ol’ mom!  It was a sad day when at the end of high school, he looked at me and said, “too bad; this is our last time to play!”  “What???  Are you dying and I don’t know about it?” He laughed and reminded me he was going off to college on a basketball scholarship, and we knew he would be playing basketball in a tournament somewhere.  The sadness I felt knowing it would be a while before we played again was enormous. A sense of peace and calmness returned the day we played again; it was as if everything was in its place.  There was the dying Easter Eggs and perhaps one of my favorites: carving pumpkins.  When the kids grew out of this ritual, the parents carried it on as if not willing or wanting the tradition to die. Another ceremony with my son began when he was in kindergarten. On the first and last day of every school year, we would go for ice cream. Ice cream day allowed us to celebrate both the beginning and end of each year.  These traditions grounded us. We created memories; time was shared; there was a sense of connection.

Being a member of an extended family who has amazing celebrations is an incredible experience. Some of the favorites are July 4th and Beach Week. My family lives in a small community in Baltimore, and the 4th of July is an experience to behold.  The parade is so famous; residents put out their chairs a week ahead of time. Almost every house is adorned in red, white, and blue. Barbeques get organized; the floats come alive. For the kids, there is the decorated bike contest, lollipop scramble, ball on a spoon race, wheelbarrow and sack races. And yes, if you own a pickup or vintage car, you can be part of the parade!  Afterward, families gather for their annual feast of food, fun, and connection.

Beach week for the Mohler family has been going on for the last 60 years. Imagine that, 60 years of gathering together in Ocean City. It started when my nieces and nephews were young children.  In the beginning, it was also a gathering place for adult cousins.  Today the family has grown considerably, and separate weeks have become necessary.  When the Mohler family gather together, it is nothing short of a miracle bringing all the toys, beach gear, and food! The candy is loaded on the counter and looks like a delicious sweet mountain! There is always Linda’s homemade lasagna. There isn’t anyone who can compete, so don’t even try!  It is a week for sitting around and getting to know one another, not having a single agenda.  It is a time to connect with curiosity, not prying.  It allows everyone to ease into more in-depth conversations.  Time slows down; the pace is leisurely. Whiffle ball is often the main activity of the day.  It is time to watch the little ones explore their world with few boundaries or a “no!”  It is time for the older kids to be silly again and not worry about being judged. It’s time for long naps, ice cream, sunburns, and popsicles at 7:00 AM.  The most significant stress of the week is organizing the family photo.  The 40-year collection of these will one day make a fabulous book.  Although I am not always regular, this one week holds a special place in my heart.  I feel connected; I feel loved. It is the family week!  Traditions allow us to connect and make lasting memories with one another.

What are your favorite traditions?

Posted in by Patty Mohler